Melanie Amaro, the young singer whose voice has drawn comparisons to Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, is the winner of The X Factor, the music reality competition that Simon Cowell reworked from the original British show to bring to America in 2011.
More than 100,000 people auditioned for The X Factor, but ratings and critical praise has fallen short of what judge and head Simon Cowell had expected, with comparisons to American Idol and The Voice causing some viewers not to bother tuning in.
For a first season, the music competition netted a decent 12 million viewers, but Melanie Amaro's win and subsequent record deal may help up that number for season two. Amaro has won a $5 million contract with Cowell's label SyCo, owned by Sony Music, and will star in a new commercial for corporate sponsor Pepsi Co.
“We came here to find a superstar and we found a superstar,” Cowell said after Amaro won the contest. But who is Amaro, the 19-year-old singer who hails from Florida and the British Virgin Islands? What does she plan to do with her winnings? What's in store for her debut album? Did she expect to win, and how do fellow finalists Josh Krajick and Chris Rene feel about the results?
Below, here are seven things to know about Melanie Amaro, from why Simon Cowell brought her back from elimination to who else might be signing with SyCo for 2012.
1. What Will She Do With $5 Million?
According to People magazine, Melanie Amaro said she would use her winnings to get such dream purchases as a foot massage, a house for her mother, and a lifetime supply of chicken.
Life will change a lot, the British Virgin Islands native said. The most I have ever had before was $200, if I was lucky.
It's still likely that the majority of her X Factor prize will go to funding her debut record with SyCo and her Pepsi ad campaign. But whatever left is unlikely to go toward fancy cars or getting into the chicest restaurants, and certainly not (it seems) toward promoting an upcoming tour or CD.
When asked what she would do with her winnings last night, Amaro remained non-committal. We'll see what happens. That's all I can say, she told USA Today. I'm just so thankful. I'm so thankful. Whatever happens, happens.
2. God is Good!
Amaro, 19, is a devout Christian, and loves gospel music. When she won on X Factor last night, she fell to her knees weeping and praying, and one of the only coherent sentences she could say for a while was God is good!
3. Melanie Amaro Can't Believe She Won
After winning the X Factor contest's $5 million recording deal and advertising blitz, the singer, who lives in Coral Springs, Fla. was almost literally speechless. Host Steve Jobs had to ask her numerous times for her reaction to the win, and even then it was hard for Amaro to squeeze out a sentence.
My mind went blank, the singer said. I was so overwhelmed. I couldn't even think. All I was saying was, 'You just won. Can you believe that? You just won?'
That brain freeze continued through what was otherwise a powerful rendition of the Dreamgirls song Listen, sung by Beyonce Knowles in the feature film.
I've sung Listen so many times and my mind went blank, Amaro marveled. I could not remember the words.
Talking with reporters several hours after the show, the X Fatcor win still hadn't sunk in.
I'm still feeling as though I'm in a dream. And I still need to wake up, she said, pinching her arm. It still has not hit me.
4. Simon Cowell Can't Believe He Sent Her Home
Melanie Amaro's win was especially dramatic for those X Factor viewers who remembered that at one point, Amaro had been chucked from the competition all together. Her mentor, Simon Cowell, has told reporters that he realized his mistake when he was re-watching the audition tapes and decided to ask her back on the show.
I remember when I walked into her house she was literally watching herself on YouTube, Cowell told Billboard. I knocked on the door and then it was like marriage proposal [to get her back on 'X Factor'].
Cowell, who now fully admits it was a mistake to eliminate Amaro, took the opportunity to tell her himself once she'd been announced as the winner.
What [Cowell] said to me on stage was just like, 'Thank you so much for coming back. Thank God I came and got you back,' Melanie Amaro said.
Wow! That's all I've been wanting to hear from Simon. That's Simon. I was looking for approval from him for so long.
5. Melanie Amaro Loves Twitter
The young singer has over 179,000 followers, and has been tweeting her progress through the competition from the social media platform since day one.
This morning, she tweeted the following message to her devoted followers. Thank you all sooo much for all your love and votes and dedication, she posted on Twitter. i really appreciate u all, my dream has come true #IHaveTheBestFans.
6. She's Keeping Her Album a Surprise
Melanie Amato is known for soaring ballads and belty renditions of classic tunes, but the singer warns her fans to expect the unexpected on her debut album, which she plans to keep tightly under wraps.
I'm not going to tell anyone, Amaro said. I think I'm going to surprise. Humongous ballads -- everyone knows I can do that. I want to show people there is more to me.
Mentor Cowell agrees. She's a different kind of singer so you don't want to be what's going on already -- there's a lot of dance [music] at the moment, he told reporters.
A lot of people who voted for her want a different kind of record and we have to do her justice. Fortunately a lot of good producers want to work with her.
7. She Won't Be The Only One Signing With SyCo
Melanie Amaro may be the X Factor winner, but several of her contestants are likely to get record deals, as well.
We can't sign everyone, Cowell said. She is the priority.
Nonetheless, he did have an early Christmas wish list of the contestants he hoped to sign to his label: teen rapper Astro and finalist Josh Krajick (second place) and Chris Rene (third).
Both Krajick and Rene took the opportunity after the X Factor season finale wrapped to congratulate Melanie Amaro and thank the show for the opportunities it has given them.
Melanie deserves it, said Krajick, 30. The bluesy rock singer had been working in a burrito restaurant before getting into X Factor, and says his life will never be the same. I have had such an incredible experience, he told the International Herald Tribune. I got to be myself and sing what I wanted to sing. I couldn’t be happier.
Rene, 28, a recovering drug addict and rapper whose original song “Young Homies” has been a YouTube hit, echoed Krajick's praise, and his thanks.
“I feel amazing that I got to do this, he said. I got to touch a lot of people’s hearts.”