17 year old Jordin Sparks is youngest American Idol winner

Jordin Sparks grew up on American Idol, watching the television singing competition since she was 12 years old and telling her mother it was what she wanted to do. "Now I‘m actually doing it," the 17-year-old told reporters backstage after winning in Wednesday's season finale. The announcement that the Arizona teenager bested Blake Lewis, 25, the beat-boxer from Washington, came at the end of a two-hour extravaganza at the Kodak Theatre.

"I've just been trying to top myself each week," Sparks said. "I would sing my song and after I was done I was like, ‘OK, what am I going to do next week that's going to be ... either just as good or better.'"

Sparks, with a floor-length gown and movie-star hair, gushed like a teenager when her name was called. "Thank you so much for everything," she told the crowd. "Mom, Dad, I love you. Nana, Papa, P.J., thank you guys." Then she began This Is My Now, the tune picked by viewers in a new online American Idol song writing contest. Both she and Lewis performed the track on Tuesday, and judge Simon Cowell reiterated on Wednesday the song sold him on Sparks.

"If I'm going to call it, based on the last song, congratulations Jordin," Cowell said, before the winner was announced.

The contest came down to the stronger singer, Sparks, or the better entertainer, Lewis. Sparks delivered her songs simply and powerfully; Lewis' flourishes included beatboxing and sharp dance moves.

Lewis said backstage that he did not mind coming in second. "I picked Jordin Sparks at the top 24 as the American Idol winner," he said proudly. "I was actually going to try to wear a ‘Vote for Jordin Sparks' Tshirt last night but they wouldn't let me do it."

Lewis compared his sound to Michael Jackson and Jamiroquai and said his forthcoming album will be "like electro pop, very danceable."

Sparks won a recording contract as part of her "Idol" prize, but Lewis has not yet secured a deal.

"Hopefully some creative minds would like to work with me," he said. The finale pulled out the stops and the stars, with Gwen Stefani, Smokey Robinson, Tony Bennett, Bette Midler, and Green Day among the performers.

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