Fantasia: Yes, but I had a hard time in the beginning of the show. Some of the voters didn't like the fact that I had dropped out of school and had a baby out of wedlock. How could I be a role model for their kids? Also, I had no money for clothes to wear onstage. I felt like I didn't belong in this fancy competition with all these people who could go shopping when they wanted. I knew that if they didn't make it, they would have something else to do with their lives. This was all I had.

Oprah: In your book you wrote, "I just kept wearin' my same pair of tight jeans with different tops and different big hoop earrings and matching high heel shoes. But when I sang, I just sang from my heart and my voice probably sounded better than those jeans looked…I knew whatever happened it was gonna be okay." I love that.

Fantasia: The person I was rooming with offered to buy me some clothes, but I didn't want to feel like a charity case. I thought, "They're not looking at my clothes, and I'm going to sing like I ain't never sang before."

Oprah: At the beginning of the competition, you were just happy to be participating. When did you start wanting to win?

Fantasia: I never allowed myself to want that because I was scared of the disappointment. I thought, "Even if I don't win, I feel like a winner because I've come this far; whoever wins, God bless, and if I don't, I can still get a record deal."

Oprah: But there was a shift the night you performed your unforgettable rendition of the George Gershwin song "Summertime."

Fantasia: That was the night that everything changed. People came up to me and said, "I wasn't voting for you at first, but I have no other choice now, baby." That night, I wanted to be pure. I wanted the world to hear me cry out [sings]: "One of these mornings, y'all gonna rise up singing, then you'll spread your wings, and fly to the sky." I wanted people to see me, to change their minds about me. And that night, they did.

Oprah: A few weeks later, what did it feel like to be one of the last two singers standing?

Fantasia: It was between me and Diana DeGarmo, and I didn't think they were going to give it to me. But by that time it didn't matter; I had made it to the top two, out of all of those people. Little ol' 'Tasia, the girl everyone gave up on. The one who dropped out of school. The one who had the baby at 17. When I was announced as the winner, I fell into Diana's arms and hugged her so hard that my bracelet, my necklace, and my heel broke. It was as if the chains of bondage had finally been removed from my life.

Oprah: Let's move from one stage to another: What did you think when you were approached to perform in The Color Purple?

Fantasia: I didn't think I could do it. My manager took me to see the show and said that two men wanted to meet with me. They turned out to be Scott Sanders and Gary Griffin [the show's producer and director], and Scott pulled out a picture of the marquee with my name on it and said, "I want you to be Celie." But I was scared. For days, I thought and prayed, and I finally decided to try it. On opening night, I thought, "I've got to do my best for all the people who've come to see the show." When the crowd applauded during my first lines, I knew they wanted to see me do good, and I thought, "I can do this."


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