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American Idol 3 Winner; Fantasia Barrino!

Fantasia Barrino is a 20 year-old from Highpoint, N.C., who started singing in church with her family at the age of 5. According to her mother, Fantasia's 3-year-old daughter, Zion Barrino, is going to be an AMERICAN IDOL. Self-described as a crazy woman, Fantasia likes to go skating and dancing. If reality TV shows had a Super Bowl then the season finale of "America Idol" would be it. More than 65 million votes were cast and more than 31 million viewers tuned in to watch as 19-year-old Fantasia Barrino was crowned the winner. Just four months earlier, Fantasia was a down-on-her-luck a high school dropout and single mother scarred by domestic abuse. For her, the "American Idol" competition was the ultimate Cinderella story and the culmination of a lifelong dream. Tasia," as her family calls her, had dreams of being a pop star but her roots are pure gospel. Her grandmother and mother are both preachers. Her family toured as a gospel singing group. Nearly everyone on both sides of her family sings, but despite the obvious wealth of talent, no one has ever made it big in the music industry. Fantasia's family get-togethers are filled with song. "If we can't find a song, we'll sing a nursery rhyme. We could just get together, sing, crack jokes and have a good time," Fantasia said.

Now Fantasia is breaking free of her "American Idol" family and trying her chance at stardom. Her debut CD, aptly named "Free Yourself," is due out later this month. Even the curmudgeonly Cowell has high hopes for her. "She definitely has the potential to be a big recording artist. She's arguably the best contestant we've ever had on any 'Idol' around the world. Now we have to hear her record," he said. In the meantime, Fantasia said, she's pursuing her GED. She has bought her mother a house and for the first time opened her own bank account. She has also had some time to savor the moment that changed her life — a moment she never stopped believing was possible.

Fantasia said, "It was the best day of my life. … I just started thinking about other things that I had been through. And I just started: thinking no more struggling, no more hanging out in the streets. I'm ready to work — and do what it is I love to do."


Fantasia Barrino's sales falling short of previous 'American Idol' winners

The reality TV show "American Idol" pulled in a record 31 million viewers during its fourth season amid signs its power to sell CDs has diminished.
Last season's winner, Fantasia Barrino, has sold a respectable 850,000 copies of her debut album "Free Yourself." However, that is far less than previous "Idol" stars Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken, Rolling Stone reported.

Executives from "Idol"and Arista/J Records sparred about the reasons why Barrino's debut album won weaker-than-previous sales.
Barrino, considered by some critics the most artistically credible winner, said many people don't take TV stars seriously. She told the magazine that watching TV is free "and a lot of people just don't go out and buy records."

Fantasia Barrino (American Idol) will co-host the Soul Train Awards

Fantasia "Free Yourself" album, Fantasia Barrino (American Idol) will co-host the Soul Train Awards.

Fantasia - who will co-host the 19th annual Soul Train Awards on March 12th - takes a giant step toward fulfilling the title of her debut album, "Free Yourself" (see here), as it passes the RIAA platinum sales mark this week and moves up to No 13-bullet on the Billboard 200 Albums chart and No 4 - bullet on the R&B chart (this week's 'Greatest Gainer' on both lists).

"Truth Is," the first single from "Free Yourself", has exploded on Urban radio and becomes Fantasia's first No 1 Urban Adult chart-topper this week. The record also came in at No 9 on the Urban Mainstream radio chart with Urban radio tallying big reaction to "Baby Mama" and "Free Yourself" from the album - look for one of them to emerge as the follow-up single to "Truth Is."

Back in December, Fantasia personally debuted the promotional video for "Truth Is" (directed by Diane Martel) on BET's 106 & Park, where it stays in Power Rotation. She'll return to 106 & Park next Thursday, February 17th for a live performance of her hit "Truth Is." On February 22nd she's back singing "The Lord Will Bless Me Right Now" on BET's Celebration Of Gospel special.

