No matter what happens to Melanie Amaro’s career in the entertainment business, she will have a place in TV history as the first winner of “The X Factor” U.S., which has the largest grand prize for a TV contest: $5 million and a record deal with Sony Music. Powerhouse singer Amaro, 19, was declared the winner in a star-studded season finale on December 22, 2011. Rock singer Josh Krajcik, 30, came in second place in the contest, while 28-year-old hip-hop artist Chris Rene came in third place.
The victory is particularly sweet for “The X Factor” U.S. executive producer/judge Simon Cowell, since he was Amaro’s mentor on the show. The day after being named the first “X Factor” U.S. winner, Amaro (who lives in Florida but has spent some of her childhood in the Virgin Islands) did a telephone conference call interview with journalists. She would not reveal any details about the debut album that she is going to record as part of her “X Factor” grand prize, but she did talk about her rollercoaster journey with “The X Factor” and what she plans to do with the $5 million.
Which “X Factor” contestant did you feel was your biggest competition?
For me, I thought that Chris Rene was my biggest competition.
I don’t know. I guess it’s just because everyone knew that he was an original artist, and that he worked on music, and he connected well with everyone, so I figured that was like my biggest competition.
What would you like to say to your fans in you home region of South Florida and everyone who supported you with their votes?
I just want to tell all of the people in Florida that I absolutely love them and I thank them so much for putting me in that position and voting and supporting me throughout this entire journey. And I’m so appreciative and I love each and every one of them.
Can you talk about who you were before the competition began, 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. I’m growing and I’m learning so much from the industry and from me being in the competition, I’ve learned a lot. I’m growing and I’m really happy about out everything and all the changes that have happened in my life this far. And I’m really happy with the changes.
And throughout the season, it seems like L.A. Reid was urging you to go beyond your comfort zone. How did you view L.A.’s feedback a compared to feedback from your “X Factor” mentor, Simon Cowell?
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.
Have you gotten much sleep since you won “The X Factor” last night?
No, I have not, actually.
Have you been up all night?
I’ve been up all night.
And how many interview shows did you do this morning?
I’m not sure. I think it was 30-something. I’m not sure. It’s a lot. Just about, yes.
Are you coming home soon?
I am hoping to come home very soon, yes. [In] a few days maybe.
A turning point in the contest was when you revealed your Caribbean accent. Was that calculated? What led you to make that decision and come out like that?
To be honest, that really wasn’t planned. Something came over me during that performance and I said to myself, “You know what? Accept who you are and just speak.” And I did. And when I did, that’s my accent just came out and it really wasn’t planned.
When Simon Cowell eliminated you, then changed his mind, and showed up at your house to tell you that you were back in the competition, was that a surprise or was that also kind of planned?
That was a total surprise. I had no idea he was coming. I had no clue Simon was coming to my house, so when he showed up, it was like, “Oh my God.”
Can you talk about what the judges and your family and your friends said shortly after your victory last night?
That they’re all so very proud of me and I really deserved this. And my mentor was so proud. He was more nervous than I was backstage, actually. He kept saying to me and he was like, “I’m nervous.” He’s like, “Tonight my stomach is in knots. I’m so nervous.”
I kept saying, “Why are you so nervous? I’m the one who’s supposed to be nervous.” But, yes, they were all proud, the family and the judges were all happy for me and they were really accepting of the fact that I had won.
And do you have any idea of the artists or producers that you would love to work with in the future?
Any artists and the producers. I’d love to work with Mariah Carey. And I’d also love to work with L.A. Reid because he’s a great producer. He’s a great mentor and he’s wonderful.
For anybody who’s out there who has a dream that they’re pursuing, but they’re kind of hitting a little bit of a roadblock, do you have any type of advice that you’d like to give them?
Continue pushing and never give up, because if you give up, then you’re letting yourself get defeated. You can’t do that. If you give up, then you’re not going to go anywhere. You won’t succeed. You won’t fulfill your dreams. If it’s something that you really want, you really have to fight for it. Anything that’s important is worth fighting for.
What was your relationship with Simon Cowell like? Was it hard for you to forgive him for eliminating you?
No, he was so sincere about coming back to my house and apologizing 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.
Did you ever imagine when he came to get you, that you would win the whole thing?
Actually, no, which is really bad, because I should have really believed in myself. But I kept thinking to myself that I wasn’t good enough, and I constantly kept telling myself that. And when I broke, that is, when I sang my song, I constantly was telling myself, “You know what? Be yourself, Mel, and just let go and just you know be you.” So I did that and I had let the accent out and everyone had kind of known about my journey and everything that I’ve been through.
Was that the moment that you thought you could win? Or was there another moment where that sort of hit you?
To be honest, I still was thinking to myself that regardless of anything, that I was going to go far whether I won or not because I had accepted myself for who I was, and that I was going to go far regardless of the competition, because I started to actually believe in myself.
Can you talk about what kind of album you might like to make with your $5 million recording contract? Do you write music yourself? Would you record other people’s songs? Would it be all ballads? 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.
Do you feel that Simon Cowell was the perfect mentor for you? Do you think you would have won if one of the other judges had mentored you?
No. 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, I needed Simon.
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.
Is there anything that you were surprised to learn about yourself throughout the time spent on the show?
Last night was an amazing thing for me. I was so thrilled to have won. I was so shocked as well and I feel so blessed.
There have been stories that your family has been going through some hard times. How much will this victory help you help them? Is there money or availability for you to help the family or is it all tied to the recording of a project?
