CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A year ago, she was Fantasia Barrino (search), unemployed and borrowing money to pay rent on a one-bedroom apartment, where she spent days playing with her 1-year-old daughter, Zion.
Now, after winning the "American Idol" (search) competition, she has a new $500,000, 5,000-square-foot home, a new single in stores and a new outlook on life.
And a new name: just "Fantasia."
Her new digs aren't even furnished yet, but the 19-year-old singer invited The Associated Press over last week for a look at the bare walls and hardwood floors. With her puppy, "Diva," by her side, Barrino talked about preparations for three months of touring and her first single, "I Believe," which she first sang during the "Idol" finals and hit stores Tuesday.
AP: Did it feel the same to sing "I Believe" in the studio as it did on stage?
Fantasia: The words of the song are 'Finally, I believe,' and I always tell people that I always believed I would be a singer, and I always wanted to be. I worked hard at it, but I struggled to try to get it and when I heard the words of the song, I was like, 'Whoa, finally I believe.' I really do.
AP: Any plans for your album yet?
Fantasia: I want music for everybody. I want music that will encourage people if they are going through something.
AP: Are you finding it harder to stay yourself?
Fantasia: Nothing has really changed about me. I'm still the same old girl. I think the only thing that's changed now is that I have money in my pocket and I'm able to do for my family and for my child, and able to share my music with the world.
AP: Do you have a message for young mothers?
Fantasia: Just keep your head up because a lot of times when young women have kids, a lot of people seem to down them because you're not married and you're so young and had a child out of wedlock. ... If God forgave me, then you guys can forgive me too. ... If you're a single mom and you have a dream, go after it.
AP: How would you describe your life so far?
Fantasia: It was tough trying to get a job, it was tough trying to get money. I borrowed money from people and I don't have to do that no more. When I was crying when I won, I was crying about all that stuff. And I was like 'Gosh, I did it. I borrowed but I don't have to borrow anymore ...' I've been singing for a long time now, since I was 5 years old, trying to get out there, trying to be heard. To me it wasn't all about the money, it was all about being in front of people and hopefully my music could encourage somebody.
AP: Your audition in Atlanta almost didn't happen, why?
Fantasia: We drove all the way to Atlanta with $20 in our pocket. ... The first day everybody was in the Georgia Dome singing. ... They had karaoke going. ... The next morning they started the auditions and I said, 'I can't sing on an empty stomach ...' We left and we got back and there were about 25 of us and they wouldn't let us back in. ... I went back to my cousin's house in Atlanta and all of my family kept calling me. And my dad and everybody was saying, 'Maybe you should go back. Just go back, try it one more time ...' I stood in front of the door and the security guard who heard me sing at the karaoke came to the door and said, 'Did you audition?' And I said, 'No sir.' And he said, 'Why not?' And I said 'They won't let me back in.' So, he said, 'Oh, I gotta get you in.' He took me by my hand, took me in the building, and I was the last one on the field to audition.
AP: Is this what you envisioned it would be?
Fantasia: Yeah. Hard work, a lot of singing, a lot of traveling, and a lot of recording. And I used to watch and TV and say 'If they can do it, I can do it.' ... As long as you love what you do, then you're good.
AP: Where do you see yourself in five, 10 years?
Fantasia: I want to do everything. I want to do some acting, own my own clothing line, but most of all I want to do some centers around North Carolina, just some teen centers with a lot of stuff to do. ... There's a lot of young people out there on the streets who think that's what life is all about.
Someone asked me, 'Do you think you'll just be around for this, you win the Idol and you do a CD and you're gone?' I said, 'Nope, they're not gonna forget me. I'm not gonna let 'em. I'm gonna get on a cereal box if I have to, with Cap'n Crunch, whatever I have to do.'
AP: How does your daily life now compare to a year ago?
Fantasia: I wasn't working. I wasn't doing anything and Zion wasn't in daycare. ... I had my own little apartment and I would do her hair all day, watch movies. ... We would play dress-up. We had nothing to do. ... It's totally different now because I'm working really hard.
AP: How important is your family to where you are today?
Fantasia: As long as I had them by my side, and God on my side, I feel like I could do all things.