The Most Memorable American Idol Contestants Of All Time And What They’re Up To Today

Matt Graves | April 2, 2019 4:29 pm

American Idol is one of the most successful TV programs of all time. When the show debuted more than 10 million people were tuning in every week. Viewers were given the ability to vote for their favorite singers, a format that proved addicting to audiences of all ages.

Despite the original run of the series ending on FOX in 2016, ABC revived the show in 2017. If you were a fan of the show in its heyday, you might remember some of your favorite, or least favorite contestants. This is what they’re doing now.

Melinda Doolittle Has Become A Host For A Few Shows

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Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Malaria No More
Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Malaria No More

Melinda Doolittle finished as the third place finalist on the sixth season of the series. Two days after the season finale, Doolittle appeared alongside the other top ten contestants on Larry King Live. She has participated in several episodes of a BlogTalkRadio show called Moments With Melinda.

Since 2011, Melinda has been co-hosting TVLine.com’s weekly American Idol recap web series, Reality Check, with Michael Slezak. Aside from music and talk shows, she wrote about her life in Beyond Me: Finding Your Way to Life’s Next Level.

Elliott Yamin Is A Spokesperson For Diabetes

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John Parra/WireImage/Getty Images
John Parra/WireImage/Getty Images

Elliott Yamin’s big, emotional vocals earned him a third-place finish in Season 5. Following his time on the competition series, the Los Angeles, California native has released four albums and two Christmas collections too. In 2015, his fourth record, As Time Goes By, was released exclusively for the Japanese market in 2015.

As a diabetic, Yamin supports and works as a spokesman for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. During October and November 2012, he was an integral part of the Big Blue Test campaign organized by Diabetes Hands Foundation.

Ace Young Headed To Broadway

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Walter McBride/Getty Images)
Walter McBride/Getty Images)

Ace Young would make it to the top seven before being eliminated the year Taylor Hicks won. After his elimination, Young was a guest and performed on MTV’s Total Request Live, becoming the first Idol contestant to be on MTV directly after elimination.

In 2008, the Colorado native would make his Broadway debut as Kenickie in the revival of Grease. After that, he took over the role of Berger in Hair, succeeding Will Swenson. After Hair, Young started a now-defunct music company, called “Young Brothers Entertainment.”

Bo Bice Is Raising Money For Worthwhile Causes

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Beth Gwinn/Getty Images
Beth Gwinn/Getty Images

Bo Bice was the closest contestant to beating Carrie Underwood in Season 4. Since his run on the show, he’s released three albums, all of which have landed in the Billboard 200. In October 2007, Bice made an appearance on the TV show American Chopper: The Series.

The American Choppers episode featured a custom-built Peavey Bike with a built-in guitar, microphone, and amp. The musician also guest-starred on the game show Don’t Forget the Lyrics!, winning the $50,00 grand prize for his charity, MusiCares.

Lauren Alaina Took The CMT’s By Storm

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Kevin Winter/Getty Images for dcp
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for dcp

Lauren Alaina made it to the Season 10 finale before ultimately being defeated by Scotty McCreery. She’s gone on to have a successful country music career with two studio albums under her belt. The singer even took home the New Artist of the Year Award at the 2012 American Country Awards.

Five years later, Alaina nabbed Breakthrough Video of the Year for “Road Less Traveled” at the CMT Music Awards. Throughout 2018, Alaina has toured with artists including Cole Swindell and Jason Aldean.

Diana DeGarmo Married Another Contestant And Joined Broadway

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Walter McBride/Getty Images
Walter McBride/Getty Images

Diana DeGarmo is married to former contestant, Ace Young. She rose to fame in 2004 as the runner-up of the third season of the series. The following year, she ventured into a career in musical theater. The Birmingham, Alabama native made her major stage debut as Maria in a production of West Side Story.

Following the production, DeGarmo followed up with her Broadway debut in a four-month run of Hairspray as Penny Pingleton. She made her television acting debut in a six-month arc as Angelina Veneziano on The Young and The Restless.

Scotty McCreery Is A Sports Fanatic

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Jason Davis/Getty Images for Pizza Hut
Jason Davis/Getty Images for Pizza Hut

A then-17-year-old Scotty McCreery took home Idol‘s top prize in 2011, winning over the judges and viewers with his penchant for impressively belting out country songs. After the win, McCreery released his debut studio album, Clear as Day, which became certified platinum.