In advance of next month's Soul Train Awards, Fantasia's millions of fans can catch her performance of "Truth Is" on the weekly show this Saturday, February 12th (please check local listings). In addition to co-hosting the Awards gala on March 12th with Nicole Richie, Brian McKnight and Nick Cannon, Fantasia will perform a medley of "Baby Mama" and "Free Yourself" on the big night. Fantasia has also been nominated for a Soul Train Award herself as Best New Artist, R&B/Soul or Rap (against Ciara, J-Kwon and John Legend).

In other awards news, Fantasia has also been nominated for Outstanding New Artist and Outstanding Female Artist at the NAACP Image Awards, to broadcast on Friday night, March 25th. The nominations indicate the overwhelming positive critical reaction that has greeted "Free Yourself". In fact, Fantasia has truly won her freedom - and the next phase of her career - as "the first American Idol to count as a discovery" (San Francisco Chronicle) and "the American Idol champ most likely to become a genuine pop idol" (People).

Fantasia first entered the pop music record books in June, when she became the first artist in the 49-year history of the Billboard Hot 100 chart to debut at No 1 with her debut single, "I Believe," (see here) which also set a one-week 2004 Soundscan sales record in the process. The song now serves as the climactic closing number of "Free Yourself", which also includes two other memorable Idol show-stoppers, the Gershwins' "Summertime" and "Chain Of Fools," a powerful homage to Fantasia's lifelong idol Aretha Franklin. "With the release of her first album," raved the New York Daily News, "... the now 20 year-old Barrino is ready to step out of the American Idol bubble and become a star in her own right."

An Idol Pays a Call

Fantasia has a busy life of concerts, benefits, and even acting
Fantasia Barrino breezed into town yesterday to sing a few songs, sign a few CDs and soak in a little of home.

Barrino, the reigning American Idol, is on tour promoting her CD, Free Yourself. She appeared last night at 102 Jamz January Birthday Bash at Greensboro Coliseum, part of a swing through North Carolina that brought her back to her hometown.

Earlier in the day, she stopped by the WGHP/FOX8 television studio for a live interview. Prancing on mile-high wedge heels, she made the rounds of the building, hugging and kissing everyone in sight. As she sat in a chair, waiting for her interview, she looked around, a smile on her face.

"I'm back home," she said over and over. "I remember sitting here before I won."

People at home, she said, show her the best love she could ever get.

"It's not about fame and fortune. That could be gone tomorrow. It's about love."

Since winning the title of American Idol last spring, Barrino has crisscrossed the country, giving concerts, making TV appearances and spreading her version of down-home charm. She was among the artists who sang a tribute to Elton John at the 27th annual Kennedy Center Honors in December.

"There were so many awesome people in the house," she said. "The president was there!"

She has sung at benefits for AIDS organizations and for tsunami relief. She has visited churches and schools.

Her tour has introduced her to many young women who see her as a role model for single motherhood. Barrino, 20, has a 3-year-old daughter, Zion. One track on her CD, "Baby Mama," has stirred controversy because some people see it as an endorsement for bearing children out of wedlock.

Barrino wanted the song on her CD, she said. She knows that many young women struggle with trying to support their children and themselves, just as she did.

"I wanted to shout out to all those young moms," she said. "They can get in the car, turn up the radio and know, 'This one's for me.'" But she isn't promoting teenage motherhood, she said. "It's not cute. It ain't easy. It's hard."

Young teens come up to her and tell her, "I'm a baby mama."

"That's cool," she tells them, but then she asks, "What are you doing to try to better yourself?"

"It's really gotten to my heart," she said. "I need to sit down and talk to these young women." She isn't ashamed of being a teenage mother, she said. "But if I could have waited, I would have."

Barrino's mother, Diane, kept Zion while Barrino toured with other American Idol contestants. Now Zion travels with her mother. Having her child beside her reminds Barrino why she is working so hard, she said.

Fantasia's next interest - acting

Barrino will be a co-host of the Soul Train Awards on Feb. 28, and she is nominated for an NAACP Image Award as outstanding female artist. But music isn't her only interest.

