The first season of the U.S. X Factor was full of surprises and suspense. Melanie Amaro, a young girl from the Virgin Islands was originally not chosen for the competition but, after a change of heart, Simon Cowell reversed his decision and brought the shy girl with the big voice back. In the end, it was Melanie who took home the $5 million prize and a record deal. In the few months since her big win, she has been getting her debut album ready, appeared with Elton John in one of the most talked about Super Bowl commercials of the year and had her cover of “Respect” climb all the way to #3 on the Billboard Dance Charts. Out caught up with this rising star as she prepared to take the stage again at the White Party in Palm Springs.
OUT: Even after getting onto X Factor, you hid part of yourself. What lesson have you learned about uncompromisingly being yourself?
Melanie Amaro: The lesson for me is that, when you hide yourself for a very long time, you get used to hiding yourself and you hide yourself all the time. The lesson for me is that, ever since I was younger I used to hide my accent to hide the real me. I got so used to hiding that it became natural. The lesson I’ve learned: if you don’t hide from the very beginning, you won’t have to reveal anything in the future.
You’ve sung for both Elton John and for Simon Cowell. Who was more intimidating?
You know, after getting to know Simon, really getting to know him, he wasn’t intimidating. He was like big papa bear. It was always like, I get to sing for big papa bear. I think that Elton John was more intimidating. I was nervous and kept thinking, “I really hope he likes my voice,” and “I hope he doesn’t think my song is terrible.”
A lot of your gay fans can relate to you because you felt shy and different. Did you feel like you were hiding from the world?
I wouldn’t exactly say I was hiding. I’d stay on my own, which would give me a lot of time to sit, think and do what I love. I’m thankful my gay fans can see me as someone to look up to for coming out of my shell. God made me to be the head, not the tail; to come out of my shell and show me as the person God made me.
What would you say to people who feel God is against them?
I always tell people, God may not come when you want him, but he’ll be here on God’s time. Don’t ever think that God is against you. He made you. He loves you. He’s always there for you.
Were you bullied?
Yes. I was bullied in school. But now, the bullies that were bullying me are looking at me and thinking, “Oh that’s the person I used to bully.” I had to work to be the bigger person. You can talk and say all kinds of bad things until you’re blue in the face, but it’s all about what I believe.
You've had a complicated family life. How has that shaped you?
To be honest, I really appreciate my parents sending me to Virgin Islands to live with my grandparents. It made me stronger. It was for me to have a better life. My family wasn’t financially stable enough to take care of me. It made me the person that I am.
When you won X Factor, you said you were going to buy your mom a house. How is the house shopping?
My mom, she has a pride. Trying to buy my mother a house is like trying to pull teeth. I’d say, “What do you think of this house? It’s got five bedrooms and a pool!” and she’d say, “I appreciate it so much but I’m happy in the house I’m in. You should concentrate on your music and your career. You should buy yourself a house first.” I love my mother so much. She just wants the best for me. I just want the best for her too.
On your upcoming album, you've said to expect something that we haven't heard from you before. Can you divulge any hints or do we have to stay in suspense?
You know, everyone who saw me on the show saw me do a lot of ballads and saw me use my big voice. Now I’m gonna do some songs that are more upbeat pop and “movement music.” The album will definitely have songs that are different. It will definitely be a different side of Melanie. There will be big ballads too. But, I think a lot of stuff on it I should keep as a surprise.
The White Party Palm Springs is an epic event. Are you ready?
I’m excited. I’m ready. I’m looking forward to getting out there, singing for everyone and to hear the reaction of the crowd. I’m gonna sing “Respect.” It’s amazing that the song has been doing so well in the clubs. I’m happy my music is rockin’ the dance floor.