LOS ANGELES – With a record-breaking 132 million votes cast, former pawn shop worker Phillip Phillips won Season 11 of “American Idol,” beating out home-schooled high school student Jessica Sanchez.
As soon as tuxedo-clad host Ryan Seacrest announced the winner, Sanchez smiled graciously and immediately gave Phillips a big hug. The rest of the season’s Top Twelve finalists stormed the stage–led by Phillips’ BFF Heejun Han, who chucked Phillips under his chin and planted a kiss on his cheek.
Season 10 winner Scotty McCreery presented Phillips with a microphone-shaped trophy, and handed an acoustic guitar to Seacrest.
“Phillip, in this incredible moment, we’re going to give you this to do what you do best and what you’ve done all season, which is impress us on this stage,” said Seacrest, as he passed the guitar to Phillips. “Congratulations. You did it!”
Phillips took the guitar and launched into “Home,” the song he chose to perform on Tuesday night as his “potential winning song.”
"Congratulations. You did it!"
- Ryan Seacrest to Phillip Phillips
As confetti rained from the ceiling, Phillips choked back tears and was unable to finish the song. Shaking his head in disbelief, he took off his guitar and walked off the stage to join his family in an emotional group hug.
Sanchez also had plenty of reason to celebrate. The petite 16-year-old held her own against Tony Award-winner Jennifer Holliday, singing “I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," the song Holliday originated from the Broadway musical “Dreamgirls.”
It was easily the highlight of the two-hour finale, with the dueling divas matching each other, note for note. One noted Hollywood producer called the moment “television history,” telling FoxNews.com, “this is exactly what live television should be.”
The finale also featured the musical talents of Aerosmith, who performed two songs, including the classic “Walk This Way.”
Judge Steven Tyler, who named-checked both judge Jennifer Lopez and Sanchez during his first song, may have accidentally revealed a pair of Spanx under his tight, bulge-conscious pants.
Meanwhile, judge Jennifer Lopez showed off her impressive abs and derriere while performing “Going In” and “Follow the Leader” with reggaeton duo Wisin y Yandel.
Rihanna looked to be having a grand time performing “Where Have You Been," complete with dozens of dancers and drummers, aerial performers and a laser light show.
The Top Twelve–minus Phillips and Sanchez–opened the show, all clad in coordinating white and silver outfits, channeling the “Brady Bunch” during their “Silver Platters” era.
Two catsuit-clad performers also took the “American Idol” stage Wednesday night.
Season Three winner Fantasia Barrino sported a tight, black sequined number with sheer peek-a-boo cutouts revealing the sides of her thighs to join third runner-up Joshua Ledet to sing Elton John‘s “Take Me To the Pilot.”
Chaka Khan, meanwhile entered the “American Idol” stage in a cinnamon-colored sequined getup that left little to the imagination to join the Top Six girls in singing “I’m Every Woman.”
For his part, Neil Diamond opted for a far more sedate black crushed velvet evening jacket for his performance of “Sweet Caroline” with the Top Six boys.
Phillips performed a duet with John Fogerty, singing “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” and “Bad Moon Rising,” while fourth runner-up Hollie Cavanagh belted out “You’ll Never Walk Alone” with sixth season winner Jordin Sparks and fifth runner-up Skylar Laine performed “Turn on the Radio” with Reba McEntire.
One the Top 12 finalists made a notable change since the last time we saw her.
Erika Van Pelt, who was eliminated shortly after “image advisor” Tommy Hilfiger insisted that she ditch her long blonde hair for a jet black pixie cut, is now growing her hair out–and she’s back to blonde.
But wait! There’s more. “With the help of David Webb jewelry,” fifth season finalist Ace Young proposed to third season finalist Diana DeGarmo–making them the first couple from “American Idol” to get engaged.
Up next: “American Idol” welcomes its first baby?