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Contestants on American Idol don’t necessarily need to win the reality competition to accomplish fame. End the food of 18 seasons, a number of hopefuls have gone top top to develop careers that outshined the success the the series’ victors. Part have had hit albums, rather parlayed their fame right into acting gigs, and one also pivoted come a career in politics.

You are watching: American idol stars that made it big

As we gear up because that the premiere of Season 19, slated for February 14, 2021 top top ABC, let’s take a look in ~ the losers that still at some point proved they have actually what it takes to it is in a star.

Haley Reinhart

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Haley Reinhart, 30, finished in third place ~ above Season 10. She ultimately inked a address Interscope Records, and also The new York Times defined her 2012 debut Listen Up! as “a taut album full of meaty, more thick arranged pop-soul that suits she booming voice very well.”

Reinhart due to the fact that signed with music publisher Anthem Entertainment, but the switch from a significant label come an indie hasn’t pains her. In 2015, she collaborated through Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox to relax a jazzy sheathe of Radiohead’s “Creep.” It spent 58 consecutive mainly on the Billboard Jazz Digital song chart.


Another cover song—Elvis Presley’s “Can’t help Falling in Love”—hit 16 ~ above the Billboard us Adult contemporary Chart. It was additionally used in a commercial because that Extra Gum.

Reinhart is additionally taking tiny steps in the direction of an exhilaration career. Since 2015, she’s voiced bill Murphy in Netflix’s animated collection F is because that Family. And in 2020 she made she film debut in Robert Rodriguez’s We deserve to Be Heroes.

Katie Stevens

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Connecticut indigenous Katie Stevens was simply 16-years-old as soon as she auditioned because that American Idol in Boston. Once she advanced to Hollywood, then-judge Kara DioGuardi told the contestant, “You can be the potential winner.”

Unfortunately, the judge’s prediction to be off. Stevens landed in the bottom 3 on two episodes prior to she was got rid of in ninth place. While the wasn’t the deepest run, that didn’t gain in the way of future success.

Stevens placed singing on pause and tried her hand in ~ acting. The change proved to be a wise move. Indigenous 2014 until 2016, she played Karma Ashcroft top top the MTV rom-com collection Faking It. And since 2017, she has actually been the command actress ~ above the Freeform comedy-drama The bold Type. She character mrs Sloan is loosely based upon Joanna Coles, former editor-in-chief the Cosmopolitan magazine. The series, which complies with her life as a young woman in the big city, has actually received favorable evaluate from publications including Vulture, Vox, and also Vanity Fair.

Tori Kelly

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Hindsight is 20/20, but Tori Kelly is absolutely one that got away. She appeared on Season 9 the American Idol, however if friend blinked girlfriend may have actually missed her. Kelly made it come Hollywood yet was timeless axed as soon as the height 24 was cut to the top 12.

The 28-year-old to be undeterred by the elimination. In 2012, she released the self-produced EP Handmade song by Tori Kelly. Through the next year, she rental Scooter Braun together her manager and also was signed to Capitol Records.

Kelly’s 2015 debut album Unbreakable Smile was a hit. The document peaked in ~ number two on the Billboard 200, and its command single, “Nobody Love”, reached number 16 top top the Mainstream peak 40 chart.

For her second album, Hiding Place, Kelly won 2 2019 Grammy Awards (Gospel Album and Gospel Performance/Song).

She has also graced us with her voice in unanticipated forms. In 2016, she voiced Meena the elephant in the animated film Sing (she will additionally return in 2021 because that Sing 2). And also in 2020, she appeared as a seahorse ~ above The masking Singer. Kelly survived many of the series, just to be reduced from the final three.

Following she appearance ~ above the famous FOX program, she released the vacation album A Tori Kelly Christmas.

Lauren Alaina

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Season 10 runner-up Lauren Alaina walk not have to clinch the American Idol location to prove she worth. The 26-year-old has actually been singing because she was 3, so when she to be bested by Scotty McCreery in the finale, she still regulated to get encounters Interscope Records and Mercury Nashville.

Alaina released her first studio album Wildflower in 2011. It debuted in ~ number five on the Billboard 200, and its command single, “Like My mother Does”, struggle the top 40 top top Billboard’s Hot country Songs chart.

Her sophomore initiative was even better. “Road much less Traveled”, indigenous her 2nd album the the same name, to be her an initial number-one track on the Billboard country Airplay chart. Alaina fight again that same year once “What Ifs,” a participation with former classmate Kane Brown, simultaneously took the optimal slot top top five various charts. As of 2020, the single was certified 6 times Platinum.

Alaina is together comfortable in dance shoes as she is in prior of a mic. In 2019, she completed in the 28th season the Dancing with the Stars. She and partner Gleb Savchenko do it every the way to the finale, finishing in fourth place.

Todrick Hall

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Texas aboriginal Todrick Hall showed up on the ninth season that American Idol ~ wowing the judges with a self-composed song around the show. The 35-year-old made it under to the top 16 contestants, but he was eliminated after a power of “Somebody come Love” by Queen.

Hall hasn’t struggled because that work since his time top top the show. His main YouTube channel—which boasts a mix of music content and also parodies—has 3.58 million subscribers. And also in 2015, the starred in his very own MTV docuseries Todrick. you can likewise catch him as an occasional judge on RuPaul’s drag Race.

Hall has released 3 studio albums to date, including a holiday record, but he reflects the most promise on stage. Native 2016 come 2017, that performed in the Broadway musical Kinky Boots (the role was even readily available without an audition.) and from 2017 to 2015, he played attorney Billy Flynn in Chicago.

