Ten minutes after she walked off the X Factor stage on Tuesday night, Samantha Jade collapsed on to a sofa at Sydney’s Fox Studios, oblivious to the chaos.
X Factor publicists marshalled those lined up to congratulate her and others hugged the pint-sized singer and stated the obvious: “You know what just happened, right? You did it, girl. This is it.”
Jade shook her head in disbelief.
“I’m shocked, so shocked,” she said, pointing towards the stage where moments earlier she had been named winner of the show, secured a record deal with Sony and had her first single released online before she had even walked down the corridor.
Within three hours, that single, What You’ve Done To Me, was the number one download on iTunes, leapfrogging the release by Guy Sebastian, her X Factor judge and mentor, and all but guaranteeing her a spot at the top of the official music charts when they are released on Monday.
In the 24 hours and interviews that followed, Jade was invited to next week’s ARIA awards and told to get her head around the fact that her album would be released nationally within days.
After a rollercoaster music career and a series of false starts that had all but broken her, X Factor had suddenly lead-footed Jade to the top of the charts and straight into Australian pop and pop culture.
It was an emotional win. But talent shows in Australia and overseas have an unpredictable track record and winners can have the shelf life of yoghurt.
For every Sebastian, who won the first Australian Idol, there have been those like Altiyan Childs, who won X Factor two years ago in a blaze of publicity before crashing and burning spectacularly amid drug allegations and a “mutual” decision to part with record company Sony.
Others have dropped off the radar altogether, lost to the next generation of winners the following year or disappearing under the white noise of wall-to-wall reality TV and the winners they churn out.
Remember Random, the winners of the first Australian X Factor? Exactly. But Jade knows more than most how fickle the industry can be.
In 2003, the then 16-year-old moved with her family from Lockridge to LA after being discovered at a friend’s barbecue by an LA-based production team.
Affinity West Records chief John Harris called her at the time “the best raw talent we have found”, comparing the teenager to Christina Aguilera and Whitney Houston.
By the end of the year, Jade had signed a multiple-album deal with Jive records, the major label behind Pink and was tipped to be an overnight success.
But her first album, which took a year to produce, was never released, becoming permanently stuck in record company limbo. A series of other opportunities in the US fell flat.
A broken and disillusioned Jade returned to Perth last year, turned her back on the music industry and began work in her father’s factory.
“I had totally given up in music. Honestly,” she said.
At her X Factor audition, she told the judges it was her last chance. Sebastian, who had known her in LA, broke down and cried.
“Mate, she’s had more letdowns, more than anyone,” he said after the final.
“More than people know, too. I think her thing was that she didn’t want to do the whole pity party thing.
“So she didn’t actually elaborate on some of the knockbacks that she had. But she’s a good chick. She’s just a top girl.
“I didn’t want to do the whole ‘oh she’s such a nice person’ on the show I didn’t do that. I just wanted her voice to speak.”
Jade said the win had renewed her.
“I know that sounds so cheesy but it is really true,” she said.
“I really feel like I’m back. It is a good feeling.”
She has the tailwind that comes with the X Factor crown but as a sign of just how tough the industry is, she will soon face competition from fellow contestants on the show.
It is understood that Sony, which took her on, has also signed the show’s runners-up, Jason Owen, boy group The Collective and Bella Ferraro.
Sebastian, who is one of the few talent show contestants to parlay a win into a successful and respected career, said his advice to Jade would be to concentrate on what got her there and not to get caught up by the hype.
“It’s all about songs,” he said.
“No one gives a crap if you’re coming out with music.
“If your focus shifts to like ‘oh, I’m going to get my name on the door at this party’ or ‘I’m going to be the face of this’ or whatever, when that shifts, to me that is the downfall.
“It has to be about songs. That’s the only thing that keeps you ticking.”