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Friends gather at Ala. church; watch one of their own win ‘American Idol’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Nearly 400 of Ruben Studdard’s fans gathered for a rally at Rising Star Baptist Church in Birmingham to watch one of their own win the “American Idol” contest May 21.

About 24 million votes were cast for Studdard and Clay Aiken, with only a difference of 130,000 between the two finalists, according to the Associated Press.

Church members at Rising Star wore “Vote Ruben” T-shirts and cheered him on, but the Tuscaloosa News reported that they didn’t expect the newfound fame to change Studdard.

“He’s still the same as he was when he was small — humble, a Christian young man from a good family and loved by everyone,” Gloria Chancey, who watched Studdard grow up in the church, told the News. “I’m just so thrilled that he’s brought so many people together for one good cause.”

According to a Q&A segment on the American Idol website, the first song Studdard ever sang in public was “I’m Yours, Lord” when he was just 3 years old.

On the May 20 broadcast, Studdard and Aiken had said the outcome of the contest was in God’s hands.

Interestingly, the top three finalists — Studdard, Aiken and Kimberley Locke — all acknowledged God’s hand in their situations. Aiken is a member of Leesville Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C. — a Southern Baptist congregation — and Locke belongs to a United Methodist church in Gallatin, Tenn.

Aiken told the Philadelphia Daily News that the outcome of the contest was up to God. “If He wants me to win, then I’ll win. If He wants me to be in second place, then I’ll be in second place,” he said.

Locke, in her farewell video, first thanked God for her success.

“I just want to thank God for all the blessings He has given me because He chose this life for me, He created and carved this life for me,” she said. “And even in times when I thought this was never going to happen, He had it all planned out for me. So I will be forever grateful to God always.”

Though only one of the three was awarded the title of “American Idol,” those who followed the contest closely are quite sure each one has a successful music career ahead. Studdard and Aiken each plan to simultaneously release a single in two weeks, and they will join other American Idol stars for a tour beginning in July.

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