‘American Idol’ Winner Phillip Phillips Gets Engaged As New ‘Idol’ Season Set To Begin

American Idol alum Phillip Phillips is making this holiday season extra special. He announced on his Facebook page the day after Christmas that he and his long-term girlfriend, Hannah Blackwell, are engaged.

“My best Christmas surprise is happening. We’re engaged yall! @HannahBlackwell!”

For her part, Blackwell spread the news on her Instagram page, gushing about her new fiancé. The photo showed her hand, dressed up with a large diamond ring, next to a Christmas tree ornament with a childhood picture dated 1995.

“I’ve been dreaming of this for over 20 years. I’ve been dreaming of this guy for just that long. Overwhelmed with happiness. @phillphill.”

Phillips won American Idol Season 11 in 2012. Phillips and Blackwell met long before his Idol success. When Phillips, now 24, was 18, he met his future bride while both were volunteering at a women and children’s center. Blackwell is a nursing student.

Phillips is due to start touring Canada and South Africa on January 30. That will be just a few short weeks after the January 7 debut of the new American Idol season. Idol is doing things a bit differently this year, including a new face in the mentor chair and an unprecedented preview of the top 24 before the season has even begun.

American Idol released a YouTube video of the top 24 singing an ensemble version of “Feeling Good,” with their faces in shadow to mask their identities — but not their voices. Long-time host Ryan Seacrest introduces the clip, which you can watch below.

While the judges panel will remain the same for Season 14 as it was for Season 13 — Harry Connick, Jr., Jennifer Lopez, and Keith Urban are all returning — this year will be the first ever without Randy Jackson. Jackson served as judge through the panel’s many incarnations, and last season was mentor to the contestants. Scott Borchetta will be fulfilling that role for Season 14.

The show will also go from two nights down to one, combining its performances and results.

Urban revealed that the audition process was slightly different this year. Once the top 48 were chosen, they were tasked with a live performance at the House of Blues. Taste of Country quoted Urban’s assessment of how important this new element was to find the best performers for the show.

“For me, it was a really important part of the process, because in years past we’ve seen them in these various audition environments, and then they go straight to the TV studio in front of a live audience. I really wanted to see what they’re like in front of a club setting — can they perform, do they know how to perform live, do they know how to move and connect with an audience? So that was a really telling environment to have them in, and I’m glad that we got to do that. We then narrowed it down from there, but that was a really helpful part, to make sure that we have solid performers going into the live shows.”

American Idol airs on Fox. The two-night premiere begins on Wednesday, January 8.

[Image via Billboard]