Newly Crowned 'Gospel' Idol Compared to CeCe Winans

Melinda Watts, a high school teacher who helps at-risk teen girls, now has a new platform to reach people with her godly message after winning the Gospel music version of the "American Idol" talent competition.

"I want people to listen to my music and want to draw closer to God," says Watts, dubbed winner of "Gospel Dream" on Sunday . "I also want them to want to grow in the grace of God and to be bold in their faith, like a revival through music."

The talented singer impressed judges on the Gospel Music Channel show with the traditional hymn "Tis So Sweet," beating out two other finalists for the title.

Judges and producers of the show had compared Watts to Gospel icon CeCe Winans. Alvin Williams, senior director of Music Development for the GMC, describes Watts as "an anointed superstar artist who graces us with the word of God in song."

The Rev. Louis Neely of Warehouse Christian Ministries in Sacramento, where Watts often sings, praised her singing.

"Melinda has this purity and serenity about her that comes from the heart, and the audience just loves her," Neely told The Sacramento Bee. "People respond to her, her humbleness."

Watts, a English teacher at a high school in Sacramento, Calif., began singing at the age of six at her preschool graduation. She says she can't imagine doing anything else but Gospel music.

"I've always had a love of music and I have been singing in church my whole life," she says. "God's grace brought me here...a lot of faith in God and remembering that it's okay to dream even when you feel you can't."

Watts is the founder of two foundations aimed toward helping at-risk teen girls. Project Sunday mentors young women in her community while Heaven's House for Girls provides research-based solutions for troubled teen girls and their families. Her hope is for both foundations to help young women develop self-reliance and ambition.

She auditioned for Gospel Dream 2008 in Los Angeles while on maternity leave. Christian music artist/songwriter Matthew West hosted the show, which returned to airwaves after a hiatus last year.

Her accomplishment has now landed her a record and music video deal. Her finale song, "Tis So Sweet," is her first single and can soon be heard on radio stations nationwide.

"I love this song. It means the world to me because at this point in my life I'm just trusting God for everything," says Watts. She says she hopes to write songs for her debut album which releases early 2009.