American Idol wrapped its 22nd season on Sunday with a three-hour finale with a special Fantasia Barrino appearance. Following her cameo, during which she gave the finalists advice, Barrino reflected on her Idol win in 2004 and what she’s taken away from her career since then.

“It doesn’t feel like 20 years. Every time someone says that, my heart drops. I’m like, ‘Wait what?'” the singer told Entertainment Tonight. “[But] there’s been good, there’s been bad, but I was so young, and so my thing is I want to let the young people [on this season] know… make sure you have a great team and enjoy it. Don’t take it too serious, you understand.”

Barrino shared that the last 20 years haven’t been easy, and she’s had to learn how to be her own boss and make executive decisions for her career. 

“Now I am running my own company, Rock Soul Productions. I’ve taken control of every [aspect],” she said. “I would say that I wish that I would have done that [earlier]. But I think everything that I went through was necessary.”

Barrino was only 19 years old when she won Idol. Now, on the precipice of turning 40, she’s “actually ready” for the next chapter. 

“Because I know what I want at 40, and I know what I don’t want,” she said. “Sometimes, we have to wake up in the morning and realize that, one — we woke up, and two — you can’t forget all the things that are around you and to look at the blessing in that. So at 40, I’m at peace, baby.”

Idol‘s most recent finale marked the departure of longtime judge Katy Perry. Barrino says whoever takes her place has their work cut out for them. 

“They’re big shoes to fill, first of all,” The Color Purple star said. “Because of the joy that she carries, and you can tell that she doesn’t take it too serious. She’s gonna have fun, so I think she’s gonna be really, really missed.”

Abi Carter beat Will Moseley and Jack Blocker for the 2024 American Idol title.