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‘American Idol’ Winner Abi Carter Reveals What Luke Bryan Told Her After the Season 22 Finale (Exclusive)

Luke Bryan’s gut instinct about American Idol season 22 winner Abi Carter was right from the very beginning.

“He came up to me last night [after the finale] and he was like, ‘I think this is the first time the person that we thought was gonna be the winner actually was,’” Carter, 21, exclusively told Us Weekly on Monday, May 20. “And I was like, I can’t believe that just in that first audition, they had that idea of me and that amount of high hopes, I guess.”

Following a show-stopping performance of her original song “This Isn’t Over,” Carter was crowned the winner of American Idol on Sunday, May 19, beating out her fellow top three contestants Will Moseley and Jack Blocker.

Carter told Us her initial reaction to her win was “disbelief,” stating, “I remember when it got down to it, and [host Ryan Seacrest] was like, ‘And the winner of American Idol season 22 [is],’ I was like, ‘Will Moseley, Will Moseley, Will Moseley.’ Like, it was just ringing in my head. There was no possible outcome in this. There was no scenario that I thought where it would be my name called at the end.”

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Carter proved to be one of the strongest contestants of the season ever since earning a standing ovation from Bryan, 47, and fellow judges Katy Perry and Lionel Richie with her audition performance of Billie Eilish’s “What Was I Made For?”

“Thank you for being an example of singing from your heart. What were you made for? You were made for this 100 percent,” Perry, 39, told Carter, after which Bryan quipped to Richie, 74, “That may be the winner of American Idol.”

American Idol Winner Abi Carter on What Luke Bryan Told Her After Finale
Abi Carter and Luke Bryan. Disney/Eric McCandless

Perry, for her part, went on to name Carter as her “favorite” contestant of the season during an April episode of the ABC competition show. “You’re definitely one of the front-runners and one of the favorites,” Bryan added at the time.

Not only did Sunday’s American Idol mark a big night for Carter but also for Perry as she celebrated her final episode as a judge after seven seasons. Carter and other season 22 contestants honored the pop star with a musical medley of her biggest hits, including “Teenage Dream” and “California Gurls.”

American Idol Winner Abi Carter on What Luke Bryan Told Her After Finale
Abi Carter. Monica Schipper/Getty Images

“To win Katy’s last season is just insane. What do you even say to that?” Carter told Us. “She has been so wonderful throughout this whole process. Honestly, all three of the judges have been so wonderful and they kind of pushed me to step out of my box that I put myself in. They’ve pushed me to be better and greater and bigger and yeah. So, to see them be emotional last night, it was like, ‘Woo!’”

While Perry’s replacement has yet to be announced, Carter revealed who she would love to see fill the “Dark Horse” singer’s shoes with Us. “I think Lady Gaga would crush that role,” she shared. “Katy, of course, she’s like a monument to the show. She left such a legacy. But I do feel like Lady Gaga would be so cool. I think even Meghan Trainor would be really cool. There’s a lot of people, but I mean, Katy of course will never be able to be replaced.”

With reporting by Mandie DeCamp

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