Credit: Michael Becker/FOX Photo: Karen Rodriguez Says Goodbye on March 17, 2011

Last night, Karen Rodriguez was the second Idol finalist to be sent home this season. Speaking to reporters on Friday, K-Rod was relentlessly optimistic about her future and confident that her career as a Latin-American crossover artist is only beginning.

Wetpaint: On performing Mariah Carey’s “Hero” in English and Spanish:

Karen Rodriguez: It meant the world to me! This is what I’ve been wanting to do for my whole life; I’ve always had a vision of myself being a Latin-American artist. Just to be able to sing a song of that magnitude in both languages on a number one show; it’s called American Idol but it’s really not. There’s so much diversity, everybody in the show brings their own style.

On whether it was harder to leave the competition or the friends she made there:

Both! I wanted to stay, I wanted to continue, but I live by the words ‘everything happens for a reason.’ My time on the show was meant to be up yesterday, but I’ll see them all soon!

On her family’s financial difficulties while she was growing up:

It started out pretty rough... it’s still rough. Both of my parents are Hispanic and they came from different countries to find opportunities in America. [Editor’s note: Karen added her mother always sacrificed for her, and she knows that eventually she’ll be able to give everything back to her mom.]

On growing up in New York City:

It’s amazing. I was born in Miami, but if I had stayed in Miami, I wouldn’t be the same person I am today. There are so many opportunities in New York for kids. I was blessed to go to the Fame school [LaGuardia High School]. I want to encourage people to try out, and know it’s okay to reach for their dreams. I’ve known my whole life that I wanted to sing and that eliminated a lot of doubt.

Credit: Ray Mickshaw/FOX Photo: Pia Toscano and Karen Rodriguez Impress in Season 10, Episode 11: The Las Vegas Round

On going to high school with Pia Toscano, and her favorites in the Idol competition:

Even though [Pia’s] older, I’ve always been kind of like that older sister. As far as the competition, I feel like everybody has an equal chance at taking at all, you never know what America wants. It changes every week! I don’t have favorites; I just have a lot of friends and people that I’m rooting for.

On what the judges said to her last night post-elimination:

Jennifer’s been a fan of mine from the beginning, she said so herself. She said that I was perfect. If it had been all on her I know she would’ve saved me. Steven Tyler and Randy both gave me hugs and kisses and said you’re gonna go so far, this is only the beginning.

On her plans for the immediate future:

I can’t wait to go back home and sort of reflect on everything that’s happened. I can’t wait to start writing and bettering myself as an artist and a singer. I'm going to work really hard to just become that artist that's ready, so as soon as the show ends, if something comes up, I can totally just be that package. I still have to work on so many things, but  I know that this time off is gonna really help me better myself.

On her interest in acting:

I did a voiceover for a movie in high school! Coming into LaGuardia High School, I played the lead, Maria, in West Side Story. I’ve auditioned for In the Heights as well, I’ve auditioned for West Side Story on Broadway. Anything that I can get my hands on, I wanna take this and sort of milk it as much as I could; that would be one of my dreams. I admire Jennifer Lopez so much for that, because she handles music and movies.

On working with the producers each week:

It’s such a smart strategy they’ve incorporated into the show. It teaches us how our lives are going to change, because eventually we all want record deals out of this. The producers, it’s like every single one of them has their own flavor... they were so open to everything and they never gave me a hard time about anything.

On the contestants having Twitter pages this year:

I check my Twitter every single day! I constantly tweet my fans, I constantly post pics up. I think that’s a great thing that they did this year as well, because [the fans] need to feel that we’re human just like they are.

Credit: Frank Micelotta/FOX Photo: Karen Rodriguez's Season 10 Top 13 Promo Shot

On her standout experience on the show:

Just the fact that I got to record “I Could Fall in Love” and it's selling on iTunes. Just to able to look up my name and something comes up out of it! To be able to perform it on live television and have people buy it on iTunes and have people tell me, 'I love your version, you're making Selena proud,' like that's what I wanted to achieve. I wanted to keep her memory alive and I wanted to let people know that Latinas are back, basically!

On Steven Tyler complimenting her “ethnic what-it-is-ness”:

I took it as a great thing! Steven and Randy both said they love when I incorporate Spanish. This is who I am, this is what i grew up singing. I learned Spanish first and then English, and I felt like I wanted to stand up for my heritage. I’m glad I stayed true to myself on such an Americanized show.

On whether she would have done anything differently:

I feel like every song I chose was a song I wanted to sing. I guess what I would’ve done differently was just to go up there with even more passion, more drama, more guts.

On life after Idol:

I’m just so excited about my life, there’s no point in crying over American Idol elimination night; that’d just be silly!

Her advice for remaining positive:

Like I said, ‘everything happens for a reason.’ I feel like this is my time now to go home, because as soon as the competition ends I’m gonna be out there. I don’t wanna be known as just a Top 12 finalist, I wanna be known as Karen Rodriguez, the next Latin sensation!