Billboard.com Exclusive, by Monica Herrera, N.Y.
Lee DeWyze was the first "American Idol" winner to have been judged by Ellen DeGeneres, and now he's most certainly the last, after the talk show host and funnywoman announced her departure from the show last week. In a statement to Billboard.com, DeWyze says he was "privileged" to have been judged by DeGeneres during her lone season with the show.
"I feel very privileged to have been a part of 'American Idol' while Ellen was there," says DeWyze, who edged out Crystal Bowersox for the season nine "Idol" crown in May. "She represented the voice of the viewers and genuinely wanted to see each of us succeed. That's what I love about Ellen, she has a huge heart."
"I valued her opinion each and every week, and can not thank her enough for her support throughout last season," DeWyze adds. "I wish her the best."
Since DeGeneres announced her exit, everyone from Steven Tyler to Jennifer Lopez has been rumored as a replacement "Idol" judge. While Fox has remained tightlipped throughout the speculation, Tyler has confirmed that he was contacted by the network and that his deal is a "work in progress."
DeWyze is currently on the road with his fellow top 10 finalists for the American Idols Live! tour, which wraps at the end of the month, and recording his debut album.
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