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6m votes took X Factor Joe to victory

X Factor winner Joe McElderry today said he was "pinching himself" as a reminder that he is not dreaming after his victory in the hit show.

The 18-year-old said being crowned winner last night was the "best experience" in his life.

"I am still pinching myself, I cannot believe it, that I am sitting here, and that I have just won X Factor," he told GMTV.

"I think it is going to take a long time to sink in. It was just amazing, it has been the best experience of my life."

He added: "I just feel like I am in this dream and then it keeps hitting me."

The student from South Shields is now odds on to win the Christmas number one with his debut single The Climb after beating rival Olly Murs in the ITV1 show with almost two thirds of the 10 million votes.

His victory topped one of the most lucrative weekends in British broadcasting, with an extended results show creating prime advertising spots in front of an expected audience of 20 million.

The teenager said it had been a "really close" call between himself and Olly Murs and each had been convinced the other was going to win.

"Olly is fantastic as well. Me and Olly both thought each other was going to win," he said.

"We never knew what was going to happen."

McElderry said he could not thank his family and friends enough for their support.

Asked about reports that Simon Cowell will take him to Hollywood in the New Year, to tie up a £5 million deal to turn him into the "next Zac Efron", McElderry said: "I have not heard about this, this is news to me. I wouldn't turn it down if that was the case."

He added that he would "definitely go" to the US and do some acting if he was invited.

"I definitely would, I would give it a go," he said.

Asked about his album, and whether he would do a duet with Cheryl Cole, his mentor, he said: "I think we will have to sit down and have a meeting about everything that is going to happen. I haven't got a clue what is going to happen yet."

He said Cole had come to his sound checks and rehearsals and had rung and texted him to make sure he was "comfortable".

He said: "I think it was just a really emotional night because me and Olly both wanted to win so much.

"For the judges, having to sit and watch people fighting for their dream it must be hard for them to know that one of them is not going to win."

He said his duet with George Michael had been "unbelievable."

Cole told him last night: "I feel over the moon, I'm absolutely delighted. The right person won. I'm so proud of you. The North East are going to be going mad."

It was Cole's second success in a row, after mentoring Alexandra Burke to victory in last year's competition.

McElderry's performance of The Climb in the final left Cole wiping tears from her eyes.

"Whatever happens, Joe, you've been an absolute - not only a pleasure to listen to, a pleasure to work with," she said, with her voice breaking.

Cole said it took her back to when she started in her career.

Simon Cowell told the young singer he was "gutted for Olly" but "thrilled for you because you're brilliant".

Fellow judge Louis Walsh told him: "You've got everything: small boy, big voice, and a great, great future."

Dannii Minogue added McElderry was "definitely the best voice on the stage".

Murs' final performances were also widely praised by the judges and Cowell has described the 25-year-old former energy adviser from Essex that he was the "best risk I've ever taken in my life".

Last night, Cowell told him: "This is why we make the show, it's to give people like you a break."

The final 12 wannabes all returned to open the show with their version of Never Forget, which involved McElderry and Murs - two good friends - walking on to the stage with their arms around each other's shoulders in matching white suits.

Last year's winner Alexandra Burke, who performed with 2008 runners-up JLS, also described The X Factor as the "best experience of your life" and said she had had a fantastic year.

It also emerged that Cowell is eyeing Robbie Williams, who has made several appearances on the show this year, as a potential extra judge for 2010.

He told The People: "Robbie would make a good judge. He is fun, he has got good instincts, he doesn't take himself too seriously and he is a fun guy to be around."

In a further sign of the show's ability to draw in the world's top stars, Sir Paul McCartney appeared on the final show singing Drive My Car with McElderry, Murs and this year's other 10 X Factor finalists.

This weekend's coverage alone, which saw Dagenham diva Stacey Solomon booted out on Saturday, could generate £18 million for troubled broadcaster ITV1, according to some reports.

McElderry's single, The Climb, is available for download today and will be in shops on Wednesday, host Dermot O'Leary said.