LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Recovering drug addict Chris Rene will become a star thanks to "The X Factor" but he needs to find the right material in order to win the TV singing contest, judge Antonio "L.A." Reid said on Thursday.
Reid told reporters he had faith that Rene, 28, a trash hauler who auditioned for the show just 70 days after leaving rehab, would stay clean during the contest.
The singer-rapper, whose audition video has been seen more than 6.4 million times on YouTube, is one of 17 finalists who will put their fate in the hands of the TV audience when live performances start next week.
Record producer Reid, who helped launch the careers of stars like Usher and Pink, picked Rene as one of the aspiring stars he will mentor for "X Factor."
"I have faith in Chris. I think he is going to emerge as a an amazing star and also a man we can be proud of who does have the strength to overcome the disease we call addiction," Reid told reporters on a conference call.
Rene told the judges at his first audition that he had been addicted for years to cocaine, methamphetamines and other drugs. But the single dad pledged to stay sober if he was picked for the show.
"Chris gave us his word that he will stay straight. I am going to take him at his word. When I see him, he looks amazing," Reid said.
"He has a very unique talent. Chris is somewhere between a singer and a rapper. He really just has to find the right material and give a compelling performance. If he gets into the moment, and he really feels comfortable with the material as he did with his own original material in his initial audition, then he is going to be fine," Reid said.
Created by Simon Cowell, "The X Factor" debuted on Fox television in September and offers an unprecedented $5 million prize plus a recording contract for the winner. The show is the latest in a crowded market of TV talent contests and has had a smaller than predicted U.S. audience of about 12 million viewers.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)