Outside of music, the North Carolina native is an avid sports fan, blogging for Major League Baseball, McCreery on the Majors, which started in the 2013 season. In 2016, the musician performed the National Anthem before the New England Patriots AFC Championship Game.

Blake Lewis Leant His Voice For An Animated Series

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Tara Ziemba/Getty Images
Tara Ziemba/Getty Images

Long before Blake Lewis auditioned, he claimed he’d never seen an episode of the series. The lack of knowledge didn’t hurt him as the beatboxing singer finished second in Season 6. Lewis took part in the American Idols Live! Tour 2007, along with other contestants in the top ten.

Aside from the three albums, the musician made his voice acting debut in the English version of the anime series, Durarara!! in which he voiced Kasuka Heiwajima. However, he was replaced by Vic Mignogna in the show’s second season.

Kellie Pickler Won Dancing With The Stars

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Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

Kellie Pickler finished in sixth during Season 5, but she’s solidified her presence in the country music world. Pickler didn’t stop competing after American Idol, going on to win another reality competition with season 16 of Dancing with the Stars alongside pro dancer Derek Hough.

The country singer actively supports St. Jude Children’s Hospital, where she helps raise funds for N.C. Children’s PROMISE, to benefit the Children’s Hospital. Since 2017, she co-hosts the nationally syndicated daytime TV talk show Pickler & Ben with comedian Ben Aaron.

Phillip Phillips First Single Was A Massive Success

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Denise Truscello/WireImage/Getty Images
Denise Truscello/WireImage/Getty Images

Despite suffering from painful kidney stones throughout the competition, Phillip Phillips won the 11th season. He’s released three albums since his time on the show, with his debut single “Home” becoming a massive hit after it was featured by NBC in promos for the 2012 Summer Olympics.

However, it hasn’t been an easy road for the singer-songwriter, who filed legal papers in January 2015 to escape his oppressive contract with 19 Entertainment. The legal battle was settled in 2017, which meant he was able to release his third album Collateral.

William Hung Actually Made Albums

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Desiree Navarro/FilmMagic/Getty Images
Desiree Navarro/FilmMagic/Getty Images

William Hung immediately became a pop culture phenomenon thanks to his off-key rendition of Ricky Martin’s “She Bangs.” Even though he lacked musical talent, the one-time civil engineering student went on to record three albums.

However, William eventually retired from the music business to begin working as a technical crime analyst for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. He would return to the American Idol stage in 2016 when he performed during the farewell season finale. Two years ago, he gave a TEDx Talk entitled “Turning Failure Into Success,” kicking off his career as a motivational speaker.

Sanjaya Malakar Appeared On Other Reality TV Shows

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Steve Mack/Getty Images
Steve Mack/Getty Images

Sanjaya Malakar was a finalist on Season 6, and he was a standout from the rest of his competition, not just for his voice but his heartthrob status. After appearing on American Idol, Malakar went on to appear in another reality TV show; I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!

On the show, he earned the nickname “Jungle Boy” in recognition of how comfortable he appeared in the jungle. In 2017, he would lend his voice to the album Good Merlin by The Chaz Lipp Groove Tripp.

Clay Aiken Made A Run In Politics

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Roy Rochlin/Getty Images
Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

Clay Aiken has found much success in both his professional and personal lives. After finishing as the runner-up in the second season, the self-described Opie signed a contract with RCA, which produced his multi-platinum debut album Measure of a Man.

In August 2008, he announced the birth of his son, Parker, whose mother is Jaymes Foster, the sister of record producer David Foster. In 2014, he made a run for Congress in North Carolina’s Second District. He won the Democratic primary but lost to Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers in the general election.

David Cook Took His Musical Talents To Broadway

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Bruce Glikas/Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic/Getty Images
Bruce Glikas/Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Season 7 winner David Cook went to the American Idol auditions to support his brother, who failed to make the cut. After defeating David Archuleta in the well-fought finale, Cook released his self-titled, platinum-selling, major label debut album. He’s released three more studio albums as well as the EP Chromance.

In 2018, Cook would make his Broadway debut as Charlie Price in the musical Kinky Boots. He embarked on his Acoustic Tour, which ran from October to November. Additionally, the Texas native released a new single, “Death of Me.”