"I want to do some acting," she said. She has already appeared as Aretha Franklin on the NBC drama American Dreams and she has filmed an appearance as herself for the UPN show All of Us that is scheduled to run March 1. She has a voice role coming up on the animated series The Simpsons as Clarissa, a character who goes up against Lisa Simpson in a singing contest - and loses.

For one day, though, she was home and in her glory.

On the way to town, she called friends to give them fair warning. "Get your clothes on," she told them. "I'm going to come get you."

Someone else will have to play chauffeur: Barrino still doesn't have her driver's license.

"I went, and the man says, 'Fantasia, go home and study.' I kept forgetting the signs."

No matter. She has a plan for her few hours at home.

"I just want to ride the streets, roll down the windows and smell the trees."

''American Idol'' sensation Fantasia merits better treatment

By now, one shouldn't expect art to come from the "American Idol" franchise.

Still, with Fantasia Barrino, this is particularly disappointing. She deserves better than the cookie-cutter R&B that producer Clive Davis has saddled her with.

Her expressive performance of the Gershwin standard "Summertime" was arguably the most stunning moment in three seasons of "Idol." She can sing and convey a sophisticated lyric with intelligence. Why not let this Idol live up to that handle by standing out from the pack?

On her debut album, however, "Summertime" is reworked into just another overproduced mess, hardly distinguished from the elementary songwriting of overemoted contemporary R&B like the tuneless "Ain't Gon' Beg You." Fantasia winds up having to screech like a junior Patti LaBelle about the same trite subjects found on everyone else's records. Yawn.

Barrino could live up to her early promise, but she needs to flee the "American Idol" assembly-line formula, much in the way Clay Aiken appears to be doing lately. Sad thing is, with the speed with which "Idol" cranks them out, Fantasia may be forgotten when she finally makes her move.

'Idol' Winners, But Only on TV

As "American Idol" prepares to enter its fourth season next month, the show's previous winners -- Kelly Clarkson (2002), Ruben Studdard ('03) and Fantasia Barrino ('04) -- have each released a new album in time for the holidays.

While the show may be little more than a karaoke contest, its weekly pseudo-documentary format enables contestants to develop a "character" that audiences can associate with their talents. But the singers' recordings tend to lack that personality, turning interesting voices into run-of-the-mill studio products.

Clarkson's second album, "Breakaway," is an angrier affair than her debut, last year's "Thankful."
I Need an Angel" is Studdard's return to his gospel roots after his secular debut, "Soulful." Although he risks alienating his nonreligious fans, "Angel" feels like a sincere tribute to Studdard's Christianity
The most recent "Idol" winner, Barrino, seemed more real than her predecessors, with her life as a teenage mother outside the confines of the weekly show. Barrino's R&B debut, "Free Yourself" -- which bills her as just Fantasia -- often dwells on the struggles of single motherhood, from the candid "This Is Me" to "Baby Mama," whose bouncy backing chorus inanely spells out the song's title over and over.

Barrino's nasal vocals, which helped set her apart from her fellow "Idol" contestants, become grating on record, as with her baby-voiced rendition of the Willie Nelson classic "You Were Always on My Mind." Although she tones down the theatrics for the more melodic "Got Me Waiting," she again resorts to spelling in the chorus, singing "you think that you're something like a P-I-M-P." Barrino's often screechy vocals and lyrical quirks make her debut difficult to take in one full sitting, and although she might be the most three-dimensional of the "Idol" champs, even she can't escape being flattened into generic facelessness in the studio, like Clarkson and Studdard before her.

Fantasia was nominated as Most Inspiring Person of the Year 2004 Award

When she was 17, she became a mother. When she was 19, she became an American Idol. Fantasia Barrino’s unlikely journey from high school dropout in an abusive relationship to independent national superstar has inspired teens and adults alike to follow their dreams.

