Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, Adam Lambert and Maddie Poppe: They're among the TV stars, pop stars and award-winners who got their starts on American Idol. The iconic reality-competition show returns Feb. 16 for Season 18 on ABC with host Ryan Seacrest, and judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie.
Clarkson set the standard for Idol contestants by launching a stellar music career including multiplatinum record sales and multiple Grammys.
Today, Clarkson is a judge on NBC's singing-competition series, The Voice. She hosts her own daytime TV show, The Kelly Clarkson Show. She and husband Brandon Blackstock are the parents of two children.
It's easy to forget that country music megastar Carrie Underwood started her chart-topping rise on American Idol. Multitudes of Grammys, Billboard Music Awards and CMAs later, she's still in her prime. She released a greatest hits album in 2014.
By Underwood's count, the singer has sold more than 64 million records worldwide. In 2019, she won her fifth CMT Artist of the Year award. In 2020, she is scheduled to release the part-memoir, part-health book, Find Your Path. Underwood married hockey star Mike Fisher in 2010; the couple has two children.
Lambert may not have won Idol in 2009, but it sure feels like it now that he tours the world with the legendary rock band Queen.
Lambert and Queen opened the 2019 Oscars telecast with booming renditions of "We Will Rock You" and "We Are the Champions." He's due to release his latest solo album, Velvet, in 2020.
Poppe originally auditioned for both Idol and The Voice. Although none of the judges turned around for her on The Voice, she won Idol in 2017. As of 2019, Poppe has released one studio album, Whirlwind. That same year she toured with singer Ingrid Michaelson.
Soulful powerhouse Barrino has had success in the studio and onstage, receiving multiple Billboard awards, a Grammy win and rave reviews for her Broadway stints in The Color Purple and After Midnight.
In 2018, Barrino performed at Aretha Franklin's funeral, and a year later was a featured singer at the Grammy Awards' tribute to Franklin. She released her sixth studio album, Sketchbook, in 2019.
Studdard snagged a Grammy nod in 2003, the same year as his Idol win. He went on to appear on Season 15 of The Biggest Loser, and release a Luther Vandross tribute album, Ruben Sings Luther. He made his Broadway debut alongside Idol chum Clay Aiken in Ruben & Clay's First Annual Christmas Carol Family Fun Pageant Spectacular Reunion Show.
Back in 2005, Sparks became the youngest American Idol winner ever at the ripe old age of 17. She went on to release several successful singles including "Tattoo," "Battlefield," and "No Air" featuring Chris Brown. She starred along with the late Whitney Houston in Houston's last film, Sparkle, in 2012. Sparks had a very public breakup with singer Jason Derulo in 2014.
Sparks, seen at Grammy Gift Lounge in 2020, is married to the model Dana Isaiah. The two tied the knot in 2017. The couple has a son.
Although she didn't make it as far as expected on the reality series, Hudson truly catapulted to the top with her Oscar-winning performance in Dreamgirls, later winning two Grammy Awards as well.
Hudson is all over TV, film and music. She's been a judge on NBC's The Voice, had a reoccurring role on Fox's Empire, and starred as Grizabella in the 2019 movie version of Cats.
Soul Patrol! The then-29-year-old Hicks became the oldest contestant to clinch the top Idol spot in 2006. The blues/soul/country performer has gone on to release three studio albums. From 2016-2018, he hosted a food series for INSP, Slate Plate.
Since winning Idol in 2011, McCreery has seen a successful career in country music. He won Best New Artist at the ACMs in 2012. In 2018, his single, "Five More Minutes," reached No. 1 on the country charts. He was married in 2018 to longtime girlfriend Gabi Dugal.
Since his Idol win in 2008, Cook has consistently worked at performing as well as writing songs for other artists. After serving as a mentor for the newest crop of Idol hopefuls in 2014, he debuted a new single and a slate of tour dates to promote his third studio album. In 2018, he made his Broadway debut in the musical, Kinky Boots.
Allen and his ubiquitous guitar have been making sweet music together since his 2009 series win. In 2018, he joined the American Idol Live! Tour as a special guest. In 2020, he was to hit the road with fellow former Idol champ David Cook.
Unlike most winners' debut singles, Phillips' coronation song, "Home," was actually good, and was soon exploited by seemingly every commercial in 2012. While he struggles with the same congenital kidney condition that hindered him on Idol, he forges on in his career with three studio albums under his belt to date.
Following that disastrous From Justin to Kelly movie, Guarini bounced back fairly well, transitioning into a successful Broadway career. On stage, he has had roles in American Idiot, Romeo and Juliet and Wicked. The former Idol star starred in Diet Dr Pepper commercials as the character Lil' Sweet.
