Hair flips, high-pitched squeals and young talent flooded Tempe Marketplace last Saturday as the search for Phoenix's number one Justin Bieber fan began.
The event, announced weeks earlier by Phoenix radio station 104.7 KISS FM, gave 50 teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17 the chance at four all-expenses-paid tickets to Los Angeles for the premiere of “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never.”
“Justin's going to be there, you know?” said Kyle Unfug, KISS jock and event host, though no meet and greet with Bieber was confirmed within the prize packet.
Saturday's turnout gave 45 girls and five boys the chance to tell the judges why they deserved the grand prize. Fans sang to 60-second song clips of “Baby,” “U Smile,” or “Never Say Never.”
As the event was first-come, first-serve, almost 40 hopefuls were turned away. While many arrived too late to make the cut, some contestants made their way to the shopping center hours before start time to sign up.
Kiana Brown, 13, arrived at the scene around 5 a.m. with a life-size cardboard cutout of the 16-year-old singer, nabbing the first spot in line.
“I'm going to sing 'Baby'. It's the most fun to perform, and I'm going to be singing to him,” Brown said confidently. Eight hours after her arrival, Brown exuded energy as she performed first in the competition, dancing and singing her number around the paper Bieber.
Among the devoted female fans professing their love for the teenage celebrity (with his hair, his humble personality and his good looks being just a few desirable attributes), some male voices stood out in the crowd.
“I've gotten a few jokes from friends, but I don't care,” said 15-year-old Jacob Fitzgerald, who dated the start of his fandom back to Bieber's first single. “My dad kind of likes him, too,” Fitzgerald admitted.
As the contestants signed in and lined up, Unfug introduced the event’s five judges from The Young Agency, a local talent company. Judged on vocals, stage presence and originality, performers filed through. Brown seemed not to have much competition by the 25th contestant.
Intermission came and went, and still no contestants topped the first contender. Fans continued to make their way to the stage. Idle performers received little love from the judges. Though some contenders performed entertaining dance numbers, no voice brought smiles to the judges’ faces like Brown’s.
As the contest approached its end, 15-year-old Kaley Brunhein, the 50th contestant, made her way to the stage with “U Smile.” Brunhein did receive a few complimentary marks, but her scores, like the 48 contestants prior, could not match Brown's.
Anticipation spread across the faces of the contestants as Brunhein exited the stage. After almost 10 hours of waiting alongside a life-size paper Bieber, Brown officially became the Valley's Number One Fan.
“It just basically means it's not my time,” said Miranda Regalado, age14, who competed third in the competition. “I'm not going to cry or anything.”
Disappointment was evident from the frowns and furrows of the losing teenagers. Upon the winner’s announcement, Brown's two friends bolted to the stage in happiness and broke out in their own set of victory dances. Presumably, they will be redeeming the grand prize with her.
“Justin Bieber: Never Say Never” will open in theaters on Feb. 11.
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