As soon as she finished her coronation song at the "American Idol" finale -- as soon as she got the falling confetti out of her mouth -- real life in the music industry began for St. Helena Island native Candice Glover, who was named the show's season 12 winner on May 16.
Immediately, Glover wanted to find her parents and grandma and cousins, all of whom were in the audience. She wanted to spend time with the other finalists who had been on stage with her when she was announced as the winner. She wanted some time to herself.
"The first thing that I wanted to do was spend some time with my family and sit and let everything set in," she said.
But it would be two hours before she could do that.
Because Glover's time was no longer her own.
"Literally, five minutes after I won, they were pulling me in all different directions," she said in an interview the week after the "Idol" finale.
For the next few days after the show, Glover was chauffeured around Los Angeles in a limousine, her schedule packed with radio and television appearances, including "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and "Live! with Michael and Kelly."
A month after her win, Glover continues to be busy balancing promotional appearances with the recording of her debut album, "Music Speaks," which is set to be released July 16. Her first single, "I Am Beautiful," is out, and a second single is on the way. On May 26, she was among those performing in the star-studded National Memorial Day Concert in Washington, D.C., where she sang the national anthem.
Glover's now-familiar journey to the "Idol" finale was already one of perseverance -- she was rejected from the show twice before -- but she knows this is just the beginning for her.
"It's what I've always dreamed of," Glover said. "I'm definitely down for the ride."
A NEW KIND OF PRESSURE
Before "Idol," there was no pressure on Glover to achieve great success in the music industry.
She could have spent the rest of her life in Beaufort County, working on Fripp Island, and only those closest to her would have known that she was capable of so much more.
Glover knew her third time on "Idol" was going to be her last, regardless of how far she made it. Advancing each week not only meant getting a step closer to winning, but it was also a chance for more airtime and more national exposure. Making it into the Top 20 meant Glover would start building her fanbase, as America was now voting. Making it into the Top 10 meant she would get to go on a national tour with the rest of the "Idol" finalists and perform in front of tens of thousands of people.
Each week, Glover was under pressure to move millions of television viewers to pick up their phones and vote for her.
Now that the season is over, Glover is no longer singing for votes. She doesn't have to spend every week agonizing over whether she chose the right song, or whether America liked her better than the other finalists, at least enough to vote her through to the next round. These days, her performances are not being critiqued by a panel of celebrities.
The day after winning "Idol," Glover said it felt good that the show was over and that the pressure of competition was gone.
But in its place is something else: the pressure not to fail.
Every year, with each new "Idol" crowned, the debate begins on how successful he or she will be in the current music industry. Will they go to Broadway? How long will they stay on the charts? Will they fade away as quickly as they came into view?
"You have all these expectations to live up to," Glover said of following in the footsteps of past winners and of the many who didn't win but have had arguably more successful careers than the victors.
At the finale, Glover sang a duet with the soulful R&B powerhouse Jennifer Hudson.
Hudson placed seventh in season 3 of "Idol," but with an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and a Grammy, she is considered to be one of the most successful "Idol" contestants of all time.
Glover knew that keeping up with Hudson would be a tall order, and her nerves that day prompted her to call her vocal coach, Michael Orland, before the show to see if they could squeeze in a last-second rehearsal.
"I was so nervous backstage. I was like, 'Oh my gosh, you cannot suck. This is Jennifer Hudson. Don't mess up. ... Get it together,'" Glover said in a press conference after the finale.
She lists Hudson's career as the one she's modeling hers after.
"I'm just so glad I got a chance to even do that with her because I look up to her so much."
The fame that "Idol" brings with it is not necessarily an organic one. The show automatically brings with it an immense amount of national exposure, and its performers are given celebrity status practically overnight, leaving America eager to see what the newly crowned "Idol" does next.
While her name is still fresh in people's minds, Glover knows that she has to move quickly.
Her recording label, 19 Entertainment/Interscope, knows this as well. Past winners have typically released their albums several months after the finale. But Glover's album is scheduled for a release exactly two months later, and three days before the 30-city IDOL Live! summer tour is set to begin.
What Glover's career will ultimately look like -- where her talent will take her and what legacy she'll create -- is part of a daunting unknown.
"I just have to hope for the best," Glover said.
NOT A DIVA
"Be true to yourself."
This was the advice Glover received from previous "Idol" contestants, and it has become her new mantra.
When it came to her song choice each week on the show, Glover made sure she was doing what she wanted -- changing melodies, crossing over genres and making each song her own. She was heralded for taking chances -- singing The Cure, Bruno Mars and Drake.
"I learned that I need to just take those ideas on full-force and go with them," Glover said. "Don't hide behind trying to do what I think America loves."
