The first American Idol finale in 2002 was a battle of the sexes, with Kelly Clarkson the victor over Justin Guarini. The last contest settled the score as Trent Harmon defeated La'Porsha Renae for the crown, the AP reports. Harmon tumbled to the stage in surprise as host Ryan Seacrest announced him as the 15th and final winner of American Idol, which ended its remarkable run Thursday. Harmon, 24, who described himself as just a "dude from Mississippi," waited tables at his family's restaurant in Amory before trying out for the show. American Idol, once a ratings powerhouse that influenced TV and music, suffered steady audience erosion before Fox decided it would end this season.
The final show opened with a harmonizing chorus of white-clad winners and contenders, including Scotty McCreery, Taylor Hicks, and Diana DeGarmo. Other familiar faces from years past popped up in solos and group numbers. There was a nod to nostalgia, with clips from auditions presided over by original judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson. Abdul and Jackson showed up to salute Seacrest for his longevity, with Cowell strolling on stage belatedly to steal the spotlight. "I'm feeling quite emotional now," he said. President Obama was the unexpected opening act. In pre-taped remarks, he congratulated the show on its long run, noted that it motivated millions of young people to vote for contestants, and urged American to demonstrate that same eagerness at the polls.