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How Alisan Porter’s win on ‘The Voice’ symbolizes the best and worst aspects of the show

On Tuesday night, former child star Alisan Porter won Season 10 of “The Voice,” marking the first time a female coach’s contestant claimed the top prize. The crowd went crazy when the California folk singer, who was on coach Christina Aguilera’s team, was officially crowned the winner. It led to an especially adorable moment as Porter, 34, cradled her young daughter onstage, singing her victory song with tears in her eyes.

You may not recognize her now, but "The Voice" winner Alisan Porter was actually already famous. (Video: The Washington Post)

While Porter deserves the trophy (and you may have called her win the moment the celebrity coaches lost their minds during her stellar first audition), interestingly, her victory highlights one of the best aspects of NBC’s hit singing competition show — as well as one of the worst.

Let’s start with the best: Sometimes, the show really does prove inspirational. Sure, occasionally it delves too much into contestants’ personal lives and gets contrived. But in this case, Porter, who briefly gained fame as the star of the John Hughes movie “Curly Sue” at age 10, had a truly moving story.

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As she said in her first audition, Porter is an alcoholic who got sober nearly eight years ago. She has said in interviews that she used alcohol as a coping mechanism when she quit acting. During her most personal moment of the season, she sang Patty Griffin’s “Let Him Fly,” which she said represented a dark time in her life when an ex-boyfriend passed away. On top of that, Porter said, “I was at the end of my ropes with my addiction.”

The coaches praised her courage for sharing her struggles. “I think that the mark of someone who is an artist is someone who uses everything in their life, good and bad, to kind of speak through the music,” Adam Levine said. Aguilera echoed that sentiment, and later called Porter, now married with two kids, “an inspiration for everybody and anybody that literally has a dream and just wants a second chance.”

As a result, watching Porter’s rise through the season was rather thrilling, especially as she revealed singing was her true passion; not acting, which she pursued for the first part of her life. Though that leads into what some consider one of the worst elements of “The Voice” — that people with lots of show business experience have an unfair advantage.

Cinderella-story singing competitions like “American Idol” may be partly to blame for viewers’ expectations of amateur contestants. “Idol,” which had strict policies against contestants who had previous ties in the music business, reminded everyone how glorious it could be to watch an everyday person suddenly become a star. “The Voice” has never shied away from the fact that it recruits great singers and, because of that, the show features many contestants who tried and failed to achieve singing stardom before auditioning.

This has led some to question “Voice” contestants like Meghan Linsey, formerly in a moderately successful country duo; Cassadee Pope, who toured the world with Fall Out Boy; Jermaine Paul, who won a Grammy for an Alicia Keys collaboration; Tessanne Chin, a singing star in Jamaica; or Craig Wayne Boyd, a longtime Nashville songwriter.

Like Porter, all of those contestants did extremely well in the competition, either winning or coming in second place. While Porter never gained much attention for her music career, she’s had professional showbiz experience, and she’s released two albums. In addition to her early Hollywood years in movies and TV, she starred in plays and became pals with “American Idol” star Adam Lambert, as the two were both in “The Ten Commandments: The Musical.”

Of course, the music industry is brutally competitive, and singers should use reality TV as a method of career advancement, considering the boost. It was a savvy move for Porter, who has been a stay-at-home mom for the last several years and not working in the business. But at the same time, knowing that someone has industry connections takes some of the fun out of singing competitions like “The Voice,” which are always the best when they discover complete unknowns. (Such as this season’s third-place finisher Hannah Huston, a full-time preschool teacher from Nebraska.)

In other words, Porter, the proud new owner of a Universal Music Group record deal, now has legitimate shot at a true singing career. Even though, technically, she could have had an easier time pursuing other avenues than contestants who had no entertainment background whatsoever.

Read more:

A former ‘Voice’ contestant spills how the show really operates

Why Craig Wayne Boyd was never really an underdog on ‘The Voice’

Now that ‘The Voice’ season is over, can Jordan Smith really become a star?