With a dental makeover and a new attitude, dreadlocked American Idol runner-up Crystal Bowersox is hard at work on her debut album — available next year — and breaking her silence her struggles leading up to the shocking finale, how Idol shaped her career, and being a single mom to her young son in the new issue of Redbook.

Crystal On Being on American Idol: “I went into the Idol audition with no expectations; that’s just the kind of person I am. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t hurt so badly, you know? But once I made it past the first round, and the second, and third—I started to realize, Maybe my goals and dreams really are attainable….It was hard, and I did go talk to Ryan [Seacrest] at one point because he works 24/7 and I knew he would understand. He gave me the best advice: He said the best thing I could ever do was work hard enough now so I could take care of my family. And it’s true. Sometimes you have to work really hard and make sacrifices so you can provide for the people you love.”

On Breakup with BF Tony on Eve of Idol Finale: “I really want to clear up some misunderstood stuff about Tony’s and my breakup the night of the Idol finale, and let people know how amazing he was through the whole process. I feel like he’s getting portrayed as this person who up and left me on the biggest day of my life, and that’s not the case at all. I mean, he’s getting hate mail and horrible messages online. So I want to make clear how amazing, kind, and generous a person he is, and that he truly considers my son his son and little Tony loves him. He’s been there since my son was about 3 months old. And in a lot of ways, he’s the perfect man; he really is. But ultimately, we both knew it wasn’t going to work out, considering the different lives we were leading. And it’s better to come to that realization than to have an unhappy relationship. Mommy and Daddy need to be happy in order for baby to be happy.”

Scariest Idol Moment: “During Idol, I really hadn’t been taking great care of myself. You want to forget you’re diabetic for a while, and maybe you don’t watch yourself as well as you should. I ended up getting sick in March, and they told me I was off the show. I wasn’t going to take that. I begged, I screamed, I pleaded. I said, ‘I want to meet with the head honchos. I need this so bad for my kid. I’ll go home if I’m voted off, but not because of this.’ That’s the one time I threw a huge fit, and thankfully, they gave in.”

On Motherhood: “Tony’s first word this morning was happy. I am not joking….He sits up and he looks at me and he goes, ‘Happy.’ And I almost cried. I’m like, ‘Really?’ I’m doing something right and it feels so good. To me, the definition of success is happiness.”

The August issue of Redbook hits newsstands July 20.

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