Barrino, a native of Highpoint, North Carolina, knew she loved to sing when she first started performing in her church at age 5. In fact, she credits God for her singing talent and for lifting her out of a dysfunctional relationship. She told the AP: "I started to see my life going downhill. It was like, 'Wait a minute, this ain't what God had for me.'"
On the reality show “American Idol,” Barrino faced criticism from some who said that an unwed mother was not a good role model for their children. She is the sole support of her toddler daughter, Zion.

She stood strong in the face of the critics, even dedicating a song on her new album to single mothers. “I'm not worried--God loves single moms,” Barrino told the New York Daily News. “God loves the prostitutes, God loves the drug addicts, God loves everybody!”

Barrino won the Idol competition by a margin of 1.3 million votes out of a total 65 million votes. In a memorable performance, she sang her signature song “I Believe,” ending the show and making her dreams a reality.

Fantasia says she doubted ''Idol'' chances

Even though millions of people voted Fantasia Barrino as their "American Idol," the singer admits there was a time when she doubted America's fondness for her.

"Towards the end, I didn't think I was gonna win, when it was me and Diana (DeGarmo)," the 20-year-old told The Associated Press in a recent interview.

Some of that skepticism crept into her psyche after fellow contestants Jennifer Hudson and La Toya London got the boot. Public discussion centered on whether voters would pick another black singer as their champion. Even Elton John chimed in that their low-vote tallies were racist.

"I didn't think I was gonna win," she said. "I don't know why I was thinking (that). Black people support, but I was like 'They probably ain't on the phone. (White people) are going to support their peoples.'"
Any concerns about her universal appeal were squashed after she won the contest earlier this year with a 1.3 million vote edge over DeGarmo.

"Every nationality would come up to me and say 'I voted for you, I love you.' So I stopped thinking like that," she said.

Fantasia, whose debut album "Free Yourself" was released last month, followed Ruben Studdard as "American Idol" champ. Kelly Clarkson won the Fox Television competition in its first year.

Fantasia has no time to be idle

In the last two weeks, Fantasia Barrino has performed on the American Music Awards, "The Tonight Show" and "Live With Regis and Kelly."
She worked on a Christmas special that aired last week and airs again Dec. 27 on Fox; she shot the video for her single "Truth Is," which should begin airing next week.

It’s all part of the publicity run for the High Point, N.C., native’s debut CD, "Free Yourself," released last Tuesday. And the usually outgoing Fantasia sounds battered. "I’m so tired," she said hoarsely during a telephone interview Wednesday.

She should be. Since auditioning late last year to compete on the third installment of "American Idol," Fantasia has learned that hard work is the key to success.

Missy Elliott taught her that. Elliott, the woman behind "Get Ur Freak On" and "Work It," was one of several star producers on "Free Yourself." The album displays Mary J. Blige-like determination to triumph over bad relationships and the challenges of being a single mom. Elliott produced, co-wrote and rapped on "Selfish (I Want U 2 Myself)," and also produced and co-wrote the title track and the ‘70s-soul sounding "Good Lovin’." Hitmaker Rodney Jerkins produced "It’s All Good" and Jermaine Dupri took the helm on "Got Me Waiting."

With that many distinctive visions, Fantasia’s debut could have sounded like a bunch of disjointed hits rather than the cohesive album it is. Fantasia’s scratchy voice makes each song her own, and distinguishes her from the Ashantis and Ciaras of hip-hop and R&B.
Still, the true test is sales. Releases by Clay Aiken, Ruben Studdard and Kelly Clarkson each sold more than 1 million copies. However, Billboard recently reported that radio stations had cooled on subsequent "Idol" releases. This summer’s "Idol" tour wasn’t as big as past ones.

Fantasia made sure the album fit her. About a week after she won the "Idol" competition in May, the singer met with J Records executive Clive Davis. She told him she wanted a musically diverse album that reflected the experiences she’d talked about during her interview segments on the show.

"He made all my dreams come true," said Fantasia, her voice livening up. During the summer "Idol" tour, Fantasia spent her days off in the studio. The producers selected songs that fit her story and even allowed her to tweak the lyrics. "It turned out to be great even though I was really busy," she said.