We will see as of right now what I can help my family with. My family has always been that support for me and whatever I can help my family with I will most definitely help my family with.
Do you know when you’ll go in the recording studio to make your first album?
No, but we’ll see where things go, you know. As of right now I’m taking things one step at a time and whatever comes my way right now, I just really got to be ready for it.
You’re talking a lot about what you have to look forward to, but can you talk a little bit about the things that you might miss once you become famous?
What I might miss, I don’t know. There are a lot of things that you’ll miss. I’ll miss being able to go to the mall and not get stopped all the time or not get bombarded by people, so that should be nice.
What’s the most important thing the competition taught you about yourself?
The most important thing the competition taught me about me about myself is that I can sing any type genre of music and actually do it very well.
Did you have any idea that at that moment when you were feeling so low about Simon Cowell eliminating you that you would actually come back and win the whole thing?
No, I didn’t.
How much more of a shock was it for you to actually win, considering that you almost weren’t in the competition?
At that time, I had no clue. I didn’t even know. I was so devastated when he gave me a no. I really thought I didn’t have a chance. I really didn’t.
What are you going to do with the $5 million?
I am definitely going to buy myself a foot massager and buy my mom a new house.
A lot of viewers are skeptical that Simon really made a mistake in choosing to send you home before the live shows and believe it was just some made-for-TV drama that he created deliberately. So what’s your take on that? Do you believe he made a genuine mistake and eliminated you, or do you think he kind of staged that a little bit for entertainment purposes?
I don’t know. I don’t know. All I know is that he made a mistake. He apologized 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 toward the future now.
How much time lapsed between when Simon eliminated you and when he showed up at your home in Florida?
I think it was about two weeks, just about.
What was your relationship was like with some of the other contestants in the competition?
We were all very close. We were all great wonderful friends with each other. We had all gotten so close and we just got used to being around each other and for someone to leave our little group it really impacted all of us.
Out of all the other “X Factor” contestants who were on the show with you, whom would you like to duet with the most?
I’d like to do a duet with Josh. I’d like to do a duet with a few of the contestants. All of the contestants. Why not? But maybe Rachel [Crow] or Drew, because they’re all amazing singers. So to me whichever one I’d do a duet with I think it would be like really brilliant.
You mentioned Mariah Carey as one of your influences. Why is she one your musical influences and what do you look for in an artist?
Because she has a beautiful, big, amazing voice and because she’s someone that use 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.
Out of the four “X Factor” U.S. judges if you could do a collaboration with any of them, who would you want to collaborate with the most?
I’m guessing I would have to collaborate with my mentor or L.A. I don’t know. Or Nicole [Scherzinger] or L.A., I really don’t know.
How does it feel to go from originally not making the cut to the live shows and then to finally win? Like had you resigned yourself to the fact that it was just back to the same old, same old at that point?
I did. After being cut, it’s like I went back to working. I went back to doing the same old thing I was doing before and I wasn’t too happy. I was a little miserable, but after me getting a chance to come back, when Simon came and got me back, I felt as though while I really wasn’t on TV and doing all this other stuff I was doing the same, so.
Do you think because you were eliminated and then brought back, that’s one of the things that spurred your fans to really vote each week and really come out in force and support you?
I think so. I’m not sure, but I guess they see that me getting a no was, how it affected me, and how I really didn’t deserve to get a no. And they didn’t want me to get a no again and so they really voted like really hard in order to me to not get that no ever again. And I so thank my fans and supporters and everyone that has supported me throughout this entire journey. I love each and every one of them.
What are you doing for the holidays? How does this victory kind of change your plans?
It has changed it a little, but this is something that I signed up for. This is my career. This is something that I wanted, so I’m just happy with me even being in this position right now, so I’m seriously happy. I really don’t know what I’m going to do, but we will see.
You just haven’t thought that far ahead?
Yes, I have not, I really haven’t.
What was it like for you singing with R. Kelly in the “X Factor” U.S. Season 1 finale?
It was very nice. I really enjoyed it and I was really happy that I was able to sing with him to have a chance to say I was able to sing with R. Kelly. Not every person can say that they’ve done that, but I had the chance to do that and I was just so happy and I was thrilled to be able to do something with such an amazing artist such as R. Kelly, you know.
What did you think of your talent compared to the other finalists?
I think my talent was a gift and I think that I had a big range. I got a stronger range than a lot of the other contestants. I think that with me doing what I do with all of my heart kind of put me apart from a lot of the other contestants because I sing every time. And when I sing, I sing with all of me. I sing to the very, very pit of my soul I sing because it is something that I truly, truly enjoy.
Obviously, you entered this competition because you wanted to sing, you wanted to become a performer. But in the process, you’ve really become an inspiration for so many millions of people out there. What does that mean to you?
That means a lot to me to know that by me doing what I’ve done with my music has inspired someone else to do what they love and maybe fulfill their dreams.
You are very involved with your church and you’re very spiritual. Even though you can’t give us any tips about your future album, do you think you’ll have a gospel-inspired song or perhaps use some of the singers at your church on your album at all in the future?
I don’t think I’m going to give anything away. Like I keep saying, I’m going to keep everyone guessing as to what’s going to come out, so when it does come out and they go get it, it’s like, “Oh my God, this is amazing.” And they really like it. I’m just hoping and praying that everybody just enjoys the music that I put out and that they see the passion and the love that I have for my music.