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‘The Winner Is’: Katie Orlofske

Ohio Valley native wins $1M prize

August 9, 2013
KIM NORTH - Staff Writer , Times Leader

BELLAIRE - The secret is out.

Katie Ohh (Orlofske) is a really good singer.

The 22-year-old Ohio Valley native proved that to the voters, and the nation, on NBC's "The Winner Is" Thursday night when she claimed the $1 million top prize.

Article Photos

Ohio Valley native Katie Orlofske performs on NBC’s “The Winner Is” Thursday night. Her parents’ home on Kilgore Road was jam-packed with close friends of the family, many of whom donned blue Team Katie Ohh t-shirts.

"It feels really darn good," Katie said late Thursday night via telephone from her new home in Nashville where she watched the show with friends despite battling a case of food poisoning. "I haven't been this sick in a long time, but it feels really good."

Katie captured the contest when she outsang Sharde Bivans in the final round. The 101 music experts who served as judges voted 57-44, but before the winner was declared, both contestants had the opportunity to buy their way out for a cool $200,000. However, neither did, thinking that they had come out on top.

"Honestly, I was nervous ... almost scared," Katie admitted. "Not knowing what was going to happen. All this stuff was going through my mind. The risk was definitely worth it."

Prior to turning down the buyout offer, Katie's aunt, Kathy Bayes who is fighting a form of cancer but was at the show's taping at Universal Studios in Los Angeles along with Katie's mother Sherrie, had an inspiring message for her niece.

"She's been a winner since she was 12 years old," Bayes said during the taping while trying to hold back her emotions. "Regardless of what happens tonight, she's still a winner. I say go for it girl."

Her aunt's illness was the driving force behind Katie's entering the show and trying to win the million dollar top prize.

"Oh my," Katie said of her aunt's touching message. "That meant so much to me to hear her say that. If I had any doubts at all, she reassured me not to worry.

"To have my mom and aunt here meant the world to me."

In the finals, Katie sang Miley Cyrus' "The Climb" while Bivans performed a James Brown remake by Christina Aguilera "It's a Man's World."

That was her third performance of the night. She opened the show by convincingly defeating The LaFontaine's, 82-19, as she performed Jay-Z's "Cry." The mother-daughter duo opted not to take the $50,000 buyout and went home empty-handed.

Bivans' first selection earned her a score of 88, meaning Katie had to perform a second song as she faced off with Dayton, Ohio's Senior Sounds of Touch. She belted out Lady Gaga's "You and I," while the quartet did "What Makes You Beautiful" by One Direction.

The vote was 84-17, but Senior Sounds of Touch, along with Katie, thought they had won the top prize, neither taking the $100,000 buyout. When the winner was announced, a large roar went up from the 30-or-so people in attendance at Katie's parents home on Kilgore Road, which was adorned with numerous good luck signs. Many in the crowd donned blue Team Katie Ohh t-shirts.

"This is so thrilling," Sherrie said with a huge smile. "Just so thrilling. Katie has worked really hard for this. We're very proud of her."

Terry was a very proud papa.

"This is exciting. It opens a lot of doors for her. Being able to help her aunt out is huge. Going in that was the entire plan for Katie, so now if her aunt needs the money for another transplant, it's there."

Sherrie went on to talk about her sister and her medical situation.

"In November of 2011, my sister was diagnosed with a form of Myloma. She had one stem cell transplant in April of 2012. We had done a lot of research on stem cell transplants and they showed that having two of them back-to-back about 12 weeks apart had better survival rates," she noted.

"That's kind of what we wanted to go with, but when the hospital checked with her insurance, we found out that only one stem cell transplant would be covered."

Sherrie said it meant the world to Katie to have her aunt in attendance.

"My sister has been like a second mother to my two daughters," Sherrie explained. "So, it was like her daughter. She was thrilled to death."

Katie, who will turn 23 next week, was born and raised in Powhatan Point. She fell in love with music after a performance at a Christmas show when she was 12 years old, and credits her mother with harvesting her singing voice.

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