Former Big Brother star Marie Picasso completed her journey in the public eye from vacuous exhibitionist to full-blown stage diva on Friday night as she narrowly defeated Amanda Jenssen to win TV4’s talent contest Idol 2007.
There was many a raised eyebrow earlier this autumn when the 28-year-old blonde stepped into the Stockholm audition room at the beginning of the 2007 season.
The Swedish viewing public had already become more than acquainted with the reality TV hopeful when she had sex on camera with her then boyfriend Benjamin Sorani in the 2002 season of Big Brother.
Even the three-member jury did little to conceal its scepticism when Picasso materialized in front of their tired eyes as the last candidate to perform at the busy Stockholm audition.
But within seconds it became clear to jury and viewers alike that Picasso had seriously undersold her talents during her days in the Big Brother house.
With her powerful voice and emotional delivery, there was little doubt that she would advance to the final stages of the competition.
With the public voting off one candidate each week, by the time December came round there were just two women left standing: Marie Picasso and Amanda Jenssen, a 19-year-old music student from Lund.
The final itself quickly turned into an old-fashioned nail-biter with Jenssen’s more playful song choice offering a voter-friendly alternative to Picasso’s power ballads.
It was the eventual winner who fired the opening salvo with a stirring rendition of Celine Dion’s All By Myself.
But before the crowd of 13,000 in the Globen Arena even had time to draw breath, Amanda Jenssen bounded onto the stage and charmed the jury with her innovative interpretation of Joe Cocker’s Unchain My Heart.
Showing herself to be more than up to the challenge, Picasso then returned to belt out a stirring rendition of The Jackson 5’s I’ll Be There. But the ghost of Elvis Presley was smiling on Amanda Jenssen, who caught the audience unawares with a breathless reworking of the King’s Suspicious Minds.
Earlier in the show viewers had seen Marie Picasso’s proud dad burst into tears as his daughter stretched her talents to the full. Now it was the turn of jury member Kishti Tomita, whose turquoise eye make-up ran riot as she pronounced Amanda’s performance “a miracle”.
All that was left was for each of the finalists to sing the so-called “winning song”, a power ballad called This Moment written especially for the occasion. As queen of the power ballads, it may have been this final song that gave Marie Picasso the slight edge.
When coverage resumed after an hour’s break for telephone voting, Kelly Clarkson, the first winner of American Idol in 2002 appeared on stage to remind the Swedish protagonists of Idol’s launch-pad potential.
With the voting over, Carolina Gynning and Carina Berg, the bubbly co-presenters of the earlier episodes, handed presenter Peter Jihde with a golden envelope containing the winning name.
As the drums rolled and the audience held its breath, Jihde finally announced that Marie Picasso had amassed 51.3 percent of the 1.6 million votes cast and was this year’s Idol winner.
“Thank you from all my heart. I am eternally grateful,” Picasso told the viewers at journey’s end.
View clips from the final of Idol 2007: Marie Picasso and