As TV viewers we are getting ready to say goodbye to one of the most watched TV shows of all-time—American Idol. Even if you haven’t watched it in years, it’s hard to overlook how the reality show has changed and shaped pop culture.
It has given us TV stars, film stars, music stars and even Broadway stars. We are saying farewell to American Idol with a look at seven of the shows biggest stars.
The first American Idol has become a major thread in pop culture DNA. Kelly Clarkson has over 8 number-one hits, with albums ranging from pop-rock to Christmas classics. Kelly recently returned to American Idol to sing her new hit “Piece by Piece” and blew viewers and the current judges away.
Jennifer Hudson didn’t win her season of American Idol. But she did win an Academy Award for her role in Dreamgirls a few years later. (She’s the only AI veteran to achieve that honor.) She also is a Grammy winner for her self-titled album Jennifer Hudson and continues to make critically acclaimed albums and movies.
Another superstar Idol who didn’t win, Katharine McPhee has had one heck of a career. She released two pop albums, Katharine McPhee and Unbroken early in her post-Idol career, along with a Christmas album. She also starred in NBC’s critically acclaimed (but short-lived) series SMASH. It seems to have sparked an interest in acting for her because she’s currently starring in Scorpion on CBS.
Carrie Underwood may be a country darling now, but she started out as an American Idol hopeful (and eventual winner). Now, she’s got four Grammys and 21 hit singles under her belt. Carrie’s not only one of the best singers to come out of the competition but she’s bridged the gap between country and pop music, allowing her to reach more people.
American Idol seems to produce some amazing losers because Adam Lambert didn’t win his season but has a career that gives a lot of the winners a run for their money. The “Ghost Town” singer started his post-Idol career with his album For Your Entertainment. He not only got the perform on tour with the band Scissor Sisters but he also toured with Queen, standing in for the legendary Freddie Mercury.
Season 2 runner-up Clay Aiken had a modest singing career after American Idol, later turning to politics. He ran for Congress in the state of North Carolina, winning the Democratic nomination but eventually losing the election. The whole thing was turned into an insightful documentary for Esquire Network.
Season 3 winner Fantasia Barrino had a few personal scandals at the beginning of her career that threatened to end her dreams, but she pulled it together and has been creating critically acclaimed music ever since. She’s also performed on Broadway in the original production of The Color Purple and starred in a film about her life, opposite Viola Davis.