She won over X Factor viewers thanks to her down-to-earth charm and humble background.
But now it has emerged that this year's winner Sam Bailey met PR guru Max Clifford two years BEFORE the show, after he heard her perform in a Cotswolds pub.
While his reps have reportedly denied that she had contact with Simon Cowell ahead of the show, a source has told MailOnline that Max 'spoke to him' about Sam.
[ Sam Bailey HAS spoken to Simon Cowell and he called her darling! Says it was 'inspirational'- EXCLUSIVE ]
The PR, who will stand trial over historic sex offence charges next year, told the paper that he met Sam and has helped her to 'open doors.'
He said: ''All I did for her was to open a few doors and talk to several influential people.
''The rest was up to her - and now she's big-time. But her success is all really down to her and her alone.''
But a source close to the PR told the paper that Simon WAS reportedly aware of Sam, saying:
''His involvement needed to remain under wraps - in fact, Max's role in talking to Simon about her talents, was one of the show's best kept secrets.''
While Sam admitted on the show that she'd played a number of gigs in pubs and small venues, she is also thought to have performed at Max Clifford's birthday party and a series of charity events.
Former prison officer Sam got the Christmas number one this year after bagging more than a million votes in the final a few weeks before.