Remember American Idol Winners? Wonder Where Are They Now?

Dreams do come true. American Idol changed the television landscape with its unique combination of great entertainment and high-energy performances. People take risks to join the reality competition thinking that they should showcase what they’ve got and that they deserve a spot. 

The series was released on Fox in 2002 with an all-star jury that included Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson of American Idol introducing Kelly Clarkson, who would become the show’s first breakout star.

Cowell said in an interview with, “I actually, genuinely do not believe we would be sitting here today if you hadn’t entered the show that year. The whole premise of the show was, we had to find a star who was gonna sell records. We found some great people that whole year, but when you delivered that moment on that first live show, and you sang that winning song at the end..”

Jackson added, “We looked at each other at the end of the finale and said, ‘Wow, this thing is really gonna work.’ I think that was the moment that we knew.”

It was the show that launched superstars, touched hearts, and created spectacular moments. A pop culture phenomenon that produced winners like Ruben Studdard, Carrie Underwood, and Jordin Sparks. A series of contests also turned non-winners – including Chris Daughtry, Adam Lambert, and Jennifer Hudson.

American Idol is over, and we know what you’re thinking. What do they do now?

Kelly Clarkson 

After winning her first title, the Texas-born girl signed a recording contract with RCA Records and released her debut album in 2003. Clarkson starred in the movie From Justin to Kelly with Season 1 runner-up Justin Guarini. She released eight studio albums and won three Grammy Awards, including  Best Pop Vocal Album in 2006 and 2013. She released a children’s book, River Rose and the Magical Lullaby, in 2016.

The singer married talent manager Brandon Blackstock in 2013, and Us confirmed she filed for divorce in June 2020. The couple are  parents to daughter River Rose and son Remington

Ruben Studdard 

Studdard – who was dubbed the “velvet bear” of American Idol – defeated season 2 runner-up Clay Aiken in 2003. Studdard released his debut album Soulful, which reached No.  1 on the chart.  The Alabama native released a gospel album in 2004 before returning to R&B in 2006 with  The Return.  He released his last album, Ruben Sings Luther – in memory of the late Luther Vandross – in 2018. 

Studdard returned to reality television when he appeared on season 15 of The Biggest Loser as the show’s first celebrity contestant. He married Zuri McCants in 2008, but the couple divorced in 2012.

Fantasia Barrino

The North Carolina native released her Grammy-nominated debut album Free Yourself in 2004 after winning her third season. She later won 12 Grammy nominations and 1 Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance in 2011. Barrino recorded a total of seven studio albums, including her 2019 album Sketchbook. The singer made her Broadway debut, appearing in the 2007 musical The Color Purple and 2013’s After Midnight. 

Barrino married a businessman in 2015. In May 2021, the couple had their first child, a daughter, Kezia. Barrino is also the mother of her daughter Zion and her son Dallas.

Carrie Underwood

Underwood took the title in season 4 in 2005, before releasing her debut album Some Hearts, which included her singles “Jesus Take The Wheel” and “Before He Cheats”.  The Tennessee native has recorded six studio albums and has won seven Grammy Awards, more than her  Idol Winners. 

Underwood married hockey player Mike Fisher in 2010. The couple named their son Isaiah.

Taylor Higgs 

Hicks beat 2nd place Katherine McPhee in their fifth season in 2006 with the help of their dedicated Soul Patrol fans. Later that year, he released a debut album of his own title. After his record sales were poor, Hicks left the label in 2008 to start his own label, Modern Whomp. The Alabama native has recorded three studio albums and released his latest single “Six Strings and Diamond Rings” in 2017. Hicks joined the national tour in 2009 after starring on Broadway in Grease in 2008.

He got a Las Vegas residency in 2012. Hicks is a co-owner of Saw’s Juke Joint in Birmingham, Alabama, and host of INSP’s State Plate food and travel program.

