Will Katharine Be The Next Clay Aiken?

LOS ANGELES (May 25, 2006) — “McPheever” wasn’t enough to carry hometown girl Katharine McPhee to victory on “American Idol,” but fans predicted she would end up a winner in the music industry.

“It’s gonna happen. Everything that she dreamed or wanted is going to happen,” said Leesa Bellesi, a dance instructor and writer from Laguna Beach.

“She’s going to be the next Clay Aiken,” said Stephanie Miranda, a bartender from Covina wearing a “Got McPheever?” T-shirt.

Aiken, the runner-up in 2003, has found more success than that year’s winner, Ruben Studdard. Aiken also made a special appearance during Wednesday’s finale.

Between 300 and 400 cheering fans showed up at Universal CityWalk on Wednesday to root for McPhee, 22, the first Los Angeles native to make it big on “Idol.” The show was broadcast live on a giant screen, and cheers erupted every time the camera turned to the sultry songstress. Boos rang out for eventual winner Taylor Hicks.

“She has a great voice. She has the whole package,” gushed Brent Delfin, a college student from Covina.

“Go Kat” signs peppered the mostly under-25 crowd. KIIS-FM had been broadcasting live for most of the afternoon from CityWalk.

“Idol” host Ryan Seacrest also hosts the radio station’s morning show.

Former “Idol” contestant Tamyra Gray hosted the gathering, which also included McPhee’s grandparents.

A number of fans said McPhee was hampered in the competition by the fact that she was from Southern California.

“Taylor’s been getting so many votes. The South, they really just support the people from their small towns when they make it,” said Bellesi. “There’s a lot happening in California. People have a lot of distractions.”

McPhee’s grandmother, Gloria Burch, from Bellevue, Wash., noted that no one from California has ever won American Idol. “I don’t know if they got behind her as much as they should have,” Burch said.

She was still proud of her granddaughter. “She’s going to be a star,” Burch said. “She’ll follow her dreams. She’s a strong girl.”

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