‘American Idol’ Runners Up List: Where Are They Now?

Now that we’re all caught up on our favorite American Idol winners, we’re turning our attention to all the talented singers who came in second place. Quite a few went on to launch hugely successful careers (oh hey, Adam Lambert) while others ventured into new territories, like acting and politics. But if there’s anything we’ve learned from this talented group, it’s that runners up can also make it big.

So, is Justin Guarini still pursuing music? And what has Crystal Bowersox been up to these days? As we celebrate the milestone 20th season of the competition series, we’re revisiting the full American Idol runners up list to see where they are now.

Kelly Ripa’s ‘American Idol’ Audition Will Shock You (in a Good Way)

Season 1: Justin Guarini

Yes, we’re totally guilty of shipping Kelly Clarkson and Guarini as a couple after they filmed From Justin to Kelly. But aside from making a musical rom-com, he released two studio albums, partnered with Dr. Pepper (you might remember him as “Lil’ Sweet”) and even appeared on Broadway, making his debut in the musical Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.

Since then, the actor and singer has starred in at least a dozen more plays, including Rent, Chicago, Wicked and his latest work, Once Upon a One More Time. Additionally, he released a best-selling book called Audition Secrets.

Season 2: Clay Aiken

This vocal powerhouse went from winning hearts on the American Idol stage to winning votes as a determined Southern politician. He released six studio albums and sold more than 5 million copies, making him the fourth highest earning Idol contestant. He also acted on Broadway and appeared in a number of TV shows, from Scrubs to The Office.

But by 2013, the gay rights activist decided to shift his focus to politics and ran for Congress in North Carolina. Though he won the Democratic primary, he lost to Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers—but he’s definitely not giving up. In January, he announced he’s running for the Democratic nomination in North Carolina's fourth congressional district.

Season 3: Diana Degarmo

Like DeGarmo's website bio reads, she has "conquered it all and then some." After Idol, the singer and actress released two albums and two EPs, including her 2019 release, Gemini. She also dabbled in musical theater, making her Broadway debut in Hairspray as Penny Pingleton in 2006, then moving on to shows like Brooklyn: The Musical and The Toxic Avenger.

In 2011, DeGarmo landed a recurring role as Angelina Veneziano on The Young and the Restless. Since then, she has taken on a few TV and film roles, including All About Christmas Eve and After the Sun Fell. (Fun fact: DeGarmo is currently married to Ace Young, an American Idol finalist from season five.)

Season 4: Bo Bice

Although Bice came in second after Carrie Underwood in 2005, he went on to release three albums, including The Real Thing, which was certified gold, and started his own record label called Sugar Money Records.

Meanwhile, the musician tied the knot with his longtime girlfriend, Caroline Fisher, in 2005 and the two share four children: three boys and one girl.

Season 5: Katharine Mcphee Foster

The songstress had us all singing "Over It" after the release of her debut album, which was certified gold in 2008. McPhee then released four more studio albums, including her latest, I Fall in Love Too Easily. But in addition to her music, McPhee has also established a succesful acting career.

Among her most notable on-screen roles are Karen from Smash and Paige from Scorpion, but she has also acted on Broadway. She made her debut when she took on the lead female role of Jenna in Waitress in 2018.

Season 6: Blake Lewis

Since the finale aired, Lewis released four studio albums and one self-titled EP. His debut album, A.D.D. (Audio Day Dream) peaked at No. 10 on the Billboard charts and his second, Heartbreak on Vinyl, peaked at No. 7 on the U.S. Dance chart.

Lewis has also ventured into voice acting, notably on the anime series Durarara!! and a guest appearance on Generator Rex. Plus, he’s been supporting cancer research at Seattle Children's Hospital by donating 50 percent of the proceeds from his merch sales.

Season 7: David Archuleta

Archuleta's debut album, which included singles like "Crush" and "A Little Too Not Over You," was a big hit in the U.S., peaking at number two on the Billboard 100 chart. He followed up with a holiday-themed album and then released six more, including his latest, Therapy Sessions.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, he released "Just Breathe" as a tribute to frontline workers and donated a portion of his earnings to Direct Relief. Then in 2021, the artist published a children’s book called My Little Prayer.

Season 8: Adam Lambert

Lambert skyrocketed to fame after blowing fans away with his stage presence and vocal range. The singer made history as the first (and only) runner up to snag a Grammy nomination after he released his debut album, For Your Entertainment. At the time, his hit single, “Whataya Want from Me,” was in the running for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.

Since then, Lambert has taken the music industry by storm, releasing three more albums and doing multiple tours with the legendary Queen while simultaneously acting and advocating for the LGBT community.

Season 9: Crystal Bowersox

Bowersox, AKA the first female runner-up in three years, has released four studio albums since she competed on the series. Her debut title, Farmer's Daughter, reached number two on the U.S. Rock chart while her follow-up album, All That for This, peaked at number 21.

In January 2022, the 36-year-old singer released her latest album, HitchHiker, and she’s now on tour.