Jordin Sparks

Sparks released their first self-titled album in 2007 after winning season 6 that year.  The album included the hit singles “Tattoo” and “No Air” featuring Chris Brown. Arizona native appeared alongside the late Whitney Houston in the 2010 Broadway musical In  Heights and the 2012 film The Glitter.  Later that year, she returned to the music scene with the #ByeFelicia mixtape.

David Cook 

After winning their seventh season in 2008, the Rocker released a self-titled album containing the single “Time of My Life” in November 2008. Cook left the label in 2012 to begin releasing music  with his own band, the Midwest Kings. In 2018, he appeared in the Broadway musical Kinky Boots and  released an EP called CHROMANCE later that year. 

Rachel Stump, from Texas, married in 2015.

Chris Allen 

Allen defeated the fan-favorite Adam Lambert in his eighth season in 2009. A few months later, he released a self-titled album containing the single “Live Like We’re Dying”. Allen’s last studio release was Letting You In in 2015. 

Allen married her high school girlfriend, Cathy O’Connell, in 2008. The couple has sons Marlowe and Oliver and a daughter Rose.

Lee Dwise 

The Illinois native won season 9 in 2010. After some time, he signed with RCA Records and released his debut album, Live It Up. DeWyze has released six studio albums that include songs from TV shows such as The Walking Dead, Shameless, Nashville, Elementary, and Suits. His latest album Oil & Water was released in 2016 and debuted in the Top 10 on Billboard’s folk music charts. 

DeWise married actress Jonna Walsh in 2012.

Scottie McCreary 

McCreary was a 2011 Season 10 winner and became the youngest man to hold the title at the age of 17. Later that year, he released his platinum debut album, Clear as Day. 

 The country singer has released three studio albums, including the 2018 album Seasons Change, and has toured with Brad Paisley, The Band Perry, and Rascal Flatts. McCreery wrote his 2016 memoir, Go Big or Go Home:  Journey Toward the Dream. 

 The North Carolina cruiser married Gabi Dougal in 2018.

Phillips Phillips 

The Phillips won  11 games in the 2012 season. In the season finale, he sang his song ‘Home’, which became an idol’s coronation song. It peaked at #2 on the Billboard chart, and in 2014, the second album ‘Behind Light’ was released. . The lawsuit was closed in 2017. 

Phillips released their first studio album since 2014, their 2018 album Collateral. He married Hannah Blackwell in 2015.

Candice Glover 

Glover became the first female American Idol winner since Sparks in 2013 season 12. A year later, she released her debut album Music Speaks. After a break, the South Carolina native released the single “My Mistake” in 2017 and the song “Break Me” in 2018. 

In 2017, she appeared in the Broadway musical Home for the Holidays.

Nick Pradiani 

 The Connecticut native released their debut album, Hurricane, after winning season 14 in 2015. Two years later, Fradiani broke up with the Big Machine Records label. 

He began touring nationally in the 2019 Broadway musical A Bronx Tale.

Trent Harmon 

 Harmon was the  winner of Season 15, 2015, which was the breakup season for the original idol. He released his debut single “Falling” shortly after winning. His debut album ‘You Got ‘Em All’ was released in 2018. He left the Big Machine Records label in 2019

Maddy Poppe 

Poppe is the winner of season 16  and the first since the series was revived on ABC in 2018. The Iowa native released her first studio album Whirlwind in 2019. In 2019, she joined Ingrid Mikaelson on an American drama tour.

lane hardy 

 The 17th season winner took the crown in 2019 and continued his win with his debut single ‘Flame’. Later that year, the Louisiana native made headlines on his first tour. In 2020, he released two new songs, ‘Ground I Grow Up On’ and ‘Let There Be Country’.

Just Sam

The season 18 contestant was crowned the first at-home winner of American Idol in 2020.

Chase Beckham 

The country star told the Los Angeles Daily News before winning American Idol Season 19 in May 2021 that she has no plans to slow down after the contest.