American Idol's Carlson just a good Midwestern gal

It's amazing how a couple minutes on TV can turn into an all-out fan frenzy online. University of Minnesota student and Minnesota native Casey Carlson has only had a couple minutes in the spotlight in this season of American Idol, but fan sites have exploded and the buzz just won't quiet down. It doesn't hurt that Carlson has some pretty sexy bikini photos that turned into big news on TMZ. This is the real bikini girl, folks.

So the Pioneer Press delves into Carlson's past in Minnesota. And gosh darn it, she's a good hearty Midwestern lady who is going to make it big.

More from the Pioneer Press:

Eden Prairie High School choir instructor Julie Kanthak remembers Carlson as a hard-working teen.

"She's not just another pretty face. She's not just another pretty voice," Kanthak says about the 2006 grad. "She didn't smash other people on her way to the top. She was always humble and open to suggestions."

During her senior year, Carlson snagged the lead role in "Singin' in the Rain." But after doing musical theater at NYU one summer, she started to rethink her showbiz dreams.

"I think it was too early in my life for me to do something like move to New York and be in such a competitive environment," Carlson recalls. "I got really overwhelmed and thought that I wasn't cut out for the business. I was also really homesick, so I decided to move back to Minnesota and go to school at the U."

As if she could avoid it, Carlson responded to questions about her beach photo shoot, which she did to raise money for breast cancer. She says she knew they were out there, she wasn't going to hide it and she's proud of her work. We would be too if we looked that hot.

According to the story, Carlson has been playing music around town for a couple years at 7th St. Entry and the 400 Bar. She sang harmonies in a band with Andy Ulseth. "She's got the voice to sing Celine Dion, but she was way into indie rock," says Ulseth, who also says people also don't mind looking at her. That's a plus.

And if she gets kicked off the show, you'll probably find her back on campus, working at the Tea Garden. How adorable.

WATCH CARLSON TONIGHT: Carlson will perform tonight for America's votes and a possible spot in the Top 12. Catch the episode on Fox at 7 p.m.