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All I Have to Do Is Dream
They Came, They Sang, They Conquered. A Guide to Who's Who in the Idol Finals
REMINDS YOU OF: Patti LaBelle
ROLE IN THE 12: The mature one
MEMORABLE MOMENT: After Simon said he would rate her personality a 4.5, she graded his personality "a zero. A well-deserved zero at that."
PRE-IDOL: Locke performed with Shad? of U, the R&B group she formed with childhood pals. "They see me making it, and it's like it's happening for them too."
FAMILY TIES: "My father is black and my mother's white," Locke says of her divorced parents, Donald, 48, a truck driver, and Christine, 48, who works at a distribution center for The Gap. Growing up in a mostly white neighborhood, "I remember one time my teacher seemed to think it was a problem that I colored all my people brown," she recalls. "My mom was like, 'Well, she lives in a house with brown people!' "
WHY IDOL? Performing with the flu at her high school's Christmas concerts, "that's when I knew this was where my heart was, I refused to not do the show."
Clay Aiken, 24 RALEIGH, N.C.
REMINDS YOU OF: Elton John
ROLE IN THE 12: Class president
MEMORABLE MOMENT: Belting out "Always and Forever" and shocking the judges. Declares Randy: "It's just rally wild for me to hear that voice coming out of this look."
TRESSED FOR SUCCESS: Noting the judges' reaction to his appearance, Aiken decided to dye his naturally red hair brown for the L.A. callbacks. A friends mom offered to help, but "she actually dyed my hair blue first. I looked just like an old lady."
PRE-IDOL: Raised by his mom, Faye Parker, 56, an interior decorator, and stepdad Ray Parker, a corrections officer who died last year, Aiken performed in his high school choir and was attending the University of Charlotte as a special-education major. If Idol falls through, "I'll go home and ears and finish my degree," he says.
BEAUTY IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER: "I know that I've got big forehaed and that my hair sticks up," he says. "But I'm happy with myself. I'm not necessarily trying to win a beauty pageant here."
Trenyce, 23 MEMPHIS, TENN.
REMINDS YOU OF: Whitney Houston
ROLE IN THE 12: The diva
MEMORABLE MOMENT: Simon having to admit that Paula was right about her
SURPRISE! After being cut from the Top 32, Trenyce was sent back to Memphis. A few weeks later she and mom Linda, 49, a FedEx worker, were watching the announcement of the wild-card picks when Trenyce's name was called. "I didn't find out I made it until I was watching," she says. Fifteen minutes later Idol producers—who had forgotten to notify her in advance—phoned to say that she was needed in L.A. the next day. "They were like, 'We're so sorry!' "
PRE-IDOL: Pursuing a nursing degree at the University of Memphis, the middle daughter of Linda and Jesse, 52, a former power-plant worker, dropped out in 2001 "to give myself one year off to make it in music."
CHER, MADONNA...TRENYCE? The singer nixed her full name because, she says, "I didn't see it in lights." For the record: It's Lashundra Trenyce Cobbins.
Rickey Smith,23 KEENE, TEXAS
REMINDS YOU OF: Brain Mcknight
ROLE IN THE 12: The Lovable goofball
MEMORABLE MOMENT: His victory cry of "Hercules! Hercules!"
WHY IDOL? "I sang my first solo when I was 11—'It's Nobody's Fault but Mine'—at church," notes smith, who was raised as a Seventh day Adventist in Wichita, Kans. "It was cool"
PRE-IDOL: He studied music at southwestern Adventist University in Keene. Poor grades and a lack of money caused him to drop out briefly in 1999, but last year, he notes, "I made the dean's list."
STYLE STATEMENT: When Paula Abdul deemed his turtleneck-and-slacks audition ensemble stodgy, "it didn't hurt my feelings at all," he says. "At that time I really was dressed like I was getting ready to go to church." BEST PART OF FAME : "I was walking in the mall and somebody said, 'Rickey!' and I turned around, and it was [Dallas Cowboys legend] Emmitt Smith," says Smith (no relation). "My mouth just dropped. He said, 'Rickey, you're doin' a great job.' "
Vanessa Olivarez, 21 ATLANTA
REMINDS YOU OF: Bette Midler
ROLE IN THE 12: The funky one
MEMORABLE MOMENT: "I know I have a big butt," she matter-of-factly declared. "Hey, it worked for J.Lo." WEIGHTY ISSUES: Simon's blunt suggestion that she shed a few pounds "didn't bother me. I'm comfortable with myself, but I think he thinks if he were going to invest $1 million in me, he'd want me to be skinnier. That's not a problem!"
