Kelly Clarkson voted for Fantasia!
"She sings from her heart and soul,"
first-season Idol champ Kelly Clarkson says of Barrino.
"I just hit redial, redial."</p>
Growing up in High Point, N.C., Fantasia Barrino dreamed of stardom. "I would go in front of the mirror with an old, cheap can of hairspray and hold it like a microphone," she says. "I would go to sleep every night picturing myself singing in front of millions of people."
If the count was 31 million, then Barrino's psychic talents may be as formidable as her powerhouse pipes. On May 26 an audience that size tuned in to learn that the single mother, who turns 20 on June 30, had emerged as American Idol's third-season winner, beating out Diana DeGarmo, 16, by 1.3 million of the roughly 65 million votes cast. DeGarmo, a beauty pageant contestant who knows how to read the tea leaves, says she knew the gig was up when, just before airtime, the show's producers told her she would be first that evening to sing I Believe, a song written expressly to be recorded by the winner. But Barrino claimed she was stunned. "We had so much going through our heads that day," she says.
After making a quick appearance with daughter Zion, 2, at the fan-packed, post-Idol party, Barrino retired to her room at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel. "I had to do mommy duty," she said the next day, between appearances on The Tonight Show and The Ellen DeGeneres Show. "We watched a little Shrek." Then friends and relatives descended. "I'm dead," she confessed. "I got a lot of hugs, a lot of love--no sleep."
Life promises only to speed up from here. Already at work on a high school equivalency degree, Barrino now plans to get a driver's license to go with the Ford Focus that was part of her victory booty. On June 15 she'll release the I Believe single, followed by an album after the 48-city Idol tour. "Fantasia really was a cut above from the very beginning," says Clive Davis, CEO and chairman of BMG North America, who signed both Idol finalists. "She's the real deal." Even the notoriously cranky Simon Cowell seems to agree. "There aren't many other artists in America now who I prefer to have on my label than Fantasia," he says. "That's the best compliment I can pay her."
By Jill Smolowe. Monica Rizzo, Brenda Rodriguez and Oliver Jones in Los Angeles
Issue: June 14, 2004 Vol. 61 No. 23
Publication Date: 06-14-2004