From early reject to grand-prize winner, Melanie Amaro was crowned champion of Fox's "The X Factor" on Thursday (December 22), winning a $5 million recording contract and a spot in a Pepsi commercial that will air during next year's Super Bowl.
Amaro, a 19-year-old from Sunrise, Florida, beat out 30-year-old Columbus, Ohio, contestant Josh Krajcik for the title of "X Factor" winner. Chris Rene, the 28-year-old from Santa Cruz, California, came in third place.
When the results were read, an emotional Amaro exclaimed, "Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!" She was swarmed by members of her family, and "X Factor" host Steve Jones struggled to get a word from her. After performing Beyoncé';'s "Listen," Amaro said, "God is good," and thanked her fans.
"Thank you so much, thank you. I'm just, I'm so happy and I don't know what to say," she said. "This is something I've wanted for all my life!"
Amaro's victory was especially sweet considering she was technically eliminated from the competition after Simon Cowell sent her home following one of the early rounds. Deciding he had made a mistake, Cowell paid a personal visit to her home and invited her to rejoin the competition.
In the end, Cowell was pleased with his decision, as well as America's choice of Amaro as its first "X Factor" winner. "We came here to find a superstar, we found a superstar. Thank you to everyone who supported the show," Cowell said. He called Krajcik "a worthy runner-up."
Krajcik, the husky, self-described burrito slinger, congratulated Amaro on her victory. "Melanie deserves it, she has a wonderful voice," he said. "I've had such an incredible experience here. I got to be myself and sing what I wanted to sing. I couldn't be happier."
Earlier in the show, third-place finisher Rene said he felt "amazing" for getting the chance to participate in the competition. "I got to touch a lot of people's hearts out there, and I just gotta say thank you," he said.
Rene's mentor in the competition, L.A. Reid, called Rene — a recovering substance abuser who celebrated his eighth month of sobriety earlier this week — a "gentleman" and a "talent." "This is how it turned out, it doesn't matter," Reid said. "This is my man."
"The X Factor" was one of the year's most anticipated shows. It debuted in September with lofty expectations, with Cowell — who abandoned his judging position at "American Idol" to bring "X Factor" to these shores — predicting the show would attract 20 million viewers per episode. Instead, it pulled about half that, averaging 11.1 viewers over the course of the season, and criticism from viewers who questioned the show's over-the-top production and the awkwardness of host Steve Jones.
Thursday's results show followed Wednesday's performance episode, when the three finalists performed duets with superstar acts: Amaro with R. Kelly, Krajcik with Alanis Morissette and Rene with Avril Lavigne. Following the show, Cowell heavily endorsed Amaro to be the winner.
Thursday's two-hour episode featured a host of musical acts. Justin Bieber performed on the show, dueting with surprise guest Stevie Wonder on "The Christmas Song" and later with "X Factor" finalist (and Biebs superfan) Drew Ryniewicz on "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town." 50 Cent also appeared on the show, performing his new single "Wait Until Tonight," as well as his 2003 smash "In da Club" alongside Tony Yayo, "X Factor" rapper Astro and several members of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Pitbull, meanwhile, appeared and did a quickie version of his single "International Love" and was later joined by Ne-Yo and "X Factor" contestant Marcus Canty on "Give Me Everything."
A countdown of the show's top five most shocking moments rightfully named Rachel Crow's December 8th elimination as the season's biggest shocker, and Crow herself was brought out and joked about stealing host Jones' job. She introduced Leona Lewis, who covered Snow Patrol's "Run" over a package of the season's most memorable moments.
The top 12 finalists opened the show with a group performance of Lady Gaga's "The Edge of Glory." The top three contestants also performed holiday songs, with Amaro doing "All I Want for Christmas Is You," Rene crooning "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and Krajcik taking on the Eagles' "Please Come Home for Christmas."
Prior to the reading of the results, Amaro and Krajcik shared the stage together and performed David Bowie's "Heroes."
What did you think of the "X Factor" results? Let us know in the comments!