'She's still just Gina'
In some ways, Gina Glocksen's life has hardly changed since April, when she finished in the top 9 on "American Idol."
She still lives in the same Naperville townhouse, still has the red streak in her short black hair, still sings in local bars and is still in love with the same guy -- Neuqua Valley High School science teacher Joe Ruzicka, who is now her fiance.
Ruzicka proposed to Glocksen on stage at the Allstate Arena Aug. 7, during the "American Idols Live!" national tour.
When the pair marry in January 2009, fellow "Idol" contestant Haley Scarnato will be a bridesmaid and Phil Stacey's daughter will be a flower girl.
When not planning her wedding, Glocksen, 23, is making appearances, spending time with her family and friends, and working on a demo CD of rock music.
"It has a Pink-esque feel to it," Glocksen said.
Not surprising, given that she charmed millions of "Idol" viewers with her rocker-chick style.
Glocksen's writing the songs with friends in both Chicago and Los Angeles, and getting input from fellow "Idol" contender Chris Sligh.
Staying in Chicago is a priority to Glocksen.
"I'll move wherever I have to ... but if I can, I want to make it out here," she said.
Of course, Glocksen's life isn't really normal anymore. Fans scream at the sight of her and she rarely goes out in public without being asked to pose for photos or give autographs. She's become friends with singer Ryan Cabrera. The city of Naperville named a day after her.
Following "Idol," Glocksen left her job at a dental office in Worth and toured nationally with other "Idol" finalists. Since returning home this fall, she's been singing with Ruzicka's band, Then Again. The band is breaking up, but their final three performances are still to come: on New Year's Eve, and Feb. 8 and 9 at Joe's, 940 W. Weed St., in Chicago.
Whenever Glocksen sings, her fans turn out in droves. She is humbled by their love and loyalty, and some have sent her gifts like scrapbooks, portraits, stuffed animals and jewelry. One fan sent her blank sheet music, wanting her to write songs.
"It's insane. I have teenagers to 50-year-old women who tell me that I inspire them, and it's such an awesome feeling," she said. "It's cool that I can go out on the streets now and people know who I am."
Even Gina's mom, Nancy Glocksen of Tinley Park, has become a celebrity of sorts. Nicknamed "Mama G" by Gina's fans, she's also the recipient of gifts and letters, one of which thanked her for giving birth to Gina.
To Nancy Glocksen, it's all been surreal -- and wonderful.
"I can't believe that's my baby. I still pinch myself, 'Is this really happening?'" she said. "She's really just a normal 23-year-old. She's still just Gina."