What Every "American Idol" Winner Is Up to Now
When "American Idol" premiered on Fox in 2002, no one could have predicted the way it would impact culture forever. Of course, there are the most successful winners — Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood — who have shot to the top of the A-list. But many of the series's winners over its 21 seasons have continued to build steady careers. Fantasia Barrino, who won season three in 2004, has joined the cast of the upcoming "The Color Purple" movie musical, reprising the role she first brought to life in her Broadway debut in 2007. And during "American Idol"'s season 21 finale, season two winner Ruben Studdard reunited with his runner-up, Clay Aiken, for a performance with the new final two.
Over the years, the show has been canceled and rebooted on a new network (it moved to ABC in 2018), and 21 idols total have been crowned. While some have had more success than others, these 21 alums have released dozens of singles and albums, starred in Broadway shows, crossed the country on tours, and taken home a slew of awards.
Ahead, here's what every "American Idol" winner is up to now and all the work they've released since they were crowned.
Season 1: Kelly Clarkson
Kelly Clarkson was crowned the very first winner of "American Idol" in 2002 and has gone on to have an incredibly successful career. Since then, she's released nine studio albums, and her 10th album, "Chemistry," is out this summer. She's garnered an incredible 15 Grammy nominations and taken home three trophies.
On the TV side, Clarkson's served as a coach on "The Voice" for nine of the show's seasons, and in 2019, her own talk show, "The Kelly Clarkson Show," premiered. It's won 11 Daytime Emmys so far, including three for Clarkson's talents as host. Plus, we couldn't be more obsessed with her "Kellyoke" covers she frequently does on the show.
Season 2: Ruben Studdard
After beating out Clay Aiken in season two of the show in 2003, Ruben Studdard released seven studio albums, including his debut, "Soulful," which reached No. 1 on the US charts and featured his winner's single, "Flying Without Wings." In December 2018, he made his Broadway theater debut in a show with Aiken called "Ruben & Clay's First Annual Christmas Carol Family Fun Pageant Spectacular Reunion Show."
Studdard and Aiken appeared together on the 2023 "American Idol" finale and sang with the show's newest final two contestants.
Season 3: Fantasia Barrino
Fantasia Barrino — who also goes by her married name, Fantasia Taylor — has kept busy since winning season three of "Idol" in 2004. She's released seven albums, headlined three tours, made numerous TV appearances, and brought home a Grammy Award in 2011 for female R&B vocal performance. She starred in the Broadway productions of "The Color Purple" and "After Midnight." She's now set to star in the movie version of "The Color Purple" musical as the older version of Celie.
Season 4: Carrie Underwood
Carrie Underwood used the launchpad of "American Idol" — which she won in 2005 — to become one of the most successful country singers of all time. Her single "Inside Your Heaven" made her the only country artist to ever debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. She has released nine studio albums and overall has more than 85 Billboard No. 1s.
Season 5: Taylor Hicks
Taylor Hicks beat Katharine McPhee to win "Idol" in 2006 and then released his winner's single, "Do I Make You Proud?" He's since released three studio albums and spent a period of time playing Teen Angel in "Grease" on Broadway. He continues to make music and has performed in regional theater.
Season 6: Jordin Sparks
Jordin Sparks won "Idol" when she was just 17 in 2007, and she's still the youngest winner of all time. Her debut single, "Tattoo," peaked at No. 8 on the US charts and led to her self-titled debut album. In 2009, she was invited to perform at former President Barack Obama's inaugural ball and released her second album later that year. Since then, she's dropped two more albums, made various film and television appearances, and appeared on Broadway as Nina in "In the Heights" and as the lead in "Waitress." In 2021, she competed on "The Masked Singer," and a year later, she was a contestant on "Dancing With the Stars."
Season 7: David Cook
In the battle of the Davids, David Cook beat out David Archuleta to win "American Idol" in season seven, which aired in 2008. His winner's single, "The Time of My Life," peaked at No. 3 on the Hot 100 chart and joined 10 of his other songs that also debuted that week. He's released four albums and three EPs. He also starred in "Kinky Boots" on Broadway in 2018, and in 2021, he toured with fellow "American Idol" winner Kris Allen.
Season 8: Kris Allen
After beating Adam Lambert to take the "Idol" crown in 2009, Kris Allen released five studio albums, one of which included his hit single "Live Like We're Dying." He has released six albums as a solo artist and also formed a band called The Dames in 2017. He toured with season seven winner David Cook in 2021.
Season 9: Lee DeWyze
Upon winning his season of "American Idol" in 2010, Lee DeWyze released his winner's song, a cover of U2's "Beautiful Day," which is his highest-charting single to date. He's released six studio albums. His 2010 album, "Live It Up," was his best charting effort, reaching No. 19. His most recent album, "Paranoia," was released in early 2018 with the lead single "The Breakdown." He continues to share his music on Instagram and went on tour in early 2023.