Initially, she was overwhelmed by the demands of being a recording artist, but meeting Elliott inspired Fantasia. In the studio, she saw Elliott work until 4 and 5 a.m., juggling Fantasia’s album with Elliott’s own phone calls and interviews. "She’s been in the game for a long time," Fantasia said. "She’s a hard worker, and I look at that."

Fantasia pushed herself even more. While on tour she was tutored in English and math for three hours after each show. Fantasia, who didn’t finish high school, wanted to make sure she knew all the words on the teleprompters when she hosted TV shows. Plus, Fantasia said she wants to be able to help her 3-year-old daughter, Zion, do homework when she gets older. Fantasia plans to earn her high school diploma.

In the meantime, she has accepted most performance invitations and has even dabbled in acting. She played Aretha Franklin on NBC’s "American Dreams" Nov. 14 and will voice the character Clarissa in an upcoming episode of "The Simpsons." She’s also slated to appear on UPN’s "All of Us." The cosmetic line M.A.C launched two new lip glosses in Fantasia’s honor, and the singer is designing pieces for the Macy’s clothing line American Rag Cie.

On "Idol," Fantasia often appeared confident. She talked back to judge Simon Cowell, the mean one. She called attention to her bodacious lips. But as a child she struggled with self-esteem. During her "Idol" run, viewers often criticized her as being ghetto. Now, she says, people such as Elliott and even her initial critics tell her to keep being herself. They like her because she’s country.

Fantasia laughs at the newfound acceptance of her personality, and she talks with the confidence of someone who’s faced life’s challenges and knows more will come. "I’m a tough little cookie right now."

Fantasia dedicates her first album to all single moms

On Wednesday's The Early Show, she performed the first single from her new CD, "Truth Is." She says one of the songs on her CD is "dedicated to all of those single moms out there who tough it out to take care of the kids and work two jobs, go to school."

When she won the "American Idol" competition, she said many young mothers believe they can’t follow their dreams just because others say they can’t. She said her dream was to follow her dreams of stardom, and have her child by her side.

She tells co-anchor Hannah Storm that her 3-year-old daughter, Zion, is with her now. "She doesn't go to sleep until 5 o'clock in the morning. I say, 'Go to sleep, go to sleep,' and she goes, 'No, mommy. We don't get to see each other a whole lot so I got to get my time,' she says." Barrino's album includes her signature "Idol" tunes, including "You Were Always on My Mind" and "Summertime" as well as many hip-hop-infused R&B tracks.

Barrino, who is close to the other "Idol" winners, says Ruben Studdard is in the hospital with pneumonia. "We've all been going and going and going. He was just trying to make himself beat. Ruben, get yourself together. I told him I'm praying for him and everybody is praying for him," she says.

Fantasia made a lot friends recording her debut album, but only one was ... so addictive. "Working with Missy Elliott was like chilling with somebody from back home.'' We just had a blast. I'll work with her any day. She knew what I went through, she knew my struggle [of being a single mom]. All the songs that [she wrote], I relate to." In the end, Miss E and Fantasia collaborated on three tracks for Free Yourself, including the title track.

"I always tell people, I freed myself from a lot of situations," Fantasia said. "And there's a lot of people out there who are going through some situations who wanna know how to come out." Although Fantasia performed "Free Yourself" at last week's American Music Awards, the album's first single is actually "Truth Is," produced by Soulshock & Karlin (Tupac, Usher).

"It's a song that a lot of young women can relate to," Fantasia said. "We have our crushes and we tend to leave them behind for a while and run back into 'em, and you say to yourself, 'Oh God, I still have feelings for him.' " Fantasia shot a video for the track last week with Diane Martel, who has made videos for Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake and Snoop Dogg. The clip will combine performance footage with a storyline following Fantasia as she sees an old boyfriend at a restaurant and then struggles to get him out of her head. "A lot of people are gonna be like ... [gasp]," Fantasia said of the video.

