'American Idol' Coughs Up A Winner After A 2-Hour Round
By Teresa Wiltz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 27, 2004; Page C01
Last night, at 9:54, after nearly two hours and an interminable number of commercials, hideous group medleys and faux celebs on the red carpet, the "American Idol" finale finally gave viewers what they were looking for: a big ol' diva win with a big ol' diva moment. The overjoyed winner, tears streaming through false eyelashes, clutched the unhappy-but-faking-it loser in a passionate headlock, too elated or surprised to realize that maybe, just maybe, she should, um, let go.
"Thank you so much!" Fantasia Barrino sobbed when she finally set runner-up Diana DeGarmo free. "I broke my shoe!!"
Her necklace, too. But we assume she'll be able to afford replacements real soon.
"I always say I've been through some things but I worked hard to get where I'm at," cried the 19-year-old single mother from Raleigh, N.C., who'll take home a recording contract along with the title. "Thank you, God, so much. Man, I'm a crybaby!"
She was indeed, but then so was Diana. After a record 65 million votes were tallied, the 16-year-old from Snellville, Ga., narrowly lost the drawn-out battle of the divas that in recent weeks had viewers fuming over perceived voter fraud conspiracies and Elton John declaring that the show was racist when two terribly talented African American singers were booted.
But last night there was none of that. Judges Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul remained standing but silent, probably worn out from the marathon contest that began with 70,000 hopefuls and ended up with one winner. Paula clasped her arms, the better to squeeze more cleavage out of her plunging gown. In Paula's world, everybody's a winner!
And then Fantasia started singing "I Believe," the Tamyra Gray-penned "American Idol" single destined to be overplayed soon at a radio station near you. "I can see it in the stars across the sky, I've waited all my life for this moment to arrive," she wailed.
And we didn't even mind when she dropped to her knees and choked up, rasping, "Finally, I believe." The thought "over the top" barely flitted past.
If only the rest of the show were so dramatic.
There were pronouncements that big celebrities like Denzel Washington would show up. Instead, we got Nicole Richie and Ray Romano.
To keep the show going for two excruciating hours, there was filler on top of filler, including a regrettable group medley with the 12 finalists singing an unlikely blend of songs from "It Don't Mean a Thing (if It Ain't Got That Swing)" to Ashford and Simpson's "Solid (as a Rock)." Some even sang on key as Simon sat there grimacing. Or maybe he was smiling.
One irrational moment of hope occurred at 8:47 or so, when host Ryan Seacrest stood onstage with the two finalists and announced that soon, very soon, we'd know who the new American Idol was. But first, some "hilarious" behind-the-scenes moments like the time the makeup artist was sent to powder Barry Manilow's nose and didn't know who the singer was.
Diana sang "I Believe" one more time, acquitting herself well and ending up in tears. Fantasia sang "Dreams." She can sing like nobody's business, but this wasn't her best effort, and from her downcast look, she knew it.
Then they came back for a dueling duet, trying to out-sing each other.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Fantasia Barrino last night after being voted the new American Idol, the climax of two excruciating hours.
(Robert Galbraith -- Reuters)
A May 27 Style article incorrectly said that "American Idol" winner Fantasia Barrino is from Raleigh, N.C. She is from High Point, N.C.
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