All the ‘American Idol’ Winners in Order: See Where They Are Now

From Kelly Clarkson to Jordin Sparks

With 21 seasons of wild auditions, intense elimination rounds and jaw-dropping finales, American Idol continues to be on our watchlist. In honor of our favorite competition show, we’re taking a little trip down memory lane.

Perhaps you’re curious to know what happened to Ruben Studdard (AKA the Velvet Teddy Bear), or maybe you’re wondering what Jordin Sparks has been up to lately. Or perhaps you want more info about the first winner, Kelly Clarkson or the 411 on the latest winner of season 21. That’s why we compiled a list of all the American Idol winners in order, complete with details about their most recent and upcoming projects.

The 20 Most Successful ‘American Idol’ Contestants, from Carrie Underwood to Jennifer Hudson

Season 1: Kelly Clarkson

American Idol’s first champion has been riding the wave of success for over two decades—and she’s showing no signs of slowing down. Since her win in 2002, Kelly Clarkson has blossomed into an actress, author and TV personality with three Grammys to her name.

Clarkson reflected on American Idol 20 years later, telling E! News, "I feel like I've obviously progressed as a human. At the same time, though, I do feel very similar and very tied that 19-year-old girl that first auditioned. I don't feel very different in the sense that I've always had a lot of jobs—well, then, it was necessity—I've always loved talking to people and I've always loved performing. I still love all the same things."

Aside from releasing nine albums, she headlined multiple tours, sharing the stage with musicians like Reba McEntire, Maroon 5 and The Fray. You may have also spotted her in a few films and shows, including Nashville, King of the Hill and of course, From Justin to Kelly. But now, Clarkson is keeping busy with her talk show, The Kelly Clarkson Show, which already earned her five Emmys. We wouldn’t be too surprised if she reached full EGOT status within the next five years.

Season 2: Ruben Studdard

His smooth vocals have been compared to the great Luther Vandross, so it comes as no surprise that Studdard is thriving several years after his win. The 44-year-old singer has since released seven albums, including the certified Gold I Need an Angel and his platinum-selling debut, Soulful.

In an interview with Variety, Studdard reflected on his career after American Idol. "I had no expectation of how it would be after the show, even the next week. We were a part of Kelly Clarkson's ascent as well, so everything that was happening for her was kind of happening while we were going through the process. So we didn't have a blueprint as to how things would go for us. We absolutely had no idea that people would even care about this stuff five year later," he shared.

But like Clarkson, he also ventured into acting. The Grammy-nominated artist appeared in several popular shows, including One on One, 8 Simple Rules and All of Us. But by 2018, he moved on to Broadway theater, making his debut in Ruben & Clay’s Christmas Show. Studdard released his most recent album in 2018, but in 2022, Diverse announced that he will be teaching a masterclass on how to prepare for the music industry at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Season 3: Fantasia Taylor

Did you know that Fantasia Taylor (formerly Barrino) was just 20 years old when she won American Idol in 2004? The power vocalist kicked things off by releasing her debut album, Free Yourself, which went platinum and earned three Grammy nominations.

In 2022, Taylor spoke candidly about winning the competition show at just 19. She said, "It was the door that opened for me that allowed so many things, good and bad." She continued to tell ABC Audio, "I had to go through so many things, nobody prepares you for the industry. I knew how to sing, OK, I've been doing that since I was five years old, that was easy. But the industry is a different world."

Aside from singing, she made her Broadway debut in 2007. She landed the lead role of Celie in the Broadway musical, The Color Purple. Five albums and several tours later, Taylor is reprising her role as Celie in the upcoming movie adaptation. The singer and her husband, Kendall Taylor, also authored a new book called No Crowns in the Castle. And on top of that, she will attending Central State University and enrolling in online courses. Talk about wearing many hats.

Season 4: Carrie Underwood

After being crowned the fourth American Idol winner, Carrie Underwood built a massive empire that continues to grow as we speak. Right after her win, the country star’s debut single, "Inside Your Heaven," hit the no. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and her debut album, which earned three Grammys, spawned chart-topping hits like "Jesus, Take the Wheel" and "Before He Cheats."

In 2022, Underwood reflected on her time at American Idol, and discussed her journey after winning season four on Instagram. She posted, "Today is the 17 year anniversary of my American Idol win! Where does the time go? Please enjoy from the journal of a 22-year-old farm girl who just had the most incredible night. I still feel the excitement through the pages! Happy anniversary to me and a forever 'thank you' to all who voted!"

Since then, Underwood has released eight more albums, scored five more Grammys and earned five Guinness World Records, making her one of the biggest country singers of all time. But outside of music, she published a New York Times best seller, dabbled in acting and even launched her own fitness clothing line, CALIA.

Season 5: Taylor Hicks

After he won the nation over with his contagious energy and awesome stage presence, Taylor Hicks signed with Arista Records to release his self-titled debut album. And three years later, he released The Distance through his own label, Modern Whomp.

In 2008, he ventured into Broadway and joined the cast of Grease as Teen Angel. By 2019, he was starring in a musical called Shenandoah as Charlie Anderson. Plus, in 2012, he made history as the first American Idol winner to land a long-term Las Vegas residency. Most recently, he released two songs for the rom-com film Stars Fell on Alabama, which included a cover of The Rejects song, “Gives You Hell.”

In June 2023, he sat with Parade to talk about his time on Idol along with hinting at new music coming next year. "That opportunity to be able to be on that show at the that time period has allowed me longevity—obviously, with hard work as well. But I'm very blessed to have been able to be on that show at the that time and win it."

