When Melanie Amaro sang, the entire world stopped and listened.
The 19-year-old and her impressive vocals scooped the crown as the winner of America's first X Factor in December — not to mention the $5 million (Dh18.36 million) recording contract — and ever since, it's been all eyes on Amaro.
Her mentor Simon Cowell said Amaro's win meant more to him than any contestant's before, maybe partly due to the fact the music mogul actually sent the contestant home at the judge's houses stage, only to be brought back two weeks later.
"I thought that was it for me," she said. "Everyone was like, ‘Something good's going to come out of it.' I just kept saying, ‘OK cool, whatever you say.' Then he walked through my door and it was like, wow. It was big."
While the sceptics launched into talk of "planned television" and "a big fix", Cowell maintained he made a genuine mistake sending Amaro home and knew he had to put it right.
"It was a feeling I had," he said. "I also had all the tapes sent through, the rough cuts of all the first auditions. That was sent to me after I sent her home. I thought, ‘This is crazy!'"
Speaking for the first time, an extremely polite Amaro speaks about her win, her relationship with Cowell and collaborating with Mariah Carey.
A lot of viewers were sceptical Simon really made a mistake in choosing to send you home before the live shows and believe it was just some made-for-TV that he created deliberately...
I don't know. All I know is that he made a mistake. He apologised about it and I moved on from it and look at where I am now; so whatever happened in the past is the past and I'm looking towards the future now.
Do you think you would have won if Simon wasn't your mentor?
I don't think that I would have gone very, very far at all, because I needed Simon to be that tough judge that he was with me in order for me to grow to get to a higher place. So for me I needed Simon.
Who did you feel was your biggest competition?
For me, Chris Rene. Everyone knew that he was an original artist and that he worked on music and was original and he connected well with everyone, so I figured that was like my biggest competition.
Can you talk about who you were before the competition began as compared to how you've grown? Can you feel the difference in yourself?
I do. I've grown not only as a person, but I've grown as an artist as well. I've matured and I've really stepped into being like my own.
How did you view L.A. Reid's feedback as compared to Simon's?
I viewed both of their opinions equally, I guess. I took it in and I use whatever criticism or opinions that were given to me and I just use them and I use it to improve my performances, you know.
Do you have any idea of the artists or producers that you would love to work with in the future?
I'd love to work with Mariah Carey because she has a beautiful, big, amazing voice and because she's someone that uses her talent to make a difference to do what she loves. She strives to be the best in what she does. That's what makes me admire her and she's an all-around just great person; she's an amazing person.
You're currently living out your dream right now. Any advice for others who are still trying?
Continue pushing and never give up because if you give up, then you're letting yourself get defeated. You can't do that.
What was your relationship with Simon like, and was it hard for you to forgive him for sending you home?
No, he was so sincere about coming back to my house and apologising about everything that I could not stay mad at all. I was hurt at first, but I forgave and forgot and let go and I really made peace with it.
Do you write music yourself and what kind of album do you envision making?
As of right now, I'm going to keep that as a surprise. I'm not going to give that away. I'm just going to say that you should look forward to it and know that I'm going to make some great music, and that the fans should really want to listen to what I have to put out, you know.
What was going through your head the moment that you were announced as the winner?
It's so surreal. I feel amazing. I feel as though I'm in a dream and this is not real.
What are you going to do with the money?
I am definitely going to buy myself a foot massager and buy my mum a new house.