Singer Allison Iraheta a child of "Idol"

LOS ANGELES Fri Feb 27, 2009 8:18pm EST

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "American Idol" contestant Allison Iraheta, 16, -- the youngest singer so far this year to reach the coveted Top 12 stage of the television talent contest -- said on Friday she had wanted to audition since the show began in 2002, when she was 9.

But red-haired Iraheta said her young age gives her no edge or disadvantage. "We're all here for the same thing and it depends on how much we want it," she told reporters in a telephone conference call.

Two years ago, the bilingual Iraheta won a singing competition on Spanish-language TV network Telemundo, an experience she said compares only slightly to the magnitude of the "Idol" stage.

But it was "Idol" that Iraheta really wanted to try out for, and she did as soon as she reached the eligible age of 16. The teen, whose parents are from El Salvador, said she saw no advantage in waiting until she was older.

"It would have been the same, I would have still wanted it as much as I do now," Iraheta said.

Iraheta is the only teenager so far this season to have been voted into the Top 12 after the eliminations of Stevie Wright, 17, Jasmine Murray, 16, and 18-year-old Michavonna Henson. Four teens will take the stage next week.

Adam Lambert, 26, and Kris Allen, 23, also advanced to the top 12 on Thursday.

"American Idol," which has more than 24 million viewers per episode, reaches its climax in May when the season champion will be crowned by the show's audience.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by )

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