1 of 7
"I have never, ever gone, 'Oh, I'm going to win this thing," Sherman Oaks, Calif., native Katharine McPhee said after earning a spot in American Idol's top two. Not that she wouldn't mind being the next Kelly Clarkson: "I'd love to have that."
2 of 7
DIVA IN TRAINING
McPhee, 22, went from laid-back SoCal girl (left, during her Idol audition) to glamorous chanteuse (on April 25) in just over a few weeks. But in all the changes toward a "more feminine, dressed-up" look, she says, “my new favorite thing is my hair extensions.”
3 of 7
LEAN ON ME
Even young McPhever fans went all out for their hometown hero – by lending a shoulder for her to sign on during a recent visit. "She's very centered," says family friend Susie Welby. "She's of the mind that there's a purpose to everything and that she has a gift that she is here to serve."
4 of 7
McPhee's powerhouse rendition of "Over the Rainbow" on May 16 wowed the audience – and drew unanimous praise from all three Idol judges. " I am not just saying this because I picked the song," Simon Cowell told her, "but that was the single best performance of the competition to date.”
5 of 7
Leading the legion of McPhever fans were Katharine's parents, Peisha and Daniel, who were a constant presence in the Idol audience. Peisha, a vocal coach and singer, told a local newspaper that her daughter is "gutsy and spiritual, someone who wants to express herself and takes that ability seriously.”
6 of 7
Returning to Notre Dame High School, the alma mater she shares with Rachel Bilson and Kirsten Dunst, McPhee was greeted on May 12 by a gym full of McPhever supporters, including Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “You make me feel like a winner, regardless of what happens," McPhee, the first L.A. native to make it this far on Idol, told the crowd.
7 of 7
It's nothing but love between McPhee and Idol winner Taylor Hicks. "It's so cool to see somebody that talented and with that amazing vocal talent, just to be able to watch them," he says of his competition. "I'm a fan."