Season 10: Lauren Alaina

After American Idol, the 27-year-old singer released her debut album, Wildflower, then followed up with Road Less Traveled and her most recent release, Sitting Pretty on Top of the World. She also toured with country greats like Luke Bryan, Carrie Underwood and Martina McBride, and in February 2022, her success earned her an official spot in the Grand Ole Opry—a country music showcase that dates back to 1925.

As it turns out, Idol isn't the only competition series that Alaina appeared in. She also joined Dancing with the Stars in 2019, coming in fourth place. And earlier this year, she was a contestant on Beyond the Edge, but sadly, she left the series due to an injury.

Season 11: Jessica Sanchez

Phillip Phillips may have beat out Sanchez in season 11, but it hasn’t stopped the singer from rising to success. After Idol, she released her album, Me, You & the Music (including a hit single with Ne-Yo), then appeared in the FOX series Glee as Frida Romero in 2013. In that same year, the songstress performed "The Star-Spangled Banner" for former U.S. President Barack Obama and his family at the White House Easter Egg Roll.

Fast forward to 2020 and Sanchez has not only released a hit single for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, but she also recorded a song for Miss Universe Philippines, called “Over the Universe.” You can check out her most recent covers, from Ariana Grande to The Weeknd, on her YouTube channel.

Season 12: Kree Harrison

Harrison released her debut single, "All Cried Out," which peaked at number 34 on Billboard’s U.S. Country chart, and joined the American Idols LIVE! Tour shortly after she competed on Idol.

Fast forward to the present day and she’s got two studio albums under her belt, including This Old Thing, which peaked at number 28 on the U.S. Country chart, and Chosen Family Tree, released in 2020. According to her website, Harrison has also worked with Kacey Musgraves and Eli Young Band.

Season 13: Jena Irene Asciutto

Following the American Idols LIVE! Tour in 2014, Asciutto released her debut EP, Innocence, which reached number 18 on the U.S. Heat chart. She also did quite a few live shows, including a residency in Detroit back in 2016.

In 2017, she released her debut album, Cold Fame, which includes the single "Unbreakable." On her official website, she described the album as a “warm-up for all that will follow,” so it sounds like the singer already has new music in the works.

Season 14: Clark Beckham

The singer and songwriter has released three EPs and three albums since Idol, but he's also been very active on his YouTube channel, which includes videos that range from live Q&As and piano tutorials to The Idol Breakdown, where he discusses each episode of the series.

According to IMDB, the singer has also dabbled in acting. In 2014, he played Nathan in the short film 5 Stages, and in 2018, he played Donnie in 2300 Newtons.

Season 15: La'porsha Renae

Mere hours after she finished American Idol, Renae (who also goes by A.S.E.) announced that she signed with Big Machine and Motown Records. Her debut single, "Battles," reached number 22 on the U.S. R&B Digital Charts. And later that year, a remix of the track was used as the official song for the U.S. Women's Gymnastics Team for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

In 2017, Renae released her debut album Already All Ready, and in March 2022, she dropped a collection of four albums called The Odessy of Love.

Season 16: Caleb Lee Hutchinson

Before you ask—yes, Hutchinson and season 16 winner Maddie Poppe are still together. And they've been working together on new music. But aside from their exciting collaboration, the 23-year-old musician has been busy doing live shows. After working on a self-titled EP in 2019, he released a couple of standalone singles and a second EP, titled Slot Machine Syndrome.

Season 17: Alejandro Aranda

After Aranda (or shall we say Scarypoolparty) released his debut album, Exit Form, which peaked at number six on the U.S. Heatseekers chart, he did a seven-day U.S. tour that completely sold out within 15 minutes. Since then, he has done at least a dozen more sold out shows, and most recently, he teamed up with X Ambassadors and Taylor Janzen for the Beautiful Liar tour.

In addition to Exit Form, Aranda dropped two more albums, including The Act of Forgiveness, and an EP titled Los Angeles.

Season 18: Arthur Gunn

Although the singer made headlines for abruptly dropping out of the show's finale, he’s building a pretty successful post-Idol career. He has since released three albums, including Jalai Mai, and his YouTube channel boasts nearly half a million subscribers. Earlier this year, he released his most recent single, “Tell Me, How Do You Sleep at Night?”

Season 19: Willie Spence

It hasn't been too long since we watched season 19, but it looks like Idol's most recent runner up is already off to a great start. So far, the soulful singer has released an EP called The Voice, and done several live shows, including a concert at the Atlanta Symphony Hall. Fortunately for fans, there’s more new music on the horizon, because Spence recently teased a new song called “Myself” on his personal Instagram page, sharing a short clip of his vocals over a piano melody.

Season 20: Huntergirl

HunterGirl (aka Hunter Wolkonowski) was a star the second she hit the audition room. After her rendition of "Riot" by Rascal Flatts, she received a standing ovation from all three judges. Luke Bryan also predicted she'd be a top 10 contender and stated HunterGirl was his favorite female country voice ever in the five years he's been on the show.

While she didn't win, the 24-year-old singer is still making music. She's releasing her first EP titled One Day and recently dropped her new single "Red Bird."