Season 10: Scotty McCreery
Scotty McCreery released his debut album, "Clear as Day," soon after winning the 10th season of "American Idol" in 2011, and it quickly went platinum. He has since released three more studio albums and wrote a book in 2016 titled "Go Big or Go Home" about his life. He married his longtime girlfriend, Gabi Dugal, in the summer of 2018, documenting the big day in his video for "This Is It." That song hit No. 1 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart. In 2020, he released his new album, "You Time." In March 2023, he was featured in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum's newest exhibit, "American Currents: State of the Music."
Season 11: Phillip Phillips
Phillip Phillips dropped his winner's single, "Home," after the 11th season of "Idol" came to a close in 2012, and it sold more than five million copies. He followed it with his debut album, "The World From the Side of the Moon," which debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard chart and went platinum. He's released two more studio albums since, with a third, "Drift Back," set to be released this June. He appeared as a mentor on the 21st season of "American Idol."
Season 12: Candice Glover
Candice Glover auditioned for "Idol" a few times before taking the crown in the 12th season, which aired in 2013. Her debut album, "Music Speaks," was released immediately following her win and reached No. 3 on the US R&B chart. She hasn't yet released another album, but she did take part in a holiday stage production in NY with fellow music-show alums in 2017. Per her Instagram, she graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2022.
Season 13: Caleb Johnson
Caleb Johnson released his debut album, "Testify," very quickly after winning his season of "Idol" in 2014. He has since moved on from his label and is self-releasing his music, including an EP, "Born From Southern Ground." He's also joined Meatloaf's Neverland Express band. In 2023, they released "Paradise Found: Bat Out of Hell Reignited." Johnson also toured with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra in 2022.
Season 14: Nick Fradiani
Nick Fradiani won "American Idol" in 2015 and released his winner's single, "Beautiful Life," which peaked at No. 93 on the US charts, becoming the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup song. His debut album, "Hurricane," landed in 2016 and sold 5,000 units. He eventually parted ways with his record label. In 2017, he released the EP "Where We Left Off," and in 2022, he released his "Past My Past" album.
Season 15: Trent Harmon
After winning the last season of "Idol" on Fox in 2016, Trent Harmon released a self-titled EP before putting out a full-length studio album in 2018 called "You Got 'Em All." He released a new single, "There's a Girl," in 2021, and in 2023, he released the song "Heartbeat (Live)."
Season 16: Maddie Poppe
Maddie Poppe beat out Caleb Lee Hutchinson to win the first rebooted season of "American Idol," which aired in 2018. She's released two singles since winning the show, "Going, Going, Gone" and "Keep On Movin' On." She released an album called "Whirlwind" in 2019, and in 2020, she released "Christmas From Home." She's released four nonalbum singles since 2022, including "Screw You a Little Bit" and "Good Enough to Let You Go" this year.
Season 17: Laine Hardy
Laine Hardy was crowned the victor of season 17 in 2019. In 2021, he released his album "Here's to Anyone."
He was arrested in 2022 for allegedly bugging an ex-girlfriend's dorm room. In April 2023, the East Baton Rouge district attorney's office said he had enrolled in a pretrial diversion program and would not be formally charged if he followed the conditions set for him, per The Advocate.
Season 18: Just Sam
Just Sam won season 18 in May 2020. The final episodes of the season were held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They signed with Hollywood Records after they won the show but did not release any albums with them. They have released five nonalbum singles independently.
In April 2023, Just Sam began posting videos of themself singing in the New York City Subway on Instagram. "Back in 2021, I was super embarrassed to be going back to the trains. I didn't want people to know that I legit needed the money & I didn't want people to know that it wasn't optional," they wrote in a since-deleted Instagram caption, per The Sun.
"I was disappointed in myself for allowing myself to fall so low after winning 'Idol,' but then I had to take it easy on me and remember that I started my journey with 'Idol' at 20 years old. Not even knowing anything about Hollywood or the music industry," they continued. Just Sam also said they will one day tell their full story, but added for now, "I know that everything happens for a reason and I know that this too shall pass no matter what things may look like right now."
Season 19: Chayce Beckham
Chayce Beckham won season 19 of "American Idol" in 2021. The country singer released his EP "Doin' It Right" in 2022.
Season 20: Noah Thompson
Noah Thompson won season 20 in 2022. He's released three singles so far.
Season 21: Iam Tongi
Iam Tongi was crowned the newest winner on May 21, 2023. His first single is "I'll Be Seeing You."