Saddle River singer Caroline Pennell wasn't looking for a traditional Thanksgiving this year.
She'd hoped to celebrate the holiday in California between preparations for the next round of "The Voice," but instead she'll be watching movies and eating sushi in North Jersey after a flight home on Wednesday.
"I was at peace with it. I was really proud of my performance," the 17-year-old Ramsey High School senior said by phone from the airport. "I gave America what they asked for. I don't want to think of it as 'it wasn't enough.' Competition is so tight and all of us could do our best and only one person gets to win."
She made it to the Top 8 on the NBC television show, but was one of two contestants voted off the show on Tuesday's episode. It was her second appearance in the bottom three, the singers with the fewest votes, in two weeks. Last week, late Twitter votes saved her, but this week, it wasn't enough despite an attempt to reengage her fan base with a performance of Florence and the Machine's "Dog Days are Over" on Monday's show.
Pennell said she saw the disappointment coming, and spent last week preparing herself.
"It might be like a curse of the bottom three," she said. "That whole mentality of the bottom three kind of gets in your mind and gets in viewers' minds."
Still, her goal from the beginning was to make it to the show's live episodes - and she stayed for four rounds of them.
"I didn't see myself going this far," she said. "I felt like a winner very early on."
Over the course of the show, Pennell matured from a shy, giggly, goofy girl who sang soft, breathy songs to a contestant who brought poise to every performance and tried new styles. She's leaving with a huge number of fans - more than 60,000 "Penn Pals" follow her on Twitter, several of her songs have climbed the iTunes charts, and her high school is covered in signs cheering her on - and she's thankful for their support.
She'll be back in California in December to perform in the show's finale, so she's not completely done yet. And Pennell added that "The Voice" will affect the rest of her life, though she's not sure what her next step will be.
"I think that it's changed everything," she said. "I think that overall the impact of this entire show has changed every decision that I'm going to make for the rest of my life because this has started everything. This is just the beginning."
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