Melanie Amaro, who became the first person to win the U.S. version of "The X Factor," says she plans to use part of her $5 million prize money on a new house for her mother and on a lifetime supply of chicken.
"I can't live without it," she joked to People magazine. "It's my favorite food."
The 19-year-old was announced as the winner of "The X Factor," a singing contest series launched by former "American Idol" judge Simon Cowell, on its series finale on Thursday, December 22. Krajcik, a 30-year-old Ohio burrito slinger and rock musician, came in second place while Chris Rene, a 28-year-old California hip hop singer and recovering drug addict, placed third.
Amaro had talked to OnTheRedCarpet.com co-host Rachel Smith before the episode about how she would spend her prize money if she won the competition.
"I think I first buy my mom a house and then after that, I'd start my career and then, hire this team of people," she said, as she had her hair styled.
After Amaro was announced as the winner, she broke down in tears and was joined on stage by former contestants, including Rachel Crow (see above photo). The teenager who made headlines last month after her adoptive family talked to the press about her troubled early childhood.
"Thank you all sooo much for all your love and votes and dedication, i really appreciate u all, my dream has come true," Amaro Tweeted.
"The X Factor" is based on a UK series. The American version premiered on the FOX network in September. Amaro's $5 million prize is set to be paid in five installments over the next five years.
"Life will change a lot," she told People magazine. "The most I have ever had before was $200, if I was lucky."
"The X Factor" saw co-judges Cowell, his former "American Idol" co-star Paula Abdul, record executive L.A. Reid and singer Nicole Scherzinger also serve as mentors to contestants. Cowell was Amaro's and had predicted she would win the competition.
"Simon's amazing," Amaro told OnTheRedCarpet host Rachel Smith earlier this month. "I know you've seen him for years on 'Idol' and different things like that, but let me tell you, Simon is so not like that off camera. He's so sweet. He's like, 'I love you doll.' He's like a big teddy bear. He's like my daddy while I'm out here."
Cowell had thrown Amaro a lifeline during the competition. In an October episode, it was revealed that she was not going to make it to the next round, but the judge was later seen visiting her in her Florida home to tell her that he wanted to bring her back.
Amaro, who wowed viewers with her renditions of songs by artists such as Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, was born in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. When she was younger, she was sent to live with her grandparents in Tortola in the Virgin Islands for most days of the year because her "Caribbean-bred parents couldn't afford to take care of her," according to the official "X Factor" website.
"Being away from my parents for the long time, I had to find something to lean on so I looked to God and I looked to my music," she is quoted as saying. "And I sing. I just kept my mind from something else other than just being away from my parents."
In addition to $5 million, the champion of the U.S. adaptation of "The X Factor" also wins a recording contract with Sony Music and will also get to star in a Pepsi commercial.
Thursday's finale also featured celebrity guests such as teen pop star Justin Bieber, who performed a Christmas-themed Jackson 5 mash-up and sang with Stevie Wonder, as well as 50 Cent, Ne-Yo, Pitbull and Leona Lewis, a British singer who won season 3 of the UK version of "The X Factor" in 2006. Lewis performed her new single "Run."During Wednesday's pre-finale episode, Amaro performed with R. Kelly, Krajcik sang with Alanis Morissette and Rene shared the stage with Avril Lavigne (see photos).
"The X Factor" has become one of the most-watched new shows this fall season. FOX says it averages 13 million viewers.
The two-hour "The X Factor" finale earned a 3.8 rating among adults aged 18 to 49 and was watched by about 12.4 million people. Viewership was about the same for its September 21 premiere, although the rating for the first episode earned a 4.3 rating among adults aged 18 to 49.
Wednesday's pre-finale earned a 3.3 rating among adults aged 18 to 49 and was watched by a little more than 11 million people.
Do you think the right person won "The X Factor"? Sound off in our poll below and also check out highlights from the "X Factor" finale, courtesy of FOX, as well as OnTheRedCarpet.com's interview with Melanie Amaro.