TRESSED FOR SUCCESS: With Her neon locks, "I'm like a Lite Brite!" says Olivarez, who works in a hair salon. "I've been almost every color except for yellow or green."
WHY IDOL? "I've always been a big old ham," says Olivarez, whose mom, Elizabeth, 41, a school volunteer, wed Olivarez's stepdad, entrepreneur Paul Parillo, 42, in 1985. "At age 4, I remember walking up to Paul and saying, 'You're not marrying my mother!' " she recalls. "I've always been kind of a smart aleck. I always had attitude."
POST-IDOL: "It's all about making your footprint in the world," she notes, pointing to her wedges. "And mine are very platform-like!"
Carmen Rasmusen, 18 BOUNTIFUL, UTAH
REMINDS YOU OF: Mandy Moore
ROLE IN THE 12: Everybody's little sister
MEMORABLE MOMENT: Coming out of nowhere to be Simon's wild-card pick
ICE CREAM, YOU SCREAM: A former scooper at Nielsen's Frozen Custard in Bountiful ("They have the best custard in the world," she says). Rasmusen now adheres to a strict dairy-free diet to preserve her pipes: "I get congested when I drink milk or eat ice cream."
WHY IDOL? The second of four kids born to Michelle, 43, a homemaker, and Carl, 45, a psychiatrist, Rasmusen began taking piano lessons before she could even read. "Lessons started at 7:30 a.m., because school was at 8:30," she says. "That's really early for a 6-year-old!"
AUDITION ANXIETY: Rasmusen didn't make her video audition until the day of the submission deadline. "A friend taped me sitting on her parents' bed, singing a ballad I wrote about my first boyfriend," she says. "I had no makeup on and I was still in my pajama pants. I looked and sounded hideous."
WELL COVERED: A Mormon, Rasmusen says she isn't comfortable wearing low-cut or overly sexy stage costumes. "If I become the American Idol," says the singer, "I can prove you don't have to sell your body to sell your songs."
Ruben Studdard, 24 BIRMINGHAM, ALA.
REMINDS YOU OF: Luther Vandross
ROLE IN THE 12: The velvet teddy bear
MEMORABLE MOMENT: Body-slamming Ryan Seacrest
WEIGHTY ISSUES: "I think I have a nice little flava goin' on, you know what I'm sayin'?" says Studdard of his size 5 XXXL frame. "Just because you're big don't mean you can't have style."
PLAYING THE FIELD: The youngest son of Kevin Studdard Sr., 49, a high school auto-body teacher, and Emily, 49, a second-grade teacher, Studdard excelled at both football and choir. "It was cool, though," he says. "Everybody knew [singing] was my thing. And the girls liked it, so..."
PRE-IDOL: The music-education major dropped out of Alabama A&M University after 3½ years to perform with local jazz and gospel groups. "My mother was not pleased—at all," he says.
WHY IDOL: "The only thing I've wanted to do my whole life was perform. And I'm doing it, man."
Julia DeMato, 24 BROOKFIELD, CONN.
REMINDS YOU OF: Sheena Easton
ROLE IN THE 12: The emotional one
MEMORABLE MOMENT: Bursting into tears when her fellow finalists were eliminated from the show
PRE-IDOL: The youngest of seven kids born to Joan, 56, a Realtor, and Peter, 66, who owns a forklift and equipment company, DeMato lived with her parents until she was 21 and has worked as a hairstylist. Although she sang in school choruses, "I never really pursued it, because I'm shy."
WHY IDOL? When she took up karaoke at age 21, "people started saying, 'You have star quality.' I would hate to be 45 and thinking, 'What if?' "
MADONNA MIA! For strength, DeMato carries rosary beads that belonged to her great-aunt Dorothea Jacobson, who died last year. "Without them, I don't even feel like myself," she says.