David Archuleta

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David Archuleta was simply 17 once he earned 97 million votes to end up being the runner-up on season 7 of American Idol. The capitalized ~ above his fresh-faced, squeaky-clean picture with his 2008 self-titled debut album. His very first single, “Crush”, was released much less than 3 months after ~ Idol’s season finale and peaked at number 2 on the Billboard warm 100.

A devout Mormon, the rising star took a two-year hiatus in 2012 to serve as a missionary in Chile on instead of of The Church the Jesus Christ the Latter-day Saints.

Archuleta has actually released a complete of ripe studio albums, his most recent gift 2020’s Therapy Sessions. The single “Just Breathe” was committed to frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and also money earned from YouTube views to be donated come the nonprofit organization straight Relief.

Katharine McPhee

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Season 5 runner-up Katharine McPhee couldn’t leaf out spirit singer (and winner) Taylor Hicks to take the title, yet that’s alright. American Idol was simply one protect against on a journey that led her to the stage and small screen.

McPhee’s self-titled debut album was released in 2007. The very first single, “Over It”, peaked in ~ number 29 ~ above the Billboard hot 100. Yet all the while, the young artist to be taking steps to boost her exhilaration career. She made a cameo ~ above Ugly Betty and appeared in the 2008 comedy The residence Bunny certification Anna Faris. She’s additionally had guest components on CSI: NY and also the NBC comedy Community.

McPhee to be given an ext prominent billing in NBC’s Smash and CBS’s Scorpion. She’s additionally an exceptional stage actress—in 2018 and also 2019, she starred together Jenna in the Broadway and West end productions that the musical Waitress.

Now 36, she is expecting her very first child with her 2nd husband, the legendary producer (and American Idol guest mentor) David Foster.

Kellie Pickler

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Country singer Kellie Pickler finished in sixth ar on American Idol’s fifth season, however her post-Idol job is nothing to sneeze at. The north Carolina native, 34, has released 4 studio albums come date. She debut, Small city Girl, was certified Gold and also boasts three singles the made in onto Billboard’s Hot country Songs chart.

In 2013, she partnered v Derek Hough to win the 16 season that Dancing with the Stars.

But Pickler fans appreciate her girl-next-door personality as much as her musical and dancing talents. Native 2017 come 2019, she and also media personality Ben Aron co-hosted the syndicated daytime talk show Pickler & Ben.

Clay Aiken

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Clay Aiken has had a busy and diverse career since losing to Ruben Studdard top top Season 2 that American Idol. In 2003, his album Measure of a Man debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. It to be certified dual Platinum and also was the highest-selling debut for a solo artist in 10 years.

Aiken had tiny spots ~ above a variety of TV shows (The Office, Drop Dead Diva, 30 Rock). In 2008, that made his Broadway debut together Sir Robin in Monty Python’s Spamalot. This significant the very first in a wire of stage performances (The Drowsy Chaperone, Joseph and also the amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Grease).

But his next relocate was the the very least expected. In 2014, the ran because that a chair in congress representing north Carolina’s 2nd congressional district. He winner the autonomous primary, yet the general election to be a repeat that his Idol run: incumbent Republican Renee Elmers defeated Aiken by practically 17 points.

Chris Daughtry

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After taking 4th place top top the fifth season of American Idol, Christ Daughtry went on to become the most successful masculine contestant in the background of the show.

In 2006, the aspiring rock star formed the tape Daughtry. Their self-titled debut album instantly take it the number one spot on the Billboard 200. It to be certified Platinum a stunning six times and had 4 singles the made it right into the optimal 20 top top the Billboard 100.

Like other previous contestants, Daughtry has spent current years sprucing up his exhilaration chops. The made his exhilaration debut in 2008 on an illustration of CSI: NY. In 2016, he played the component of Judas Iscariot in the Fox musical The Passion: Live.

But you wouldn’t acknowledge him if you experienced his many recent project. In 2019, he competed on the second season of The masking Singer. Daughtry to be disguised together a rottweiler together he deserve runner-up standing on the series.

Adam Lambert

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Season 8 runner-up Adam Lambert right waited because that American Idol to wrap once he jumped right into the studio to document his debut album. For your Entertainment, exit in 2009, debuted at number 3 top top the Billboard 200. “Whataya desire From Me,” one of its fight singles, earned him a 2010 Grammy nomination for finest Male popular music Vocal Performance.

Lambert’s second album, Trespassing, debuted at number one top top the Billboard 200, making him the an initial openly happy artist to earn the spot.

2011 significant the bear of Queen + Adam Lambert, a collaboration in between the legendary British absent band and the Idol alum. Their many recent relax is 2020’s Queen + Adam Live approximately the World, a live album featuring clip selected from over 200 concerts.

Lambert still functions on solo projects, too. In in march 2020, he released Velvet, his 4th studio album. It obtained favorable reviews, v Variety writer A.D. Amorosi relenten it together “grimily soulful and sleekly funky.”

Jennifer Hudson

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Jennifer Hudson take it seventh location on Season 3 of American Idol, but the artist still regulated to achieve an A-list job in rapid time.

To start, her duty as Effie White in the 2006 film adaptation of Dreamgirls earned her an Oscar for best Supporting Actress. She has actually since showed up in 13 more films, consisting of Sex and also the City, The an enig Life of Bees, and also Chi-raq. In 2021, Hudson will star together the late Aretha Franklin in the biopic Respect.

All that and she still managed to put out 3 albums. She 2008 yellow record, Jennifer Hudson, debuted in ~ number two on the us Billboard 200 and Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts. It additionally won the 2009 Grammy for best R&B Album.

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Hudson, like many of she peers, has been an huge success in the human being of theater. In 2015, she play Shug Avery in the Broadway resurgence of The shade Purple. For her work, she winner a Grammy for finest Musical theatre Album. Nobody else has actually never made shedding look so good.