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Tampa Bay Idol winner heading to Orlando auditions: Could she be the next American Idol?

 After a week helping judge WTVT-Ch. 13's Tampa Bay Idol contest, now I understand why Fox isTampa_Bay_Idol_judges backing up the money truck for Simon Cowell (at last count, a salary of $144-million per season was in the offing).

Joined by MJ Morning Show personality Meredith, area vocalist Belinda Womack and WTVT-Ch. 13 feature reporter Charley Belcher, we slogged through 80 video submissions last Thursday.

Then on Wednesday, we saw 10 finalists sing their hearts out before a crowd of a couple hundred people at the Brandon Mall. But as much as I wanted to unleash my inner Cowell -- best I could do was letting one fella know, gently, that his appearance wasn't quite up to snuff for the gig -- the contestants were just too good.

One kid came looking like a backup singer for Chris Brown and unleashed an amazing take on Somewhere Over the Rainbow (think Jennifer Holiday-meets Sam Harris). Another guy stepped up looking like a roadie for Kid Rock and uncorked a spine-tingling version of Oleta Adams Get Here.

Tampa_Bay_Idol_winner2 In the end, the crown went to Tampa resident Samantha Leigh (left), who ruled the stage with an energetic cover of Aretha Franklin's Rock Steady.

In addition to having great vocal chops, though, she had a sexy, spunky look, a great outgoing performance attitude and the kind of unexpected act -- punky girl with the soulful vocal chops -- that might make an impression with Idol producers.

Leigh gets a gas card worth $100 and a guaranteed spot before the show's producers when they come to Orlando July 9 to audition Floridians.

We were just hoping to pick someone who might pull a Jordin Sparks and go from local affiliate contest winner to overall Idol champ. (photos courtesy of Fox 13)

Take a look at the video below. I think you'll agree that we may have pulled that off.


[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:59pm]


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