Operation Rising Star: Vocalist stays in the box to win crown
Amanda Hagans holds her first prize award at the conclusion of the U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden Operation rising Star competition Sept. 9.

WIESBADEN, Germany - Going first was the most challenging part of the competition for this year's Operation Rising Star winner.

But placing first exceeded her expectations for an answer to her simple prayer "God just let me place."

"Things like this don't happen to me. God did this for me," said Amanda Hagans who went away with a $500 prize and hopes of making it to the final stage of the Army-wide competition. "I didn't even care if I won. I just felt so good tonight. I've grown so much."

Hagans said she had been thinking of entering the competition since the previous year, but she needed a reality check to be sure she was not deceiving herself.

"Please be honest with me … can I really sing like I think I can," said Hagans who said it was the first competition she ever entered and that she asked her best friend to give her honest feedback of her singing ability.

The songstress who has been singing in church since the age of 11 tried a couple of songs outside of the Christian genre because she said she thought it would please the judges and audience.

"That's what I thought they wanted, but I was not feeling it," said Hagans who sang Adele's "Someone Like You" in the first week of competition.

But after deep contemplation, she went back to what she was comfortable with. "I'm gospel," she said, after having performed "Alabaster Box" by gospel artist CeCe Winans in the finale. "That's what he gave me. … I just wanted to show where my heart's at."

And according to one judge, the song choice not only gave the judges the insight they throughout the entire competition, it also left some seemingly enchanted.

"What we needed to see was what your ability was," said Maria Diaz, contest judge. "By picking something that wasn't mainstream and that many people weren't familiar with you really caused us to listen and truly hear you. … You gave me goose bumps."

But going back to her comfort zone was only one ingredient in the winning formula. A shuffle in the singing order was a welcome surprise that eased her anxiety, boosting the singer's confidence for the evening's performance. Hagans took the stage and delivered a performance that struck the judges as "confident" and much improved compared to her first three weeks.

"Not going first, that helped me," said the 66th Military Intelligence Brigade spouse. "When Leslie said she got to pick the order for the night I almost shouted right then."

And though there was a lot of anxiety associated with being contestant number one, Hagans thought the appointment was divine.

"I was made first for a reason," said the winner, as she thanked God for the outcome. "I feel like I'm on a high."

As the local winner, Hagans will qualify for the 2011 Rising Star Finals. A package of her final performance and an a cappella performance were sent ahead to be judged against winners from other installations where judges will select 12 top performers to advance to the semifinal round, and announce the results around Oct. 20.

Log on to www.OpRisingStar.com to follow Hagans' progress.

Page last updated Thu September 29th, 2011 at 00:00