Then + Now: ‘American Idol’ Winners
In its 12 seasons, ‘American Idol‘ has produced just as many winners — some of whom have more than proved they have the staying power (ahem, Kelly Clarkson), and others who have remained more under-the-radar since their big win. Curious to see where your favorite ‘American Idols’ are now? Keep reading to find out.
Kelly Clarkson (Season 1, 2002)
Then: Kelly Clarkson was just a 20-year-old Texan with a dream and a powerhouse voice when she beat out curly-haired Justin Guarini to be crowned the first-ever ‘American Idol.’ Her single, ‘A Moment Like This’ (seriously, how good was this song?!), went straight to No. 1 and even broke the record for biggest leap to to the top spot on the charts, a record previously held by the Beatles. (Seven years later, Clarkson broke her own record with ‘My Life Would Suck Without You,’ which leapt 96 spots to No. 1.)
Now: Clarkson has gone on to achieve enormous commercial success. She has won three Grammy Awards, almost all of her albums have been certified multiple times platinum and she’s even performed at President Obama’s 2012 inauguration ceremony. But what has brought the singer the most joy of all is her October 2013 marriage to Brandon Blackstock, and the recent news that the two are expecting their first child together.
Ruben Studdard (Season 2, 2003)
Then: Nicknamed the ‘Velvet Teddy Bear’ by host Ryan Seacrest, crooner Ruben Studdard edged fellow finalist Clay Aiken out of the competition by just a fraction of the public’s votes.
Now: Though he has been more under-the-radar in recent years, Studdard had hits after ‘Idol’ with his Westlife cover,’Flying Without Wings,’ and his own song, ‘Sorry For 2004,’ later venturing more into gospel music and taking on some acting roles. In addition to his career, Studdard has also taken some big steps towards improving his overall health, recently losing a whopping 112 pounds on ‘The Biggest Loser.’
Fantasia Barrino (Season 3, 2004)
Then: Fantasia Barrino was a single mother and high school dropout with a voice that earned her the title of the third ‘American Idol.’
Now: The Grammy Award-winning Barrino has gone on to achieve great success in her music career, producing three high-selling studio albums, starring in a Lifetime biopic about her life, and starring on Broadway in ‘The Color Purple’ and ‘After Midnight,’ both of which garnered her rave reviews from critics. Despite her professional success, however, Fantasia’s personal life has been far more tumultuous: In 2010, she attempted suicide after her technically-still-married boyfriend, Antwaun Cook, left her. His wife, Paula Cook, also sued Fantasia for pursuing a relationship with her husband despite knowing he was married (the judge ruled in the singer’s favor). As of late, Barrino’s home life has been more stable, and in 2011, she welcomed a son, Dallas, who joins big sister Zion.
Carrie Underwood (Season 4, 2005)
Then: Oklahoman Carrie Underwood became the first-ever country ‘Idol’ when she was crowned the winner in the show’s fourth season.
Now: Since winning ‘Idol,’ Underwood has become the best-selling ‘American Idol’ winner of all-time, transforming her into a country music superstar. All four of her albums have gone multi-platinum, and she has won dozens of accolades, including six Grammy Awards, 10 ACMs, 12 ACAs, and five AMAs. Most recently, Underwood famously expanded her repertoire into live theater, playing the starring role of Maria von Trapp in NBC’s ‘The Sound of Music Live!’
Taylor Hicks (Season 5, 2006)
Then: The silver-haired Taylor Hicks had long been a working musician when he won the title of ‘American Idol’ in Season 5.
Now: Immediately after winning ‘Idol,’ Hicks’ first single, ‘Do I Make You Proud,’ went gold, and he soon cashed in on his ‘Idol’ status by penning a memoir. Though Hicks’ debut album, ‘Taylor Hicks,’ went platinum, he later parted ways with his major record label and released his second album, ‘The Distance,’ on his own Modern Whomp Records. In 2008, Hicks joined the Broadway cast of ‘Grease’ as the Teen Angel, and since June 2012, has performed in residency at Bally’s in Las Vegas.
Jordin Sparks (Season 6, 2007)
Then: Jordin Sparks became the youngest-ever ‘Idol’ winner when she won the title in Season 6. Her inspirational “coronation song,” ‘This Is My Now,’ went on to sell two million copies following her win.