Ruben Studdard Struggled To Maintain Balance In His Life

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Roy Rochlin/Getty Images
Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

Ruben Studdard produced his first album, Soulful, after beating Clay Aiken on season two of American Idol. Since then, he’s struggled to maintain balance in his life. The “Velvet Teddy Bear” ended his three-year marriage with Surata Zuri McCants.

In 2013, battling with his weight, Studdard returned to reality television, competing on season 15 of The Biggest Loser. When the show ended, he took some time away from the spotlight, returning in 2018 with his Always & Forever national tour and a new album full of classic covers.

Justin Guarini Has Starred in Dr. Pepper Commercials

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Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images
Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images

Justin Guarini was the first-ever runner-up on the series. Alongside winner Kelly Clarkson, the two made the infamously bad movie From Justin to Kelly shortly after the season ended. Guarini would marry his childhood sweetheart, Reina Capodici, in 2009.

In 2010, he would make his Broadway debut in Women on the Verge of Nervous Breakdown. He’s had roles in American Idiot, Wicked, and Romeo and Juliet. Since 2015, Guarini has been starring as Lil’ Sweet in Diet Dr. Pepper television commercials.

Paul McDonald Has Had Quite The Personal Life

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Tara Ziemba/Getty Images
Tara Ziemba/Getty Images

Paul McDonald only finished eighth on Season 10, but he made major headlines thanks to his personal life. Life after American Idol seemed to be even better for McDonald than this time on the show. The singer met actress Nikki Reed while attending a premiere of Red Riding Hood in Los Angeles.

Eventually, they tied the knot in October 2011 but separated after less than three years of marriage in March 2014. Most recently, McDonald has been dating Walking Dead actress Emily Kinney. Together, the duo joined forces to create the band, The Sweetheart Deal.

Fantasia Barrino Faced Many Ups And Downs

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Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images
Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images

Fantasia Barrino didn’t allow her painful past to stand in the way of her competitive spirit. The singer claimed the top prize in American Idol Season 3. Following that, Barrino released her Grammy-nominated platinum debut album Free Yourself. The singer also penned a memoir, Fantasia: Life Is Not A Fairytale, and starred in the Lifetime biopic based on her book.

Even though she’s released five more albums since 2004, things haven’t been great. She allegedly had an affair with a married man named Antwaun Cook and was hospitalized for an aspirin overdose in 2010. Thankfully, she bounced back by welcoming her child, Dallas in 2011 and got married to Kendall Taylor in 2015.

Kris Allen

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Roy Rochlin/FilmMagic/Getty Images
Roy Rochlin/FilmMagic/Getty Images

In 2009, Kris Allen defeated Adam Lambert to win top honors during Season 8. Since his time on American Idol, Allen scored a major hit with the single “Live Like We’re Dying,” and released his self-titled debut album. Allen auditioned for the lead role in the 2012 musical film Rock of Ages but lost to Diego Boneta.

He has a strong proponent of music education, and since winning Idol, he became heavily involved with several charitable organizations. They promote music education, including the Music Empowers Foundation and Little Kids Rock.

Lee DeWyze Is Involved With Numerous Charitable Organizations

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Ted Soqui/Corbis via Getty Images
Ted Soqui/Corbis via Getty Images

Lee DeWyze was the Season 9 winner, and he was one of two contestants to never land in the bottom three. As a result of winning the competition, he became the headliner of the 2010 American Idols LIVE! Tour. Then, he performed the national anthem at the Staples Center for Game 2 of the 2010 NBA Finals.

With seven albums under his belt, DeWyze has been involved with numerous charitable organizations. Among his top charity work is The Heart Foundation’s “One for the Heart” Campaign where he provided his song “Fight” as a free download to anyone who donated to the organization.

Constantine Maroulis Has The Acting Bug

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Walter McBride/WireImage/Getty Images
Walter McBride/WireImage/Getty Images

Constantine Maroulis finished in sixth place on Season 4. The rocker would release his self-titled debut solo album in 2007. Maroulis has enjoyed a successful post-reality show Broadway career, scoring a Tony Award nomination for his lead role in Rock of Ages.

Additionally, he starred in the title role in Jekyll and Hyde, for which he received a Drama League Award Nomination for a Distinguished Performance Award. His acting has also included work in Law & Order Special Victims Unit, Z Rock, and Unforgettable.

