Fantasia Barrino Won ‘American Idol’ 20 Years Ago Today: Look Back on the Epic Moment

Today, 20 years ago, Fantasia Barrino won American Idol. Relive the historic occasion.

At that time, the star of “The Color Purple” became the youngest vocalist to win the series of musical competitions.

It’s amazing to think that twenty years have passed since Fantasia Barrino’s victory on American Idol. That success launched a career that has seen her win numerous Grammy Awards, Billboard Music Awards, and numerous other distinctions.


She celebrated the historic occasion last week by making a cameo on the Idol season finale, where she gave finalist Jack Blocker, Will Moseley, and Abi Carter—who won—an encouraging speech.

“I never gave up,” 39-year-old Barrino said to the three vocalists.

She has also never done so. As The Color Purple star remarked late last year, Barrino was “just a little girl from High Point, North Carolina that liked to sing” back in 2004 when she was a 19-year-old single mother living in North Carolina. “She had no knowledge of the business. “Maybe you should look this way, dress this way, talk this way, or smile for the cameras a certain way?” was something she was unaware of.

She went on, “I was actually singing my way through and to some things while I was singing for everybody else.”

During the third season of Idol, her emotional renditions of Bonnie Raitt’s “Something to Talk About” and Gloria Estefan’s “Get on Your Feet” paid off handsomely, catapulting her into the top two.

Host Ryan Seacrest informed the audience during the broadcast that a record 65 million fans had cast ballots—more than had ever been done so in the history of the show. Barrino also became the youngest Idol winner to that date, having reportedly received 1.3 million more votes than DeGarmo to win the competition.


When her victory was announced, a distraught Barrino exclaimed, “Thank you so much-I broke my shoe.” “I’ve been through a lot, but I’ve worked really hard to get to this point. Thank you very much, everyone, dude.

With her brand-new song “I Believe,” she ended the event, but her amazing career was only getting begun. The single peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and she finally achieved platinum status with her debut album, Free Yourself.

Since then, Barrino has put out six more albums and persevered through personal hardships before returning, stronger than ever, to play the lead in the successful big-screen version of the Broadway musical The Color Purple last year. She was nominated for a BAFTA and a Golden Globe for her portrayal, and she received an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture.


Barrino established Rock Soul Productions in April, the same month that she was listed as one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People of 2024. She referred to this entertainment venture as “the manifestation of my evolution as an artist, a creative, and a businesswoman.”

“I wanted to use those experiences to inform my opportunities going forward because, after 20 years, you can’t help but take stock and look back at all the things you have done,” she said to Deadline. “My passion is advocating for other artists and myself to take the lead in shaping our own success and narratives, and to become the change agents in telling our own stories.”

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