May 18, 2012 6:13 PM by Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Louisiana supporters of "American Idol" contestant Joshua Ledet say they are feeling more pride than disappointment after Ledet's elimination from the Fox reality singing competition. After weeks of standing ovations from the show's judges - Randy Jackson, Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez - Ledet received the fewest viewer votes and was eliminated from the competition Thursday night. Still, the Louisiana native is being called a winner by many in his home state. "When he started this journey, we couldn't have imagined how far he would go and how many people he would have touched along the way," said Ledet's high school English teacher Keri Burleigh, a decades-long family friend who traveled to Los Angeles for one of Ledet's performances. "We're disappointed that Josh isn't in the finale, but we're so proud of him," she said. Burleigh said she has no concerns about Ledet's chances at a successful music career. She said several "Idol" contestants who didn't win the competition have gone on to have huge careers. "Lots of times it's the ones who finish third or fourth who get to go on and do their own thing and have an even better career than the winner," Burleigh said. In 2006, Chris Daughtry finished fourth in the competition won by Taylor Hicks but went on to land a record deal with RCA Records and his own band. Jennifer Hudson finished in seventh place in Season 3 in 2004 and went on to win the 2006 Academy Award for best supporting actress for her role in "Dreamgirls." "Josh is going to be fine," Burleigh said. "He already had, weeks ago, people (in the music industry) pursuing him." Burleigh said she's feeling a little relief that the stress of the competition is over - at least as far as she's concerned. "Last night I slept the best I have in months," she said. "I'm not kidding. This has been a lot of fun, very exciting, but very stressful." Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne said Ledet's singing career got a boost during his "Idol" run, and the state got good publicity. For instance, the world looked on as Ledet showed "Idol" host Ryan Seacrest how to peel a crawfish. The show also followed Ledet to his hometown of Westlake for a parade and concert. This week celebrity judges donned boas, glasses and beads in the Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold as Ledet performed. "I think all of us are disappointed but very proud of what Josh has accomplished," Dardenne said. "He's been a great representative for Louisiana, very poised and humble and a great ambassador for our state." Dardenne, like others, says Ledet's run on "Idol" is just the beginning of his career. "Joshua has got an opportunity to rekindle a genre of music that's been dormant for long time, that great mix of soul, gospel and rhythm and blues," Dardenne said. Ledet, a 20-year-old pastor's son who grew up singing in his family's church, got more than a dozen standing ovations from the judges for such performances as his rendition of James Brown's "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" and Bruno Mars' "Runaway Baby." Next week the two remaining contestants face off for the 11th season title and the show's record deal grand prize. The two are bluesy 21-year-old crooner Phillip Phillips of Leesburg, Ga., and 16-year-old balladeer Jessica Sanchez of San Diego. They compete Tuesday, and the winner will be named on Wednesday. Angie Manning, a spokeswoman for the Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitors Bureau, which largely funded last week's hometown celebration for Ledet, said her organization is "honored and privileged" to have been a part of Ledet's "Idol" experience. "We all know he's going to go on to do great things in the music world," Manning said. "We're all just really proud of him."