Pia Toscano Pia Toscano

If timing is everything, then American Idol's Pia Toscano has a great internal clock. She wowed the studio audience — again — with her powerful vocals Wednesday night, singing Celine Dion's "All By Myself." "She's totally gonna win this thing," said someone in the crowd.

But it was last week's rendition of "I'll Stand By You" that really put the Howard Beach, New York native on the map. She received the first standing ovation from the judges after they had culled the singers to the Top 24 and she had to sing again to make it into the Top 13. How did she suddenly manage to steal the spotlight?

"I knew that had to be a big performance because it was the biggest cut in the competition," says Toscano, 22. "And although I did show what I could do (in earlier performances), I was always nervous."

Toscano says it was judge Steven Tyler who helped her break through those stage jitters. "He said, 'Use those nerves to your advantage. It's not fun without the butterflies. Stand your ground and make it work.'"

So Toscano stood still, held the mike and let it rip — really rip — for the first time. "I think I had been holding back a little bit," she says. "You never know how things are going to be perceived, and I guess I was playing it a little safe."

And now? "I've completely let go. Being on that huge stage, I am actually more comfortable doing that than the auditions in front of the three judges. When there's a crowd, that's my home."

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