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Sunday, 15 July, 2001, 11:01 GMT 12:01 UK
Dusty dazzles as Stars winner
Emma Wilkinson
Emma Wilkinson: Won 204,970 telephone votes
An unemployed 22-year-old has swept the board with her impersonation of singer Dusty Springfield on TV talent show Stars in Their Eyes.

Emma Wilkinson beat nine other hopefuls to win the live final of the show with 204,970 votes, out of just under one million cast.

She sang the hit song Son of a Preacher Man dressed in a blonde wig and dress similar to one Springfield would have worn during her heyday in the 1960s.

Afterwards, Springfield's former manager Vicki Wickham said from New York that the singer would have been pleased at how well Wilkinson captured her voice.

Wilkinson with host Matthew Kelly and other contestants
Wilkinson with host Matthew Kelly and other contestants
The show's viewers had just one hour in which to place their votes for their favourite act.

Wilkinson managed to defeat the other contestants' impersonations of stars including Bob Marley, Lionel Richie, Kylie Minogue, Aretha Franklin and David Bowie.

She lost her job as deputy co-ordinator for a Kids' Club in Liverpool a fortnight ago after funding ran dry, and said before the show she had been "nervous" about her future.

But after the result was announced, she said: "Now I don't know what will happen. I can't believe I've won, it is fantastic."

She went on to sing Springfield's praises as a singer, saying she had an "amazing voice" and that it was "great that she was able to cover a lot of soul and black music in a good way".

The winning contestant added she had been "thrilled" at Wickham's message to her.

Stars in Their Eyes contestants
Entries included Lionel Richie and Annie Lennox
"After all the work she's done during her career I can't believe she took the time to speak to me", she said.

She said she had never had any professional training and had only ever sung before with a band made up of students in pubs around Liverpool, where she went to university.

"I've never been trained so maybe it's time to have a go at that now. "I had been looking for other employment but now perhaps this will help me find something," she added.

Saturday's show was the 13th final of the competition, which was hosted by Matthew Kelly.

Odds cut

The result may have surprised bookmakers after William Hill earlier slashed the odds on Bob Marley impersonator David Davidson, 27, from Huddersfield.

Odds were cut after two women placed 50 bets in the Harrogate area of North Yorkshire.

The odds on Davidson winning Saturday's contest on ITV were cut from 6-1 to 2-1 as a precaution.

William Hill said about 5,000 was placed on Davidson at shops and via telephone and online betting, causing them to fear insider information had been leaked.

But Granada had denied suggestions that its live final could be rigged.

A spokeswoman said: "It would take an impossibly large syndicate to have any effect on the result and we are 100% confident that the system is fair and accurate.

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See also:

12 Jul 01 | TV and Radio
Bookies fear rigged 'Stars' final
21 May 00 | Entertainment
A kind of magic for Stars winner
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