If you were even remotely following this season of American Idol, I’m sure you’ve seen and heard all about the winner, 20-year-old Maddie Poppe.

Like many fans, I was perched on my couch on Monday night, eyes glued to the TV screen as the 2018 American Idol was pulled out of the three remaining contestants.

My money had been on Maddie for a while. Her voice is absolutely amazing, and she surely deserved to win by that factor alone, but it wasn’t the only reason I was rooting for her.

Maddie is from Clarksville, Iowa, a little town of about 1,400 people. Clarksville happens to be about an hour away from my own small, Iowa town. It’s an understatement to say Iowa was backing Maddie; everyone was absolutely thrilled that an Iowa native was in the running. Scratch Cupcakery, a cupcake business famous throughout the state, even created a special “Maddie” cupcake flavor for her return to Iowa in the show’s “hometown” week.

Maddie radiates the spirit of an Iowan and represents us well. Her smile and attitude are that of a girl who knows what it’s like to have dreams and work hard to achieve them. Every time she got on stage to sing, I couldn’t help but grin with pride for a small-town Iowa girl like myself. She was living her dream.

...And she totally rocked it!

I screamed gleefully when it came down to Caleb and Maddie (and screamed even more when Caleb and Maddie announced their relationship status!). I knew a couple of my close friends were watching in their own houses across town and screaming too, because Maddie Poppe is a big deal to us. Maybe it’s because we identify so strongly with her. She inspired one of my friends to sing a solo in the high school variety show – something she says she wouldn’t have done if she hadn’t seen Maddie on American Idol. That being said, we were watching intently.

And then... MADDIE WON! My mom and dad and I all got up and danced around our living room. I quickly Facetimed my friends, and we screamed some more. We couldn't have been more happy for her.

In watching her win, I have to say I love how Maddie is very much NOT a diva. Seeing the way she embraced the people of her town and performed joyfully for her fellow Iowans at the hometown concert, It was obvious Maddie wasn’t prideful or changed by her rise to fame. I’d like to say Iowa takes credit for that (because we’re generally pretty humble, down-to-earth people here) but in truth, it really speaks to who Maddie is, and who she’ll continue to be even after becoming the winner of one of the most highly contested shows on television.

She’s someone I can get on board with all the way, someone whose songs I can sing at the top of my lungs. Someone who inspires me to keep pursuing my dreams, like writing and teaching. But perhaps above all, Maddie Poppe is someone I’m proud to share a home state with.