After an intense first season, The X Factor declared its first American winner last night — 19-year-old Melanie Amaro, who beat out Josh Krajcik and Chris Rene for the $5 million recording contract. While Amaro, an early front-runner with pipes of steel, was rendered speechless by the announcement, her mentor and the show's creator, Simon Cowell had no trouble showing his pride. "Look at her —— she's a star," he said backstage, beaming at the sight of his protégé. "I think she's someone who can sell records all over the world, which is important, and I think she has longevity."
Cowell also brought up Amaro's strong personality, which he believes kept her in the competition while other contestants were sent home. "She's tough," he said. "And she was not the easiest person to work with. If she didn't like something, she'd tell you. I like that from an artist. She's got guts, she's got steel, and [she's] a very, very interesting artist to work with."
After the confetti settled, it wasn't long before Melanie regained her sassy self and told reporters what went through her head onstage, what to expect from her next and why she is no one's puppet.
Has winning sunken in yet?
Melanie Amaro: No it has not sunken in yet. I am still working on helping that get in my head. It's still... Wow. I'm sorry, I just can't get it that I just won.
You looked so stunned when you heard your name. What were you thinking?
Amaro: "I need to clean my ears more often!" It was like, "What did he say? What? Did he say me? Oh, he said my name!" I was so shocked, but I was so happy. To think I have sung "Listen" about a million times and for me to get up there and not remember any of the words... I couldn't remember anything as I was so overwhelmed and struck with this big thing. It was such a surprise to me. It was like walking into a room full of people and them all yelling "Surprise!" I feel blessed and I feel happy and feel I have worked so hard to get here and I truly deserve this.
Have you auditioned for other talent shows, like American Idol?
Amaro: No this is my very first one. I just thought those weren't for me and I didn't think American Idol would fit me. But X-Factor, they were looking for all kinds of talent and its $5 million so I thought, "I need to audition right now. I need to stop wasting time." So I did. I went, I auditioned, and made it and was like, "Yes! Thank God."
So, are you getting a check or direct deposit for the first million?
Amaro: I think I actually want it in my hand right about now.
Have you thought about how much life will change for you?
Amaro: It will change a lot, that is for sure. I mean, the most I've ever had is like $200 — if I was lucky.
What are you going to buy for your family?
Amaro: I think I want to buy my mommy a house, I think she deserves that. And I want to buy a lifetime supply of chicken. I can't live without chicken. It's my favorite food and you can cook it any way and I'll eat it.
Would you pay off the house that your parents live in or are you buying them a new one?
Amaro: I think I'm going to buy them a new house because the one we live in right now sucks.
What kind of record do you want to make?
Amaro: You know, I'm not telling anyone right now. I think I'm going to surprise everybody and when they hear it they'll say, "Is that Melanie Amaro on the radio? No!" Everybody thinks I just do these humongous ballads — and don't get me wrong, I can do those and do a good job at them, and I like the ballads — but I want to show people that there is more to me and that I can do anything if I put my mind to it.
Simon said you are a strong personality, do you think in the recording process you will be led by other people or that you can hold your own?
Amaro: No, I can hold my own. God has brought me this far and I am guaranteeing he is going to hold my hand and continue to guide me.
Simon also mentioned that when he was suggesting something and you did not want to do it, you spoke your mind?
Amaro: I had to be able to stand up and say, "I don't know if I like that very much." There were many times we went back and forth but then I would sing things and think, "This doesn't sound all that bad. Wow, this sounds good! I guess I'm going to sing this one then." It's a process and we have to have our back-and-forth about singing things or not.
So, with you at the helm of your career you are not going to be anyone's puppet?
Amaro: Oh no, I've already clipped the strings.
What's the best piece of advice Simon gave you throughout the competition?
Amaro: Never doubt my talents. He said to always believe in myself and I could go anywhere.
This is after he eliminated you?
Amaro: This was after. And he apologized. He made a mistake, everyone does. It was a stupid mistake but... I forgave and I forgot and continued to believe in myself.
What is your journey, starting tomorrow?
Amaro: Catch up on some sleep first! You can't see the bags under my eyes, thank God. Make-up works wonders. But at this moment I am taking what is thrown at me and working with what I have and trying to move forward with my life.
Subscribe to TV Guide Magazine now!