"When I was 10, 11, 12 years old, I would pretend to be on the radio," Seacrest tells ABC News in 2007. "I bought a mixer and these big, ugly headphones and I would literally broadcast the cassette tapes in my bedroom." Of her son's passion for announcing, Connie Seacrest tells the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Instead of playing with G.I. Joes or Cowboys and Indians, [Ryan] would always have a little microphone and do shows in the house."
At 16, Seacrest scores an internship at Atlanta radio station WSTR/Star 94, eventually landing a job filling the 7:00 PM-midnight shift. After high school, he enters the University of Georgia, where he majors in journalism. During his freshman year, he captures the attention of ESPN, which hires him to host a weekend TV sports game show called Radical Outdoor Challenge. By the end of 1994, he quits school and moves to L.A.
In L.A., Seacrest, 20, lands a $15-an-hour job hosting KYSR-FM 98.7's afternoon show, called Ryan Seacrest for the Ride Home. It becomes the station's No. 1 show and is nationally syndicated. He also hosts TV shows Click, Gladiators 2000 and Wild Animal Games (left). Veteran TV mogul Merv Griffin, who produces the children's series Click, tells The New York Times that Seacrest's energy "just baffled me. I couldn't keep up with him...He had this spiky haircut, and we knew all the little girls in the audience would love him, and they did."
Seacrest cohosts FOX's new series American Idol with Brian Dunkleman (pictured with Seacrest and Kelly Clarkson). The show features aspiring singers who are judged by Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson and voted on by viewers. "On Idol, I'm the traffic cop," Seacrest tells L.A.'s Daily News. "I'm the mouthpiece." After Idol's first season, Dunkleman quits, but Seacrest doesn't miss a beat. "I think it works very well having one person drive that show," he tells PEOPLE.
Seacrest, who is named one of PEOPLE's 50 Most Beautiful, begins a two-year relationship with actress Shana Wall (left), which helps dispel speculation that the well-groomed metrosexual is gay. "What girl doesn't want a guy who loves to go shopping and get massages?" Wall asks PEOPLE. Seacrest adds, "I could lie and pretend that I hunt and camp, but that wouldn't be me. Clothes? Shopping? That's stuff I like!" In 2005, Seacrest re-triggers talk when he accepts the crown of Queen at the traditionally gay-oriented West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval.
American Idol becomes the most watched TV show. "This is something that I would pay to be a part of. It fuels everything else," Seacrest (pictured with Idol judges Cowell, Abdul and Jackson) tells Esquire. "It allows me the exposure and the access to the public and to the executives in our business."
Seacrest assumes hosting duties for Casey Kasem's popular weekly radio show American Top 40. "There are people in this business who are as comfortable in front of the camera as they are behind it. Ryan is a real pro," Kasem tells L.A.'s Daily News. He continues his takeover pattern, replacing 22-year host Rick Dees on the daily morning-drive show for 102.7 KIIS-FM in L.A. The program is renamed On Air with Ryan Seacrest and goes from 10th to 5th place in the ratings.
Seacrest cohosts Dick Clark's long-running New Year's Rockin' Eve (right), helping out the 75-year-old Clark whose speech and movement are severely limited after his 2004 stroke. "I have never seen anyone work so hard at so many different things," Clark tells Time. "You've got to have brains to make it look easy." Of his success, Simon Cowell says, "I'm going to hate reading this, but Ryan has a tremendous work ethic. He wants all the glory, but he's prepared to work for it, and I've never heard him complain."
Seacrest receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Justifying his hyperactive work pace to The New York Times, Seacrest says he's "frightened by the thought of being out of work. Growing up, there were people on shows like Diff'rent Strokes, Facts of Life and Love Boat that you thought would be huge stars for the rest of their lives, and they've just vanished. You never want to be that person."
Seacrest's three-year, $21 million contract with the E! Cable Network to develop, produce and host a variety of programs is announced. Among the changes: Seacrest begins cohosting E! News Daily with Giuliana Rancic (right). "[Seacrest] actually is a very nice person," Rancic confides to ABC News. "You want to hate him because he's pretty and he makes a lot of money, but you can't hate him."
BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): Everett Collection; Kevin Winter/Getty Images; INF; Mike Guastella/WireImage; Heidi Gutman/AP; Gregg DeGuire/WireImage; Courtesy of E!