Entertainment Spotlight

Belton’s Tate Stevens wins ‘The X Factor’

Updated: 2013-02-21T02:38:35Z

By TIM ENGLE

The Kansas City Star

Hey, Tate, where’s the party at?!

Tate Stevens, the former Belton street crew worker — we think we can safely call him that — was declared winner of Fox’s “The X Factor” Thursday night, a title that comes with $5 million.

“This is crazy,” he told The Star by phone moments after his big win. “This is very surreal, and yeah, it’s gonna take a while (to sink in). …

“I walked offstage, took a bunch of pictures and now I’m getting ready to do a bunch of press stuff.”

He did, however, have a message for his “Tate Nation” of supporters: “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

On the show, he also thanked “the man upstairs, for taking care of me,” as well as his family — wife Ashlie, their two kids and his parents were backstage — and “all the country music fans.”

“This is the best day of my life,” he added.

Ashlie’s sister, Stephanie Klinksick of Rich Hill, Mo., said the family, too, wanted to express gratitude to all the people “who have rallied around him and voted thousands of times apiece to ensure that he was able to make his dream a reality.”

Stevens said he expects to return to Kansas City — he’s been in L.A. since October — sometime late Friday. His sister-in-law says there’s talk of a welcome delegation.

The show’s two finale episodes this week pitted Stevens, 37, against Carly Rose Sonenclar, who favors ballads, and the pop princesses of the band Fifth Harmony.

But, as expected, it ended up being a showdown between Stevens and Sonenclar. At 13, she is already a Broadway veteran, although the show persisted in calling her a schoolgirl.

In the eight weeks of live Hollywood shows, viewer vote rankings were revealed five times: Stevens — “Tater” to family and friends — was No. 1 three of those weeks and No. 2 (behind Sonenclar) the other two. He was the only country singer to make the show’s Top 12.

Fifth Harmony finished third. The show said the top three acts generated 35 million votes Wednesday night.

Although “The X Factor’s” grand prize was described repeatedly as a $5 million recording contract, it is actually $5 million cash, a spokeswoman for the show said. Last year’s winner, Melanie Amaro, reportedly is being paid a million bucks a year over five years. She got a record deal, too.

Stevens, who has sung with bands since he was just out of Belton High School, tried out for the show last spring, one of thousands of hopefuls in five audition cities. When, after cuts, he took the stage at the Sprint Center in June, he was asked what he’d do if he won.

Throw a big (posterior) party, he said.

And no one’s forgotten. Posters at watch parties this week at the Belton Freshman Center referred to the blowout. The sign outside the Sonic drive-in in Belton got right to the point before his win: HEY “TATE,” it said. WAITIN ON INVITE TO THAT BIG --- PARTY.

Minutes into the two-hour finale, Stevens — wearing a black leather jacket over his customary untucked Western shirt — jumped out of a black SUV on the red carpet and burst into the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love.”

Later, he sang “Please Come Home for Christmas” surrounded by four shimmying snow bunnies (fans were encouraged to tweet using the hashtag #TateMakesItSnow) and a duet with Sonenclar.

Thursday’s show included a filmed tribute that seemed intended to make the often emotional Stevens, and everyone watching, start blubbering. His son, Hayden, cried in the video as he praised his dad.

“Nervous/excited but really humbled by that last video,” Stevens tweeted afterward.

Over the season he attracted fans of all ages, men and women. Even “X Factor” judge Demi Lovato, all of 20, seemed to have a bit of a crush on the teddy bear in the cowboy hat, commenting on how lucky his wife was.

“It doesn’t bother me at all,” Ashlie said this week, asked about his adoring female fans. “It’s sweet.”

She and children Hayden and Rylie are just excited that he’ll be home soon, and just in time for Christmas.

“The kids are ready to spend some quality time with him without cameras around,” she said. “It’s been a long couple of months.”

What’s next? A record, probably — even back in early October, before “X Factor” live shows started airing, Stevens said he was hearing from record labels and producers. And radio airplay.

With his “no-nonsense, blue collar, family man vibe,” Stevens is radio-ready, says Roger Carson, morning co-host on Kansas City country station 106.5 The Wolf.

“His roots are based in Garth Brooks, but Tate’s hip enough to cover any current country radio artist,” Carson says. “His challenge moving forward will be creating his own Tate Stevens brand.”

And don’t forget the Tate Stevens water tower. The city of Belton plans to repaint the tower with the message “Home of Tate Stevens. Live the Dream.”

To reach Tim Engle, call 816-234-4779 or email tengle@kcstar.com. On Twitter: @tim_engle

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