With six words - "You are in the top 10" - Ryan Seacrest changed Lauren Alaina Suddeth's life from typical high school sophomore to television celebrity Thursday night.
Suddeth was the first female to nab one of the 13 coveted finalist spots on the Fox network's 10th season of "American Idol." She is the first area resident to sing her way to the finals, and the second vocalist with local ties to achieve it. Lee University alumnus Phil Stacey was a Season 6 finalist, but lived in Florida when selected.
"I knew she could do it!" said Paula Steele, of Flintstone, Ga., a friend of the Suddeth family.
"We've always said it was just a matter of Lauren being in the right place at the right time. So when she made it in the auditions at Nashville, I said 'Well, here we go.'"
Suddeth, 16, is the daughter of J.J. and Kristy Suddeth, of Rossville. She is a sophomore at Lake-view-Fort Oglethorpe High School.
Five female and five male singers were voted into the finals by viewers, then judges Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler added three wild-card finalists. Seacrest said 40 million votes were cast.
Also advancing was Paul McDonald, of Nashville. He is the son of Susan McDonald, a physical therapy instructor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Suddeth has been the female front-runner with "Idol" judges throughout the preliminary rounds. She has become the oddsmakers' best bet to take the Season 10 title. According to the gambling website, Bodog.com, Suddeth is the early favorite with 7-1 odds to win. McDonald is third at 8-1.