Never mind his platinum debut album Born to Do It
(7 million copies sold worldwide since 2000) or Elton John's recent declaration that "if there's a better singer in Britain than Craig David, then I'm Margaret Thatcher." To the smooth-crooning R&B sensation (who has had U.S. hits with "Fill Me In" and "7 Days") the real work of art is his beard. "It's like doing a painting," says David, 21, who spends up to 40 minutes every other day sculpting the pencil-thin style. "I take my time." Since growing up in Southampton, England, the once-chubby former deejay has "grown into a completely confident man," says childhood pal Cheryl Webb, 21, a dancer. Caring for the 6-ft. body below the beard (most of his well-tended braids get hidden under his trademark stocking cap) means no caffeine, alcohol or tobacco—"I've never smoked even one cigarette," he says—and hitting the gym. Daily workouts atone for splurges on Ben & Jerry's Cookie Dough ice cream—on the stick, not in the carton. "I think they put more cookie dough in the stick version," notes David, demonstrating what his guitarist Fraser Smith, 31, says makes David a standout in any crowd. "In a roomful of beautiful people," says Smith, "Craig is the one having a real laugh and a genuine conversation."