At age 16, Jessica Sanchez has a real shot at winning the current season of FOX's American Idol.
The Chula Vista native--who auditioned at Petco Park in July; and in front of celebrity judges Jennifer Lopez , Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson aboard the U.S.S. Midway in October---has become one of the show's stand-out performers.
"It's unbelievable for me," says Sanchez. "I used to be homeschooled and I didn't really do much before this. And now I'm busy all the time in this craziness."
As a member of the Top 10, Sanchez will travel around the country in the coming months, performing in the American Idol Summer Tour. In the meantime, she's tangled up in the Hollywood hustle-a superstar longing for her roots.
"I want to go back home and visit San Diego," she says via telephone from her dressing room. "Here, it's crazy and busy all the time. San Diego is just really chill and laidback, with perfect weather."
Sanchez appeared on America's Got Talent at age 11 (where singer Brandy told her, "You're going to be huge, I promise") and has sung the National Anthem at a handful of Chargers games. Despite her youth, she has spent years honing her vocal virtuosity and a solid stage presence.
"I told Ryan [Seacrest]...when I practiced in my room upstairs, I would sing to boxes and pretend they were people," she says.
Today, those boxes have been replaced by tens of millions of Idol fans.
-Patricia B. Dwyer