POST-IDOL: "I'll pursue a music career no matter what."
Charles Grigsby, 24 OBERLIN, OHIO
REMINDS YOU OF: Stevie Wonder
ROLE IN THE 12: The nice guy
MEMORABLE MOMENT: Comforting his tearful mom on the couch
WHY IDOL? The youngest of six born to Ramona, 58, a community aid worker, and Charles Sr., 75, a retired Air Force captain and air-traffic controller, Grigsby made his debut singing "Away in a Manger" at church when he was around 10: "Everyone's mouths dropped. That pretty much set the mold for me."
BITTERSWEET WIN: Just six days before the L.A. callback, Grigsby and his sister Jennifer, 29, were driving to his part-time supermarket-stocker job when their car was hit by a truck. Jennifer has been confined to a wheel-chair ever since, although doctors believe she will walk again.
CLASS CLOWN: When Grigsby recently saw his high school music teacher, Jesse Reeder, "I apologized to her [for goofing off]. But she said, 'You don't have to worry about that now. You're a superstar!' "
Joshua Gracin, 22 WESTLAND, MICH.
REMINDS YOU OF: Garth Brooks
ROLE IN THE 12: The jock
MEMORABLE MOMENT: Challenging Simon to do push-ups
ATTENTION! "I'd blown a lot of opportunities," Gracin says of his decision to enlist with the Marines in 2000. "At that point, I knew the only way could change was to join the military."
WHY IDOL? The only son of Mario, 48, an auto-supply inspector, and Brenda, 47, a newspaper editor (he has four sisters) Gracin made his singing debut in 1993 performing Brooks's "Standing Outside the Fire" at a school talent show. "I got a standing ovation," he says. "That's when I knew maybe I had something."
FAMILY MAN: At age 20, he eloped with his high school sweetheart, Ann Marie Kovacs, 22, a former retail clerk. Last year they welcomed daughter Briana Marie, 11 months. Fatherhood "has made me a teacher instead of a student. I'm still learning, but I want to do the right thing."
DUTY BOUND : "In the Marine Crops we always do as we're told," he says of the chance he may be called to action during the war with Iraq. "When I signed up, I knew I could go overseas at any time."
Kimberly Caldwell, 21 KATY, TEXAS
REMINDS YOU OF: Faith Hill
ROLE IN THE 12: The cheerleader
MEMORABLE MOMENT: Dawg-ing Randy
HAVE WE SEEN YOU SOMEWHERE? Like Corey Clark, Caldwell was a runner-up on the WB show Pop Stars last season. WHY IDOL? The older daughter of Carla, 48, a medical transcriptionist, and George, 50, a construction-company owner, Caldwell started in beauty pageants at 4. "One day I said, 'Mom, I really want to do the talent category.' She said, 'Baby, I don't think you have a talent' " Caldwell went on to snag first place.
PRE-IDOL: Caldwell performed as a teen in Branson, Mo., then after high school got a job singing on the patio of a local seafood eatery. "I was in the freezing cold singing Christmas carols for about five people a night," she recalls.
GUARDIAN ANGEL: Before she hits the stage, Caldwell always dons an angel pin that came from her friend Jessica Lucas, who died in a car accident four years ago: "It makes me believe Jessica's watching over me."
Corey Clark, 22 NASHVILLE
REMINDS YOU OF: Smokey Robinson
ROLE IN THE 12: Class clown
MEMORABLE MOMENT: Riding the mechanical bull
PRE-IDOL: I've been a waiter at Denny's a telemarketer, a Von's grocery store clerk, and I worked the rides at an amusement park," he says. Oh, and a stagehand too. "It's been a crazy process up until this point."
WHY-IDOL: Clark's parents, Jan, 44, a former singer and a general manager at a Cracker Barrel, and Duane, 53, a nightclub singer, met while rehearsing together. "My earliest memories are being in the studio with them," says Clark. Later, as a teenager living in Las Vegas, he performed with a vocal group called Envy.
BIG MAC ATTACK: "I was walking to McDonald's at 2 o'clock in the morning, and this truck slammed on its brakes in the middle of the road. This lady was screaming, 'It's an American Idol!' She came out and grabbed me."
April 25, 2015
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