You might call Jordin Sparks an amateur talent contest professional, although prodigy is perhaps more accurate. In 2007, the 17-year-old Sparks won American Idol. But before that, she appeared twice on America's Most Talented Kids, received two awards from the Gospel Music Association Academy and finished second at Music in the Rockies, a competition for aspiring contemporary Christian artists. The year before she won Idol, the multitalented Sparks also won Torrid's search for the "Next Plus Size Model" and appeared in a Seventeen magazine ad for the clothing line. So winning Idol was just the big, fat cherry on top of a talent show sundae -- and the culmination of a life spent working towards performance career.
The child of NFL player Phillippi Sparks (formerly of the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys), the baby-faced belter grew up singing and doing children's theater. She got a string of gigs singing the national anthem at professional sporting events in her home state of Arizona, toured with CCM star Michael W. Smith and recorded an EP (2003's For Now) at age 13. Despite all her experience, Sparks did not initially make the cut when she auditioned for Idol in Los Angeles. She did, however, win the local Arizona Idol contest, which earned her the right to audition again in Seattle and, eventually, to become the youngest ever American Idol. Following her win, she toured with the other Idols and began work on her debut album.