Now: Sparks released her self-titled debut album in November 2007, and it was certified platinum. (In addition to her hit song ‘Tattoo,’ this album features ‘No Air,’ Sparks’ catchy duet with Chris Brown, which is the best-selling single by an ‘Idol’ winner, selling over three million copies.) Since her debut, Sparks has continued to have success in the music industry, releasing 2009’s ‘Battlefield’ and touring with Jesse McCartney, the Jonas Brothers, and NKOTBSB. In addition to her singing career, Sparks has also ventured into acting, starring in the 2011 film ‘Sparkle,’ alongside Whitney Houston. She has been dating fellow singer Jason Derulo for two years, and rumor has it he’s going to pop the question over the holidays. (Eee!)
David Cook (Season 7, 2008)
Then: The lovably scruffy David Cook took the title of ‘American Idol’ for the show’s seventh season. A week after his win, Cook shattered records by having an unbelievable 11 songs in the Top 100 Billboard Chart. Dayum.
Now: Like the ‘Idols’ before him, David Cook’s self-titled, post-‘Idol’ debut album went platinum, selling over one million copies. In 2011, he released his second effort, ‘This Loud Morning,’ and plans to release his third in 2014. Cook, who is currently on tour, is also active in the fight against brain cancer, a disease which claimed his older brother in 2009.
Kris Allen (Season 8, 2009)
Then: Talented folk singer and multi-instrumentalist Kris Allen beat out fan-favorite Adam Lambert for the title of Season 8’s ‘American Idol.’
Now: Since his win, Allen has released two major albums and a Christmas EP. In 2009, his hit single ‘Live Like We’re Dying’ went platinum after selling almost two million copies. At the beginning of 2013, Allen was in a bad car accident that left him with a broken wrist and forced him to undergo two surgeries on his injury. In happier news, Allen also became a father for the first time in June of this year, welcoming a son with his wife (and high school sweetheart), Katy O’Connell.
Lee Dewyze (Season 9, 2010)
Then: Lee Dewyze was crowned the winner of ‘American Idol’s’ ninth season, and subsequently released his debut album, ‘Live It Up,’ in October 2013.
Now: Though Dewyze has been largely under-the-radar since his ‘Idol’ days, after he was dropped from his major record label, he signed with Vanguard Records and released his second album, ‘Frames,’ in August 2013.
Scotty McCreery (Season 10, 2011)
Now: Two studio albums and one Christmas album later, McCreery is doing well in the country genre, with millions of copies sold. In October 2013, his most recent album, ‘See You Tonight,’ debuted as the No. 1 country album (and No. 6 album overall) on the Billboard 200. Oh, and did we mention that he’s also a full-time student at North Carolina State University? Pretty freaking impressive, y’all.
Phillip Phillips (Season 11, 2012)
Then: Folk singer, guitarist and double-named Phillip Phillips didn’t let health woes keep him from achieving his dreams. Phillips may have suffered from severe kidney stones and had to have eight procedures during ‘Idol,’ but he still became the champion of ‘American idol’s’ eleventh season — beating out 16-year-old Jessica Sanchez for the title.
Now: Phillips has become quite successful post-‘Idol,’ with his hit single ‘Home’ selling over four million copies, receiving significant radio play and appearing in countless commercials, television shows, movies and even in spots for the 2012 Summer Olympics. After the release of his debut album, ‘The World from the Side of the Moon’, and its single, ‘Gone, Gone, Gone,’ Phillips went on tour with Matchbox Twenty as the opening act, and is currently supporting John Mayer on his ‘Born and Raised’ World Tour.
Candice Glover (Season 12, 2013)
Then: Candice Glover auditioned for ‘American Idol’ three times before finally making it past the third round. Guess the third time’s the charm, as Glover emerged as the ultimate victor in ‘Idol’s’ most recent season.
Now: Just two months after her big win, Glover embarked on the 2013 American Idols Live! Tour with the other Season 12 finalists. Now, the 23-year-old South Carolina native is gearing up for the release of her debut album, ‘Music Speaks,’ which is set to come out in February 2014.