Toon girl Toni goes backstage at X-Factor

DIEHARD X-Factor fan Toni Whitten enjoyed the experience of a lifetime when she got the chance to hang out behind the scenes with the stars of the hit TV show at the weekend.

The 12-year-old from Ballymoney won the chance to spend time with the finalists as they geared up for their live performances on Saturday's programme.

The Dalriada pupil and her mum Heather flew over to London on Friday and took in rehersals and sound checks.

They rubbed shoulders with all six acts - Dungiven lad Eoghan Quigg, Ruth, Diana, Alexandra, Rachel and boy band JLS - as they prepared for the live show.

At one point the stars broke off from practising to chat with some of Toni's mates who were on their lunch break at school.

"When I found out I'd won I was so excited and started to scream," Toni told the Times.

"I love the show and watch it every week without fail."

Toni also got to spend time with the show's self-styled 'Mr Nasty' Simon Cowell, Danni Minogue and presenter Dermot O'Leary.

And Toni ensured she would be the most popular girl at school for some time by returning home with a total of 27 autographs for her pals.

"I liked them all but my favourites were JLS," she said.

"They were all brilliant though and very friendly.

"I have loads of pictures with them and they all chatted and joked with us."

Toni said she didn't feel at all nervous about meeting her pop idols.

"I was more excited than nervous," she said.

"But they were all so nice anyway. They made us feel very relaxed."

And Toni also made quite an impression on the contestants as well.

"Ruth told me she liked my hair as it was curly.

"And she said she would do her's the same for the live show, which she did," she added.

Asked who she wanted to see crowned X-Factor champion this year Toni replied:

"It's hard to pick one, but if I had to it would be Ruth."

Toni won the competition through Mizz Magazine after her name was plucked from thousands of entries from across the UK.

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