Here's What Many Forgotten American Idol Stars Are Up To Now

Celebs March 15, 2018 By Hugo

American Idol had a profound impact on reality tv the moment Simon Cowell set foot on American soil as the pantomime British villain intent on finding a megastar and crushing the dreams of weak singers who dared to think they were good enough.

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Accompanying Simon on the judging panel was Paula Abdul and Randy Travis, who together, made for a dynamic trio that made the show an instant hit. However, while the show may no longer be around, there have since been various spin-offs, including the X Factor and America's Got Talent, the former of which was responsible for discovering Cowell's most prized asset, One Direction. 

Yet there have been countless other acts that haven't lasted the test of time. Some American Idol contestants, such as Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, went onto have lucrative careers, but can you remember the contestants that are no longer in the public eye?

1. Justin Guarini

Remember him? Justin Guarini was that fuzzy-haired runner-up on the first season way back in 2002! While his vocals were incredible, he never quite managed to forge a career as a solo artist the way season 1 winner Kelly Clarkson did, but in the intervening years, he's certainly found success in other facets of the business.

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Not only does he now look great, the original runner-up has spent his time in musical theater, and has also served as a commentator for various entertainment shows.

2. Ruben Studdard

Following on from the success of season 1 and the fanfare that surrounded the career of Kelly Clarkson, hopes were high that season 2's winner would go onto similar success, but it didn't quite work out for Ruben Studdard.

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Unfortunately, the friendly giant never achieved the same level of fame, but he's still singing, recording, and working!

3. Fantasia Barrino

Season 3's winner has faded deep into the abyss of Hollywood's has-been stars, which is actually the case for most reality stars and acts who go on shows like American Idol- even if they win the whole thing.

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Today, the distinctive personality has branched out into acting, where she gained rave reviews for playing herself in the Lifetime movieThe Fantasia Barrino Story: Life is Not a Fairy Tale.

4. Clay Aiken

While many American Idol contestants remain hellbent on pursuing a career in music long after the series has finished, season 2 runner-up Clay Aiken went down the more unconventional route of politics! 

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While Aiken had a few famous hits, he also ran an unsuccessful campaign to be a representative for North Carolina's second congressional district. He also hit the headlines for coming out as gay and caring for the son he had with a surrogate mother.

5. Jordin Sparks

Moving onto season 6, American Idol had established itself as one of the most successful shows in the world, and expectations for Jordin Sparks were high when she won season 6.

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However, Sparks didn't quite have the luck of previous winners, but she continues to record music and has also appeared in some musicals. Sparks also dated the pop star Jason Derulo. 

6. Katharine McPhee

Season 5 runner-up Katharine McPhee released a few singles after her success on the show, but her sales were never high enough to convince Simon Cowell that she warranted a long-term career as a recording artist.

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Nonetheless, her acting career has fared much better, and you can now see her on the hit CBS show, SCORPION.

7. Kris Allen

Kris Allen may not be the first name that springs to mind when thinking of past American Idol winners, but he has continued to release music, with his latest album, Letting Go, released to critical acclaim.

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While nowhere near the sales of his self-titled major-label debut, his American Idol fame has been enough to support his career in independent music.

8. Kellie Pickler

Though she may not boast the international record sales of Kelly Clarkson or even the country acclaim of Carrie Underwood, Kellie Pickler, a country artist herself, only took home 6th place in American Idol, but became a country music superstar soon after.

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She also won Dancing with the Stars along with dance partner Derek Hough, the brother of the Hollywood actress Julianne Hough. 

9. David Cook

Season 7 winner David Cook has pretty much flown off the radar since his 15 minutes of fame elapsed, and though his self-titled debut went platinum, his music career soon ground to a halt.

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Today, Cook can be seen playing Charlie Price in the Broadway adaptation of Kinky Boots.

10. Chris Daughtry

Taking away the success of Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson and Adam Lambert, season 5 finalist Chris Daughtry is arguably the most famous contestant to have come from the show.

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While not an arena-selling musician like the artists above, he continues to perform around the country with his namesake band, which isn't bad for a 4th-placed finalist.

11. Bo Bice

The shaggy-haired rocker was a runner-up on season 4 of the show, but his success was ephemeral after being dropped by his record label a few years later.

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Bice has since founded his own record label and tours with his new band, Blood, Sweat, & Tears.

12. David Archuleta

The fresh-faced runner-up of season 7 soon became a heartthrob among teens for his sweet voice and angelic looks, but even the fandom spawned from his appearance on the show wasn't enough to build a successful recording career post-Idol.  

Shutterstock/ Kathy Hutchins

Nowadays, Archuleta appears to have turned his back on the entertainment industry having spent time serving as a missionary in Chile as required by the Church of Latter-Day Saints of which he is a member.

13. Lee DeWyze

Remember Lee? American Idol's season 9 winner has managed to make a decent living out of music since his win.


Though DeWyze will never be a household name like Clarkson and Underwood, he does sometimes get the occasional hit like "Blackbird Song" which was used in the AMC series The Walking Dead. Because of its popularity, it became the second most viral song on Spotify that week.

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