Katharine McPhee transitioned from American Idol to be a full-fledged hyphenate: singer-actress. McPhee made her big-screen debut with a role in The House Bunny. The California native had starring roles on the NBC's Smash and CBS' Scorpion. In 2018, she made her Broadway debut in Waitress. In 2019, she wed music producer David Foster.
He may not have won Idol, but he won the hearts of viewers, voted as TV Guide's most-loved reality star of all-time in 2003. In 2014, the North Carolina native ran an unsuccessful bid for a seat in Congress. In 2018, he starred alongside Ruben Studdard in their first joint Broadway show.
After losing out on the American Idol crown in 2008, Archuleta released a self-titled album. His single "Crush" made it to the No. 2 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. He has since released multiple albums, including 2009's Christmas from the Heart. He continues to record and play live shows.
Her first post-Idol album, Music Speaks, is still her only studio album, peaking at No. 14 on the Billboard 200. In 2017, she appeared in the limited-run Broadway concert, Home for the Holidays.
Caleb Johnson made a quick turnaround from his weeks on the air to officially joining the music scene. Wasting no time, his first album, Testify, came out a mere four months after winning the Idol title. In 2018, Johnson toured and performed with Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
Keeping a lower profile than many past winners, DeWyze bounced back from a tepid debut album with a critically acclaimed follow-up, Frames, and the single "Blackbird Song," featured on AMC's The Walking Dead.
Taking the road less traveled for most rockers, Chris managed to use his time on the reality competition to his benefit when founding the rock band Daughtry. From 2006-2018, the group released five studio albums, four of them earning gold- or platinum-selling status. The band has racked up four Grammy nominations and five American Music Award wins.
The pint-sized singer with a showstopping voice, Jessica Sanchez came close to clinching the Idol win in 2012. She has gone onto release one studio album, 2013's Me, You and the Music. She continues to drop new music, and she performed on the 2019 season finale of Idol Philippines.
Carrie Underwood eventually beat out Pickler on the show, but the country songstress developed her own prosperous country music career. Better still, Pickler snagged the top prize on another popular reality series, Dancing with the Stars. From 2017-2019, she co-hosted the Daytime Emmy-nominated talk show, Pickler & Ben.
You likely remember Malakar because of that little crying blonde girl the camera cut to during one of his Idol performances from 2007. The Seattle-born singer was a considered a teen heartthrob on the show due to his baby-faced looks, shy smile and hair (lots of it). Post-Idol, Malakar has lent his voice to the 2017 album, Good Merlin,from the group, the Chaz Lipp Groove Tripp.
On Idol in 2008, Castro was known for his sultry surfer vibe, signature dreadlocks, and a rendition of "Hallelujah" that spurred interest in the Jeff Buckley original. Post-show, Castro changed his look, but continues to sing and perform, most recently with the family band, Castro.
The former Beach Avenue lead singer wrapped up the American Idol LIVE! tour in late 2015. In 2017, he released an EP, and co-headlined a tour with the band, the Alternate Routes.
Harmon won Idol in 2016, and signed with Big Machine Records. Later that year, he had his first Top 30 hit with "There's a Girl." In 2018, he released his debut album, You Got 'Em All.
Hardy originally auditioned for Season 16 of Idol but did not make it through. In 2018, Hardy released his first EP, "In the Bayou." In 2019, he announced a 13-date tour.
The man who started it all, Simon Cowell, was the no-nonsense host for nine seasons. After Idol, Cowell was nowhere near done. Since 2016, he has been a judge on NBC's America's Got Talent, which he created.
Clark Beckham's soulful voice got him to the final round of American Idol's 14th season. In 2017, he signed with music legend's Quincy Jones' management company, and released a single, "I Need."
Paula Abdul brought caring judgement to American Idol. Her quips with Simon Cowell were priceless. Leaving American Idol in 2009, the singer and choreographer took her judging abilities to So You Think You Can Dance. In 2019, Abdul performed a medley of her greatest hits at the Billboard Music Awards.
In 2013, Jackson became the last original Idol judge to leave the show (though he returned as an on-air mentor during 2014's Season 13). The legendary bassist and music exec went on to establish a nutritional supplement company.
Remember him? Think way back to Season 1 of American Idol when there were not one but two hosts. Dunkleman left the show to pursue his career, leaving Seacrest to host solo. Post-Idol, Dunkleman has done stand-up, and appeared on TV series such as My Name is Earl and Drawn Together.
You know exactly what Ryan Seacrest as been up, so we won't bore you with his extensive resumé (radio, television, production, etc.). Just enjoy the vintage image from the first season on the left. Aww!