Free Yourself, due Tuesday (November 23), also features tracks produced by Jermaine Dupri, Rodney Jerkins and the Underdogs (see "Missy Elliott, R. Kelly Helping Fantasia With Her Debut LP"). Fantasia is also releasing her own lip gloss line this week with M-A-C Cosmetics that includes the copper-colored Fantabulous 1 and the reddened bronze Fantabulous 2.

Kelly, Ruben & Fantasia: Home For Christmas

Titled Kelly, Ruben & Fantasia: Home For Christmas, the one-hour program will air Wednesday, November 24 at 9PM ET/PT and feature Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard and Fantasia Barrino performing classic Christmas songs.

With the November sweeps ratings period not ending until December 1, ratings-challenged Fox (who's desperately awaiting Idol's January return to once again end its disappointing post-baseball playoffs ratings performance) could still have scheduled the special for an evening after Thanksgiving and still not have lost out on any possible ratings bump. However doing so would have missing out on maximizing the album sales opportunities of the immediate post-album release and post-Thanksgiving holiday shopping days, and as a result Idol fans will be watching Christmas performances before they've even had their Thanksgiving turkey.

All three performers are in the process of releasing new albums within a week of the special. "Free Yourself," Fantasia's debut album, and "I Need An Angel," Ruben's holiday CD, will be released the day before the broadcast on Tuesday, November 23. Meanwhile "Breakaway," the follow-up album to Kelly's smash hit "Thankful" CD, will be released on Tuesday, November 30.

Not to be left out, multiple-platinum selling American Idol 2 runner-up Clay Aiken will headline his own less exploitive A Clay Aiken Christmas special on NBC on Wednesday, December 8 at 8PM ET/PT. While Clay also released a holiday album ("Merry Christmas with Love," on November 16) and a holiday tour underway (his "The Joyful Noise" tour begins November 21) at least the scheduling logic of his special wasn't quite so transparent.

American Idol 3 Winner Fantasia Barrino Album Drops Her Album Very Soon!

fantasia barrino free yourself album american idol

November 8, 2004.

Fantasia Barrino's "Free Yourself" album which is her first album will be released on J-Records on November 23. The album features Missy Elliott, Jermaine Dupri and Harold Lilly. In an "American Idol" winner first, Fantasia Barrino has scored some of the biggest names in music to contribute to her debut album. Missy Elliott, Jermaine Dupri and R. Kelly are among those writing and producing for Fantasia's debut album. Missy Elliott is behind the title track as well as a tune called "Selfish," while Dupri contributed "Got Me Waiting," according to Fantasia's spokesperson. Other producers include the Underdogs ("Ain't Gonna Beg"), Scott Storch, Jazze Pha, and Soulshock & Karlin ("Truth Is"), who are coming off JoJo's "Leave (Get Out)." "I can't believe they're writing songs just for me," Fantasia said in a statement. "I want the songs I record to show different aspects of what I can do musically. I can't wait. I feel like as much as God has blessed me, now I just want to give back." "She's soulful," Jerkins said. "She's a young Aretha Franklin/Mary J. Blige all rolled up into one. This girl's got some pipes on her, serious pipes." Fantasia Barrino is the winner of the third season of the reality/talent-search television series American Idol. Barrino was born June 30, 1984 in High Point, North Carolina. Barrino began singing in her church at the age of 5. She has a 3-year-old daughter, Zion, and is currently pursuing her high school diploma.

Fantasia's rise to the final two on American Idol had been plagued with controversies ranging from accusations of racism to concerns over rigged voting and busy telephone signals. In the final performance of the season that formed the basis upon which America voted, Fantasia Barrino offered a performance that drew effusive praise from the judges including Simon Cowell's remarks that she was the best performer among the over 70 Idol champions crowned internationally since the show began its global competitions. Sixty-five million votes were cast in order to determine the winner on May 26, 2004, up from 24 million in 2003.

