American Idol Also-Rans Grateful for the Exposure

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Keep those chins up, Sundance Head, Porcelana Patino and other American Idol Six contestants: Even if you don't win this season, there are big things ahead.

Just ask former, supposed losers on the show.

Bucky Covington (pictured) said he likes to think he wasn't "kicked-off" as a finalist on the fifth season of American Idol. He described it as being "invited to leave."

American Idol Also-Rans Grateful for the Exposure
"I definitely got the boot, hard. But, hey, you know, the good thing about American Idol is you don't have to win it to do something with it. I think that's the biggest thing about the show is that a lot of people that don't win still end up [with entertainment] careers," Covington said during Thursday night's broadcast of CNN's Larry King Live.

Kimberly Caldwell said when she was eliminated from the second season of Idol as one its finalists, it took a while to sink in.

"When it first happened, I just thought, you know, I'll go back to the house and I'll just, you know, practice my song and come back next week and sing Cher. But that didn't happen," Caldwell told King. "So, I mean, yes, it was sad at first. It really was. And then I realized, listen, I can take this opportunity and I can make it into something for myself or I can decide to go back to Katy, Texas and sit there and try to sing at like a local pub. And that's not what I wanted for myself. So I decided to take the bigger step and stay in Los Angeles and really pursue everything."

Caldwell said she's been "really lucky" since that day she left Idol, first landing a job on Fox Sports' 54321 television show and later as co-host of the TV Guide Channel's Idol Tonight. She's also working on a "country rock" album, just filmed a movie in Vancouver and is the new spokesmodel for Michael Antonio shoes, the catalogue of which just came out and was seen by original runner-up Justin Guarini.

"It looks good. It looked very good," said Guarini about Caldwell's appearance in the catalogue.

Guarini said although he finished second to Kelly Clarkson during Idol's inaugural season, the experience was definitely worth it. He's currently working on his third album, just finished filming the movie Fast Girl and will be co-hosting the upcoming second season of Idol Tonight alongside Caldwell.

"Honestly, [American Idol] gave all of us the keys to a career. I mean you can't buy the sort of exposure that we got on that show," Guarini told King. "And, I mean, the fact that this is a reality TV show that is based on talent, not about stabbing some teammate in the back...It's not about some wacky family versus some other wacky family. It's about talent and it's about America choosing who they want to hear and see on the radio."

According to Caldwell, even those who don't win Idol still become household names across America, which translates into more press coverage.

"It's a lot of press," added Guarini. "You know, it's just about taking as much advantage of the press as you can."

Idol 5 finalist Ace Young said the exposure he got from appearing on the Fox mega-hit was quickly noticeable. When he landed in New York to "do the press" following Idol's fifth season, he said a "big muscular gentleman... with tattoos up and down his arms" approached him on the street.

"He goes, 'Ace!' I thought he was coming to beat me up. But he came up to me and he gave me a big hug and he goes, 'You got screwed, man,'" Young told King. "And he gave me a big hug and he was the coolest guy ever. I was blown away. I've met such nice people."

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Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.