Credit: Ray Mickshaw/FOX ©2011 Fox Broadcasting Co Photo: Contestants Hug Melanie Amaro on the X Factor Finale, on December 22, 2011

Simon Cowell’s X Factor protégé Melanie Amaro was crowned the winner of the show on Thursday night. And backstage after the show, the famed judge told reporters why he felt the 19-year-old singer he had mentored came out on top.

“She’s just got that star ability,” Simon gushed. “She’s tough. And she was not the easiest person to work with. If she didn’t like something, she’d tell you. And I like that. I like that from an artist. She’s got guts, she’s got steel, and right up until the last second she was always worried about performance and then the light switch went on every time.”

But Simon, who has been through many a finale show, said he was on pins and needles on Thursday night wondering if Melanie would triumph over rivals Josh Krajcik and Chris Rene. “Everything that happened on this show, throughout the year, I was expecting the unexpected. At that point you start to wonder, ‘What am I going to say to you if you’ve lost?’ It was very, very personal.”  

Now Simon is ready to launch Melanie’s recording career. “We’ve got three labels right now who want to sign her within Sony, so I have to make the decision in the next 24 hours.”

Credit: Ray Mickshaw/FOX ©2011 Fox Broadcasting Co Photo: Simon Cowell and Melanie Amaro on the X Factor Finale, on December 22, 2011

And he revealed other X Factor stars might get deals as well: “Anybody we’re not interested in, they’ll be let down quickly, but there is a lot of interest with a lot of the artists. You can’t sign everyone. But there’s going to be quite a few who are going to get deals. You’re not going to let Astro go, you’re not going to let Chris go, Josh go. You’d be mad. But [Melanie]’s the priority.”

The journey wasn’t easy, however, as Simon dumped Melanie only to beg her to come back on the show later.  “Look at her now. She’s a star. I remember when I was walking into her house. She’s literally watching herself on YouTube. I knocked on her door and she did a double take when she saw me. I explained why I was there. And then it was like a marriage proposal. I said to her, ‘I’ve made a mistake. I admit it. I’m going to give you a second chance.’ And I stood there like a lemon for 30 seconds while she stared at me, and then quietly said, ‘Yes, I’ll do it.’ Standing right behind me now she’s got the confidence and I’m proud of the fact that the show found her.”

Simon explained he let her go the first time because, “I was probably looking for a bit of balance. To be honest, I can’t answer this question properly. All I can say is, I royally screwed up. I’ve done it before in this business, but at least this time I had a chance to rectify it. I’m glad I did. I think she’s someone who can sell records all over the world, which is important. And I think she has longevity.”

And she’s also a rich girl with the $5 million recording contract and a spot in a Pepsi commercial set to air during the Super Bowl. 

Simon said he’s advised Melanie to “never forget the fans. I said that to [American Idol season one winner] Kelly Clarkson. I’ve seen people from these shows, one minute, ‘Thank you for voting for me,’ next thing is they’re not signing autographs. I don’t buy that kind of behavior. If they’ve made you, you have a debt with them, and it’s long-term. But she’s that kind of girl.”

The longtime TV judge and record producer said of Melanie’s upcoming album, “we haven’t had a singer like her since Mariah and Whitney, so we have to do her justice. But fortunately a lot of good producers want to work with her now, so all I can say is, it’s going to be a great record.”

Credit: Ray Mickshaw/FOX ©2011 Fox Broadcasting Co Photo: The Judges Enter for the X Factor Finale, on December 22, 2011

Meanwhile, the other judges also spoke to red carpet reporters about The X Factor experience.  L.A. Reid, who mentored third place finisher Chris, predicted he would become “a massive star. He’ll go into the studio, make records, do videos, tours, do movies, the whole nine. I think the guy’s a star and he’ll continue to work hard.” He wasn’t disappointed that his protégé lost and praised Melanie. “I think America got it right. There were so many smiling faces when she won. I feel really good about it.”

L.A. told Wetpaint Entertainment that songwriting isn’t any harder now than when he started in the business. “It’s never been easy and it won’t ever be easy. Great songwriting is the lifeblood of what we do in music and a part of what I’ve had to do my whole career is identify those people who are really in the moment. Because it’s not like great writing lasts a lifetime. People who write great songs have a sweet spot in which they’re just connected and do great work and I try to catch them when the light is on.

“Chris has some great material in him. As a result of this show and his journey, I think he has a lot to say.” 

L.A. said he has no idea what Chris’ sobriety journey has been like, but added, “As I watch him, I think that every single day is a challenge and I hope that I can not only be his on-camera mentor but be a life coach for him. I’d like to stay close to him and keep him clean and help him make hit records.”  

Paula Abdul told us that even though the bands she mentored on The X Factor were eliminated early this season, she thinks they have a chance on future shows. “It’s all cyclical. It’s been almost two decades since groups have dominated the pop charts. It’s time. I think the way the format goes, the fans are coming up with great ideas and they’re suggesting that each one of us has a stake in every category, that we have a draft pick amongst ourselves for each category.  By doing that, inadvertently, it’s going to help the group situation. I worked extremely hard with the groups. I loved it.”

And Nicole Scherzinger spoke backstage about her pride for protégé Josh. “When we found out he was top two, we were both really excited and grateful. I put my heart and soul into working with him.”

The Pussycat Dolls singer faced criticism this season by some who didn’t like her judging and rumor has it that she might not come back to the show next season. However, Nicole loved being a mentor to the “over 30s” and told Wetpaint Entertainment on Thursday, “hopefully I instilled in them some confidence, strength, faith, and to help them to be the best that they could be as artists, to really believe in themselves. I always told my contestants, you’re here for a purpose, you have a story, you need to connect with the people. That’s why we listen to music—so we don’t feel alone, so it moves us in some way.”

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