"Plus-size" contestant wins U.K. 'Pop Idol', as judge Pete Waterman walks out
By Wade Paulsen, 12/22/2003
If, as rumored, Pete Waterman becomes a judge for Fox's American Idol 3, he's got some growing up to do first.
According to the Associated Press, the 56-year-old Waterman stormed offstage during the live finale of the U.K. Pop Idol on Saturday, December 20, after viewers selected 211-pound Scot Michelle McManus, 23, as the winner of the U.K.'s second Pop Idol contest, defeating Mark Rhodes, 22. Pete's walkout was not shown to the home viewing audience.
Pete had been highly critical of Michelle throughout the entire series, beginning by voting to exclude her from the finals because of her size. He called the Idol finalists a collection of "freaks and geeks," while whining that "lots of kids that had a lot more musical integrity went out." We wonder if Pete defines "musical integrity" for women in terms of body type.
Michelle, who was a 33-1 underdog at one point during the finals, benefitted both from the sympathy generated by Pete's comments and from the unwavering support of another Pop Idol judge: Simon Cowell. During the finale, Simon told her, "If you weren't in the final it would be quite boring. You have broken the norm and made it interesting. I'm interested, I'm very proud."
Meanwhile, Simon said that, if Mark won, it would be for "ordinary bloke idol." Even Pete was unimpressed with Mark, stating that Mark was "far out of his depth" in the semi-final ... but Mark survived, while heavily-favored 17-year-old Sam Nixon (whom Simon had called "one of the most naturally talented people" he had seen) was stunningly eliminated.
Michelle, who will be releasing her first single "All The Time" shortly, denied that she won due to sympathy, according to the BBC. "I am part of the British public and we won't vote for people because we feel sorry for them, we vote for them because they are talented," she said.
The show attracted 10.2 million votes -- about 1.5 million more than for the first Pop Idol finale between Will Young and Gareth Gates -- but only drew an average of 10.9 million viewers, about 2.2 million less than for its predecessor. Perhaps the U.K. home audience missed Sam as much as the judges did.
We look forward to World Idol 2, where Michelle would face off against "super" plus-sized American Idol 2 winner Ruben Studdard ... if Waterman had issue with Michelle, wait until he meets Ruben.