- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 26, 2004

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Fantasia Barrino’s fantasy of pop stardom became a reality last night when she was named the winner of “American Idol.”

Miss Barrino grabbed runner-up Diana DeGarmo in a bear hug and twisted her around as tears streamed down her face.

“Thank you much,” she sobbed. “I broke my shoe.”

Miss Barrino, a 19-year-old single mother from High Point, N.C., with a powerful, gospel-tinged voice, topped Miss DeGarmo, an effervescent 16-year-old from Snellville, Ga.

Miss DeGarmo continued smiling through tears in defeat: “I’m so proud to have come here with Fantasia. She’s my girl and you guys will treat her well.”

The judges of the Fox TV singing contest had pretty much crowned Miss Barrino the winner the previous night, when she dazzled them with a powerful version of George Gershwin’s “Summertime” and two other songs.

But judges don’t pick the winner — America does, through phone and text-message votes. Host Ryan Seacrest said a record 65 million phone votes were cast, up from 24 million for last season’s finale.

Miss Barrino receives a recording contract, following in the footsteps of the first two winners, Kelly Clarkson and Ruben Studdard. Her first single will be a song she and Miss DeGarmo both tried out last night, “I Believe,” written by Tamyra Gray, a contestant from season one.

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