The X Factor USA crowned its first winner last night, 19-year-old Melanie Amaro from Sunrise, Florida. The singer, who has been likened to Whitney Houston and Beyonce among others, won a $5 million recording contract with Simon Cowell's record label SyCo and a role in a Pepsi television commercial.
Amaro had been touted to win the competition from the start of the live rounds, though ironically she was eliminated during the judges houses stage, only to be subsequently reinstated. She beat out over 100,000 people who auditioned for the chance to compete in The X Factor, and won consistent praise from judges Cowell, La Reid, Nicole Scherzinger and Paula Abdul during the live finals. Speaking after host Steve Jones had announced the winner, Melanie's mentor Cowell said, "I want to say America, thank you for giving this girl an opportunity". That opportunity will include not only the huge prize fund, but the chance to record an album that will almost certainly reach the upper echelons of the Billboard chart. Though Thursday's final result was almost a foregone conclusion after Cowell has labelled Amaro the true "winner" the previous night, some fans were still holding out for rocker Josh Krajcik to win - he eventually finished in second place ahead of rapper Chris Rene. Established artists to appear on the season finale included pop superstar Justin Bieber, soul legend Stevie Wonder and 50 Cent.
It's been a tumultuous first season for The X Factor USA, which began with the sacking of British pop princess Cheryl Cole from the judging panel. Though many speculated her difficult-to-understand Geordie accent was the reason behind the axing, Cowell always maintained she didn't seem "comfortable" in the U.S. Questions were also raised about the suitability of Welsh television presenter Jones as a host, and the new show began by drawing an average of 12 million viewers - less than half the number watched by its Fox stablemate AMERICAN IDOL.