Barrino participated in a US tour with all twelve American Idol finalists. Fantasia is releasing her first single, on the RCA label, June 15, 2004. The single includes "I Believe," written by Idol castoff Tamyra Gray, which Fantasia performed after being crowned "American Idol." Two other songs include "Chain of Fools" (both performed live during the competition and released on an earlier American Idol compilation) and her signature version of the Porgy and Bess show tune "Summertime."

More facts about Fantasia Barrino

When did you first start to sing?
When I was about 5 years old.

Do you have any formal singing training?
No. It all came from the man, God.

What other talents do you have?

If you don’t make it on AMERICAN IDOL, what will you do?
I’m gonna keep on fighting for my dreams.

What are your personal goals in life?
To be a star before I die.

What album would your friends be surprised you own?

What is the first CD you ever bought?

What is in your CD player right now?
Fantasia Barrino. Ha!

Who is your AMERICAN IDOL?

What is your favorite type of music?
I like it all.

What is your favorite song to sing?
“Change Gonna Come.”

Favorite male pop artist?

Favorite female pop artist?

Favorite album of all time?
Aretha Franklin.

Who in the music world do you think your style is most like?
No one. I try to be Fantasia.

Most embarrassing moment?
When I was going up to sing, I fell down and people started laughing.

If you couldn’t sing, which talent would you most like to have?
I would like to act some.

What has been your proudest moment in life so far?
Having my child.

What is your definition of an AMERICAN IDOL?
First of all, an Idol is someone that you can look up to, someone who carries themself in a way that people will look up to them.

Why do you want to be an AMERICAN IDOL?
I feel like it’s my time and I’m ready for America.

Who is your favorite judge and why?
Simon. He is real.

Who is your least favorite judge and why?
I like them all.

What advice do you have for other hopefuls?
Be yourself.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I am crazy.

A new life for just Fantasia

A year ago, she was Fantasia Barrino, unemployed and borrowing money to pay rent on a one-bedroom apartment, where she spent days playing with her 1-year-old daughter, Zion.

Now, after winning the "American Idol" competition, she has a new $500,000, 5,000-square-foot home, a new single in stores and a new outlook on life.

And a new name: just "Fantasia."

Her new digs aren't even furnished yet, but the 19-year-old singer invited The Associated Press over last week for a look at the bare walls and hardwood floors. With her puppy, "Diva," by her side, Barrino talked about preparations for three months of touring and her first single, "I Believe," which she first sang during the "Idol" finals and hit stores Tuesday.

Q: Did it feel the same to sing "I Believe" in the studio as it did on stage?

FANTASIA: The words of the song are "Finally, I believe," and I always tell people that I always believed I would be a singer, and I always wanted to be. I worked hard at it, but I struggled to try to get it and when I heard the words of the song, I was like, "Whoa, finally I believe." I really do.

Q: Any plans for your album yet?

FANTASIA: I want music for everybody. I want music that will encourage people if they are going through something.

Q: Are you finding it harder to stay yourself?

FANTASIA: Nothing has really changed about me. I'm still the same old girl. I think the only thing that's changed now is that I have money in my pocket and I'm able to do for my family and for my child, and able to share my music with the world.

Q: Do you have a message for young mothers?

FANTASIA: Just keep your head up because a lot of times when young women have kids, a lot of people seem to down them because you're not married and you're so young and had a child out of wedlock. ... If God forgave me, then you guys can forgive me too. ... If you're a single mom and you have a dream, go after it.

Celebrating Fantasia Barrino's new album

M.A.C. Cosmetics releasing two new lip glosses, Fantabulous 1 and Fantabulous 2, in celebration of American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino's new album, Free Yourself, due for release Nov. 23.


Fantasia will teach ''American Idol '' class

"American Idol" stars Fantasia and Clay Aikin's homestate university in North Carolina is offering fans of the TV talent show the chance to study it.
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte is offering an academic course in all things Idol.

The class, "Examining "American Idol," will begin in January

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