Diana DeGarmoView In iTunes
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Only 16 and a junior in high school in Snellville, GA, Diana DeGarmo was the youngest finalist of American Idol 2004, but you wouldn't have guessed it from her powerful, confident voice. Growing up a show-biz kid surely helped. DeGarmo had been in Atlanta-based productions of Annie and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at a young age and performed at the 1996 Summer Olympics as part of the Coca-Cola's "Olympic Kids." She later became a cast member of Cartoon Network's Cartoon Gang and got her first taste of televised talent shows when she became a finalist on NBC's America's Most Talented Kid. Being too young to audition for the first season of American Idol frustrated DeGarmo to the point of boycotting it, but taking a peek midseason, the young hopeful became a massive Kelly Clarkson fan. She was still too young for season two, but studied it intensely, and became Miss Teen Georgia in the meantime. Prior engagements kept her from auditioning for season three during the show's stop in nearby Atlanta, so DeGarmo and family took a vacation to Hawaii to catch the next tryouts. She was in and worked her way up to runner-up, losing to Fantasia Barrino. While Barrino sat atop the charts with "I Believe," DeGarmo took the number two slot with her single "Dreams," written by popular tunesmith Desmond Child, whom DeGarmo had known since the age of 12 through a friend (according to the singer, Child had actually put a reference to her in his hit for Ricky Martin, "She Bangs," with the line "she switches sides like a Gemini"). A national tour with the season three Idol contestants followed before her debut album, Blue Skies, hit the shelves at the end of the 2004. ~ David Jeffries