She said conforming to what she thought others wanted, and worrying about what others thought, was why she previously failed on the show. Staying true to herself was the key to her eventual success.
"I finally realized that I'm different and I need to embrace it," Glover said of her win and her future. "I'm definitely focusing on not being put in a box."
But staying true to herself was not the best advice she received as a contestant. That came from the legendary Motown singer Smokey Robinson: No matter how high you get in this sky, never let your feet come off the ground.
Glover fits the mold of the modern-day diva. She is a celebrated female singer, a vocal powerhouse and has a commanding on-stage presence. But she eschews the title because it is associated with being a prima donna and having an inflated sense of self-importance.
Until now, Glover has led a modest life, always having enough but nothing in excess. And with her newfound fame, she wants to stay the same girl she was before.
"I don't want it to change me at all," she said. "I don't want it to make me a diva. That's my biggest thing about being famous, people get too into their own head and they think that it's me or nothing. And I never want to get that way."
She remembers that there is a higher power that will always be bigger than her, and that her journey serves a greater purpose.
"I just always keep God first and remember that I'm here for a reason," Glover said. "And that's for music."
Those ideals play into the choices she's making in her music career.
The night she made it into the Top 3, Glover sat down with management to begin choosing the song that would become her coronation song and first single if she made the finale.
She narrowed it down to two songs, but the choice was clear: Every time she heard the demo for "I am Beautiful," she got the chills.
"I got teary-eyed and everything, because I really connected with the lyrics," Glover said.
The chorus is: "And he says I am beautiful/And when I fall/ It don't matter because I'm not perfect."
Glover said that the song means different things to different people, and while it was initially about a guy, there's also a spiritual meaning to the song.
"God made all of us in his image, and we're beautiful no matter what anyone else says," Glover said.
Her mother, Carole, agreed.
"'He's can be your boyfriend. 'He' can be your father. 'He' can be the Lord," Carole said. "It's up to you whoever you want 'He' to be. To me, it's the Lord saying I'm beautiful. But that's just my opinion now. That's just my personal thing."
After "I Am Beautiful" was released, many fans took to Twitter saying, "This song means so much to me," "You've helped me be confident," "You made me believe in myself."
This is exactly the reaction Glover hopes for.
"I see all the time people saying that song really helped them," she said. "And that's the reason I want to sing."
PAYING IT FORWARD
In season 11, Glover was cut after the group performance in Hollywood Week with Jessica Sanchez and DeAndre Brackensick, the runner-up and eighth place finishers, respectively.
She kept in touch with both of them and with other contestants. They encouraged her to try again. The rest is history, and Glover hopes she can inspire others to keep trying.
She has a few contestants that come to mind from this past season: Melinda Ademi, Kamaria Ousley, Denise Jackson, Seretha Guinn and Sarina-Joi Crowe.
Crowe, a Columbia, Tenn., native, has auditioned for "Idol" twice -- she was cut in the Top 100 in season 10 and just before the Top 40 this past season.
Glover and Crowe were connected this season through Brackensick. They ended up in the same group for the first round of Hollywood Week and practiced together the night before.
Crowe was nervous about her song choice, Jessie J's "Who You Are," but Glover told her, "Nobody sings it like you."
Even as she advanced through the Hollywood rounds, Crowe had a feeling she tried to ignore. Something inside told her this wasn't her year.
"Maybe because I knew Candice was going to go far," she said.
Crowe said that even in the early rounds, other contestants sensed Glover had the potential to win.
"Everybody in that competition could look at her, would hear her, and could tell she was going to be a huge factor this season," Crowe said.
When Crowe was cut in the final round of Hollywood Week, she went straight to Glover, feeling a familiar heartbreak.
But she knew this was Glover's time, and hers was to come.
"Candice said she was so excited to go to the Top 10 together," Crowe said. "And I told her they couldn't take us both."
All the contestants returned home after filming the Hollywood rounds of the show. Those that advanced later returned for the Vegas rounds, and after Glover's performance of "Girl on Fire," Crowe texted her to say she killed it.
"Thank you so much," Glover texted in reply. "But you should still be here."
While Crowe had a feeling early on that her "Idol" journey would end early, she also had a feeling that something special would come of it.
That something special was knowing Glover, who taught her: Don't change for anybody, don't give in to the hype, just be yourself and never give up.
"Watching her this season taught me so much about myself and who I am as an artist," Crowe said. "I owe her a lot."
And Crowe plans to return next year for a third time.
"You don't know if you want to go through the process again," she said. "But then you see someone like Candice ..."
Follow reporter Laura Oberle at twitter.com/IPBG_Laura .