It could've gone either way on Sunday night at the Idols finale at Carnival City, but season 12 finalists Noma Khumalo and Thami Shobede both deserved to be there. In the end Noma, a 22-year-old teacher, became the first woman to win the singing competition in seven seasons. The last time a woman won was when Sasha Lee Davids won by mistake, but that's a story for another day.
The men this season were amazing. Not only were they good singers, but a few were great all-round performers too.
Anyone who watched Idols knows a big part of why we fall in love with the contestants is their "story". We fall for their journey and what it took for them to get to where they are. Khumalo's toughest competition was Shobede and Tebogo Louw, who were both comeback kids from previous seasons. South Africans love perseverance stories and both Shobede and Louw grew a lot during the season.
Idols judge Somizi Mhlongo told Shobede in the final episode that his story was inspirational, while Unathi Msengana told him he was an example of the importance of second chances.
Any fan of the show would tell you they knew Khumalo would make it to the final, the question was who would be beside her. Khumalo wowed us since her audition, getting stronger week after week. The critique after her performances were never about her talent, it was about what she could do to become stronger. And by the end, it was clear she internalised each lesson from the judges and delivered on stage. The shy and reserved student teacher we met at the Durban auditions evolved into a superstar we could not imagine standing anywhere else but on a stage.
Noma's journey was not without its downs. The newly crowned winner was shamed on Twitter for her looks and outfit choices, but refused to let it get her down. But we're hoping the producers she's teaming up with don't hold her back. Too many Idols have disappeared after their major wins.
We won't comment on the love judge Gareth Cliff got as he bowed out from the show, you can read this to see why.