David Archuleta Turned To The Church

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Paul Archuleta/Getty Images
Paul Archuleta/Getty Images

David Archuleta was only sixteen-years-old when he finished in second place on Season 7. But, losing to David Cook wasn’t it for him. The baby-faced singer has released six studio albums, including 2017’s Postcards in the Sky.

Aside from being a singer, the Miami native has some acting gigs from guest star spots on iCarly and Hannah Montana to starring in the Filipino show Nandito Ako. Aside from acting and music, Archuleta became a missionary for The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Chile for two years.

Taylor Hicks Debut Album Wasn’t So Successful

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Paul Archuleta/Getty Images
Paul Archuleta/Getty Images

Taylor Hicks was the salt-and-pepper-haired, harmonica blowing Season 5 crooner. With his win at age 29, Hicks became the oldest contestant to conquer the American Idol stage. His popularity on the show garnered a legion of followers who called themselves “Soul Patrol.”

Unfortunately, his self-titled debut album earned the distinction of being the lowest selling debut of any winner, and his record label Arista Records dropped him. Since then, he’s released two more albums and had a residency at Bally’s Las Vegas from 2012-2013. In 2016, Taylor began hosting the INSP original series State Plate, which recently wrapped up its third season.

Katherine McPhee Is A Musical Star

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Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Princess Grace Foundation-USA
Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Princess Grace Foundation-USA

Katherine McPhee was the runner-up after Taylor Hicks was crowned the season 5 winner. The “Over It” singer would release five albums, including a 2017 record that hit No. 2 on Billboard’s Jazz Album’s Chart. Outside of music, she’s well known for her acting career, which has seen her work appear both on TV and Broadway.

McPhee starred in the Lifetime TV movie The Lost Wife of Robert Durst as his first wife Kathie. In 2018, Sara Bareilles announced on her Twitter page that McPhee would be taking over the female leading role of Jenna in Waitress.

Carrie Underwood Had An Accident

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Sam Wasson/Getty Images for iHeartMedia
Sam Wasson/Getty Images for iHeartMedia

Season four winner Carrie Underwood took American Idol by storm. Her debut single, “Inside Your Heaven,” became the first released track in country music single to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Her debut album, Some Hearts went platinum seven times and she hasn’t skipped a beat since.

She married professional hockey player Mike Fisher in 2010 and on February 27, 2015, they welcomed their first child, Isaiah. In 2018, the girl from Checotah, Oklahoma suffered a gruesome fall and sustained a broken wrist as she ended up having surgery.

Jordin Sparks Is A Mom

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Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images
Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images

A seventeen-year-old named Jordin Sparks bested Blake Lewis on the Season 6 finale. The daughter of former NFL cornerback, Phillippi Sparks, went on to release a self-titled platinum-selling debut album in 2007. Since then, she’s released two more albums and appeared in films including Sparkle, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete and Left Behind.

In 2014, Jordin and Jason Derulo parted ways after three years as a couple. She would move on to a new man, Dana Isaiah and she announced they’d eloped in 2017. Their son, Dana Isaiah Thomas Jr., was born in May 2018.

Chris Daughtry Proved His Value

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Katja Ogrin/Redferns/Getty Images
Katja Ogrin/Redferns/Getty Images

Chris Daughtry was a big hit on Season 5, despite getting eliminated after making it to the final four. In 2006, the rocker went on to have a successful career, forming his band Daughtry shortly after leaving American Idol. The group picked up a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Song for their single “It’s Not Over,” in 2008.

In March 2016, he portrayed Judas Iscariot in the Biblical live version of The Passion. Away from music and acting, the self-proclaimed comic book nerd got to draw a Batman cover for DC comics in 2016.

Jennifer Hudson Is Now A Coach

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Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Jennifer Hudson is American Idol’s only contestant to win an Oscar and a Grammy. The Chicago native has come a long way since placing seventh place on the singing competition show.

Following her elimination and her performance in Dreamgirls, Hudson signed with Arista Record and released her self-titled debut studio album in 2008. In 2010, she became a spokesperson for Weight Watcher, which she credits for her 80-pound weight loss. Since 2017, Hudson has contributed as a coach on the UK and the US version of The Voice.