Paula Abdul: 'I Want Elliott to Win'

05/12/2006 at 07:25 AM EDT

Paula Abdul: 'I Want Elliott to Win'
Paula Abdul
Stephen Shugerman/Getty

Paula Abdul

Paula Abdul

Paula Abdul is making no secret of who she thinks should be the next American Idol: "I am going to be honest with you – I want Elliott to win," she tells Teen People.

"I feel like I changed the face of the competition by making America wake up and see the talent that Elliott possesses," says Abdul of Yamin.

Still, the effusive Abdul also has glowing things to say about remaining contestants Taylor Hicks and Katharine McPhee. "I'm really grateful that Taylor is still here, because I love him so much, and he really deserves to be up there. And Katharine is so primed to be the next Kelly Clarkson."

As for Wednesday night's Idol shocker in which frontrunner Chris Daughtry was cut from the show, Abdul says she "didn't see this coming at all" – and was literally in tears backstage.

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But she adds, Daughtry has a bright future ahead of him (he's already been offered the lead singer gig with the band Fuel). "As much as I’m crying (right now), I believe with conviction that he has no worries whatsoever. Earlier, I whispered in his ear, 'Now, you go get on with your life and do whatever you want to do, because everyone would die to have you on their label.'"

As for her very emotional displays of affection for the contestants, Abdul says, "People can make fun of me all they want, but I care so much about all these kids."

For more on Paula Abdul, go to Teen People.com.

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