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LaShell Griffin

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The winner of Oprah Winfrey's first Pop Star Challenge -- Winfrey's response to the youth-driven feel of shows like Star Search and American Idol -- was 36-year-old LaShell Griffin, a stay-at-home mother of five from Detroit, MI. Griffin's vocal style, which blends gospel and R&B influences, and her down-to-earth charisma on performances of songs like "One Moment in Time" and "The Greatest Love of All" helped Griffin win the competition's grand prize: a contract with EMI Records. She began singing in her church's choir when she was 13, and soon became one of the choir's leading soloists. As an adult, her children and her marriage to her husband Lee (also a singer) were her main priorities, but Griffin continued to sing with the choir and performed at weddings as much as her schedule allowed. When she was at home recovering from a broken foot in November 2003, Griffin first heard about Oprah's Pop Star Challenge; she and Lee sent in a tape of her version of "Amazing Grace," and a few weeks later, they learned she was on the show. The contest attracted 15,000 hopefuls, but Griffin made it through the semifinals and finals to become Oprah's Pop Star early in 2004. That summer, Griffin released her debut album, Free, a mix of contemporary gospel and R&B. ~ Heather Phares

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