Originally created 05/24/04

DeGarmo already making plans for first album



ATLANTA -- As American Idol fans prepare for one more night of speed-dialing for their favorites, Diana DeGarmo says she already feels like a winner.

"It's crazy to think that of 17 thousand people, little me from Snellville, the youngest girl in the competition, has made it this far," DeGarmo said Sunday in a telephone interview.

"I'm just so excited to be on such a great show that has helped me in my career, no matter what."

Added DeGarmo when asked about the possibility of a runner-up finish to the other finalist, Fantasia Barrino: "We are all winners at this point."

DeGarmo, 16, and Barrino each will sing three songs on the popular Fox TV show Tuesday night. Fans will have four hours, instead of the normal two hours, after the show to cast votes by telephone, and the American Idol winner will be announced Wednesday night.

Last year both American Idol finalists - Clay Aiken and winner Ruben Studdard - released successful albums. DeGarmo and Barrino also are expected to use the show as a launching pad for their career.

DeGarmo said she already has "immediate" plans to start work on her record, no matter how she fares in this week's voting.

"My plans are definitely just to keep the ball rolling - don't stop while people know who I am," she said.

DeGarmo completed her junior year at Shiloh High by doing her course work between practice and performances in California. With immediate plans to begin recording an album, followed by an American Idol concert tour that begins in July and goes through September, DeGarmo won't be returning to a normal schedule anytime soon.

"No matter what, I'm going to be continuing my career and going after my dream of being a singer," DeGarmo said. "That's what I've wanted to do since I was little. I'm doing what I've always wanted to be doing."

Barrino, from High Point, N.C., and DeGarmo share southern roots and they also have shared a friendship from early in the competition, when each was placed in "Group 1" as contestants were pared down to the final 12.

"Our hotel rooms were right next to each other and we would knock on the wall to each other," DeGarmo said. "Now we're next to each other (in a hotel) again. It's like we were meant to be here. It's really cool."

DeGarmo says when she and Barrino were told they had made the top 12, "We made a pact we were going to stick together to the end, no matter what, and you know what? It worked."

DeGarmo said Barrino "has a beautiful voice, a very unique voice that really makes her Fantasia."

Similarly, Barrino Sunday said DeGarmo has a "more powerful" voice than pop stars Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.

"I can't put her with anybody. She's Diana," Barrino said. "If I heard her sing a song on the radio I'd say 'There's Diana.' There's nobody like her."

Barrino said DeGarmo is "a sweet girl, very humble. I love all of them like they're my little sisters."

DeGarmo has enjoyed the strong support of her Snellville hometown throughout the competition, but Tuesday night the biggest show in town is the Shiloh High School graduation. DeGarmo's fans are making plans to use "designated callers" instead of bringing cell phones to the graduation, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

"I know that they're anxious not to take away any dignity from the graduates," Melissa Rhine, the mother of Shiloh senior Marlon Rhine, told the paper. "I think that's how Diana would want it."

Rhine said she is arranging for someone to cast her vote for DeGarmo.