Singing legend PATTI AUSTIN is ringing in the New Year (06) with a completely different look after shedding 120 pounds (54.4 kilograms) following a gastric bypass operation.

The BABY COME TO ME hitmaker started 2005 by tipping the scales at a whopping 300 pounds (136 kilograms), but started getting serious about weight loss when her mother died after a stroke.

Austin says, "The doctor said I was a candidate for having a stroke or going blind... He said, 'You are way overweight and you have Type 2 diabetes and asthma.

"I went for the surgery because my mom died of complications from a stroke and she had a weight problem too. I watched my mother die a slow and horrible death... My father suffered from obesity as well and died of complications from diabetes."

Austin will celebrate her new look in 2006 with a touring tribute concert to her heroine ELLA FITZGERALD - and she reveals she's sounding better than ever.

She says, "When you lose weight, it takes all the pressure off your internal organs and your diaphragm."