AMERICAN IDOL'S TOP 12
CRYSTAL BOWERSOX, 24
"I was a ham. I always had my face in the camera," says Bowersox. And, she admits, "I was a horrible, hellish child! I actually used to beat up my twin brother [Carl] all the time until he hit puberty, and then he beat me up!" Now, the singer-songwriter from Elliston, Ohio-known as Mama Sox to her 14-month-old son Tony-battles only her diabetes. "I was diagnosed when I was 6," she says. "Every day is a struggle, but I am feeling good."
SIOBHAN MAGNUS, 19
"That was a face I seemed to make all the time," says Magnus. She grew up on Cape Cod, Mass., listening to her mom's favorite band, the Ramones-"Jumping on the couch to 'Beat on the Brat,' that was the jam!"-but her tattoos pay homage to Hanson and Hole.
TIM URBAN, 20
The shades say it all. "I had an awesome childhood," says Urban, who grew up in Washington and Texas with nine brothers and sisters. "My family is very tight, so we've gone on a lot of road trips together, like to the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone," he says. "My mom would throw on some oldies. There is a song called 'Only in America,' and we used to rock that song!"
AARON KELLY, 16
Kelly, who survived a house fire as an infant, was raised by his aunt (but is still in touch with his biological mother). "She always said that I built up my vocal cords crying so much as a baby," says the Sonestown, Pa., resident, who was all dressed up for a wedding in this childhood photo. "That's what she tells everybody!"
DIDI BENAMI, 23
Her parents named her Vered, but as a child growing up in New York City, Benami longed for another moniker. "I was going to P.S. 84 when I was in kindergarten and I wanted everybody to call me Vanessa-that only lasted for a month or something," she says. But her older sister Maya dubbed her Didi, and it stuck. Says Benami: "I was such a weird kid!"
MICHAEL LYNCHE, 26
As a kid, the St. Petersburg, Fla., native loved his microphone: "You could carry it around and change the voice on it." Now he's fighting for the Idol crown with the same energy he put into pursuing wife Christa-who gave birth to their daughter Laila Rose Jan. 13-after she rejected him in 7th grade. "I wore her down until 10th grade," he says, "and I finally got her!"
PAIGE MILES, 24
"I remember wanting to take that pony home, and I was heartbroken when they told me I couldn't," recalls Miles, who remains an animal lover to this day. "I do animal rescues and I have dogs." A fancy hat and vest would be out of the question now for the Houston-based preschool teacher. "I work with kids on a daily basis," she says, "so I wear kid-proof clothes!"
CASEY JAMES, 27
Growing up in Ft. Worth, Texas, James says, "I was extremely quiet. It was really difficult to get three words out of me in a row up until like 14. Then when I started playing guitar, I started meeting a bunch of people, and I guess I just went from being an introvert to an extrovert."
LEE DEWYZE, 23
"I was always kind of relaxed" as a baby, says the Mt. Prospect, Ill., native. "There's not a lot of pictures of me crying; I was always just chillin'." That continued in high school, he adds: "I was cool with everybody."
LACEY BROWN, 24
Brown says older sisters Jessica and Nicole helped their mother feed her as a baby, which explains the ice cream cone. "They would give me things to eat that I really wasn't supposed to be eating and take pictures of it," says the art student from Amarillo, Texas.
ANDREW GARCIA, 24
"I was a bad kid," Garcia says, "throwing rocks at windows and stuff." But the guitarist from Moreno Valley, Calif., straightened up after age 13 and now has a son, Caeland, 2, with girlfriend Christine Concepcion.
KATIE STEVENS, 17
Though she hid behind her mom's legs until she was 3, the teen from Middlebury, Conn., was born to perform. "I sang every Disney song ever," she admits. "I would pop in the tapes and make my parents watch them over and over again!"