Season 6: Jordin Sparks

Sparks has come a very long way since she competed on the show. After winning at age 17, the singer went on to release four studio albums and multiple chart-topping singles, including the infamous hit "No Air," which earned her a Grammy Award nomination. In 2012, VH1 named her one of the 100 greatest women in music and she has since become one of the most successful Idol contestants.

In a 2022 interview with Ryan Seacrest, she reflected on turning from an Idol winner to a mentor on the hit show. "It was really a full circle moment to be honest with you. I just couldn't believe that I was back and it was my turn to share what I've learned. I can't believe it's gone by so quickly, but I really enjoyed my time there."

Her lengthy resume also boasts a few acting credits, including Broadway musicals like In the Heights and Waitress. She even made her feature film debut in Sparkle alongside Whitney Houston in 2012. Most recently, she returned to competition shows like The Masked Singer and Dancing with the Stars.

Season 7: David Cook

After Idol, David Cook’s debut single "The Time of My Life," made the Billboard Hot 100 charts and sold an impressive 1.4 million copies. And his self-titled debut album, which spawned two top twenty singles, was also certified platinum.

In a 2018 interview with People Now, Cook looked back on his time at Idol with appreciation. "It's one of those things that every time I've been fortunate enough to go back since then, it's still such a fraternity. It's still such a family," he said. "It's such a cool family and a lot of the same people behind the scenes are still there, so I loved my time on that show."

He has four studio albums under his belt and has previously headlined several tours over the years. According to his official website, he is currently on tour and performing in cities like New York, Michigan and Ohio. Like other previous winners, the singer also made it to Broadway, where he played Charlie Price in Kinky Boots.

Season 8: Kris Allen

After thousands of fans swore that Adam Lambert would win, Kris Allen came out on top in a surprising twist. His self-titled album debuted number 11 on the U.S. Billboard 200 with his single "Live Like We're Dying" making over $1.7 million in sales. Since winning, he has released six albums and toured with big musicians like Maroon 5 and Keith Urban.

To this day, Allen is still surprised he won that night. He told Entertainment Weekly back in 2019, "I'm always surprised, man. For me, making it through each week—everyone is so talented, and, I don't know, to make it through each week is crazy."

But aside from making music, he’s been busy advocating for music education through organizations like the Music Empowers Foundation and Little Kids Rock. The Idol winner has also traveled across the world doing missionary work, going to places like Thailand, Mozambique and South Africa.

Season 9: Lee DeWyze

Although he already had two independent albums under his belt, it was his success on Idol that really catapulted Lee DeWyze to fame. After the show, he released his album Live It Up through RCA Records and four of his songs hit the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Although he has seven albums, he has since transitioned into TV compositions for shows such as Elementary, Suits, The Fosters, Nashville and Shameless. For DeWyze, it has always been about the songwriting more than singing. He told told Yahoo Entertainment, “When I came off of American Idol— I’ve made this pretty clear over the past few years— it was always about the songwriting for me. It’s what I loved. That’s why I did all of that in the first place. It wasn’t for fame or any of that stuff.”

He continued, “It was really because I wanted to have music be a career for myself, so right out of the gate, I started writing music — just writing and writing and writing. Then the right things happened, the right things clicked … and I had a song on The Walking Dead.”

Season 10: Scotty McCreery

Following his victory, Scotty McCreery (AKA the youngest winner in the show’s history) parted ways with Mercury Nashville and decided to release his song, “Five More Minutes,” without the backing of a record label. As a result, he wound up making history as the first (and only) country music artist to chart a song that was independently released.

In 2021, he shared his iconic audition tape on Facebook, saying, "10 years ago started me on the most insane journey I could ever dream of. Thanks for being there with me every step of the way! Here's to another 10 years yall! Much love."

The season ten winner has kept the momentum going since then. He released a total of five albums, and his latest, Same Truck, dropped in 2021. McCreery also scored a few awards, including an ACM Award for Best New Artist and two ACA Awards for Artist of the Year.

Season 11: Phillip Phillips

Fun fact: Phillip Phillips’s debut song, “Home,” is the best-selling song in American Idol history, with over five million copies sold in the U.S. alone. His first album, The World from the Side of the Moon, spawned two major hits, including “Gone, Gone, Gone.”

In a 2017 interview, Phillips said he was grateful for the show and offered some positive advice to future contestants: "Know who you are as an artist, and don't be afraid to make that statement on television. It's a great platform to get you out there and get fans...but know what you want out of your career before you just go out for a show."

Since then, he has released two more albums (Behind the Light in 2014 and Collateral in 2018), and after five years, he's coming out with his fourth album called Drift Back. He's previously toured with musicians like John Mayer, Gavin DeGraw, Train and the Goo Goo Dolls. NBD.

Season 12: Candice Glover

As they say, third time's a charm. Candice Glover made history as the first champion who auditioned three times before making it to the live shows. And while Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey’s reported feud was dominating headlines at the time, Glover still made quite an impression.

Following her win on season 13, she joined the American Idols LIVE! Tour 2013 and released her album Music Speaks, which made it to the Billboard 200 and Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. The songstress also ventured into acting and made her Broadway debut in the musical Home for the Holidays in 2017.

Three years after winning, she spoke candidly about shifting from Idol to being an artist in the industry. "After you win a nationwide competition—some people will go as far as calling it a talent show —people don’t really take you as seriously as an artist. They just take you as someone who won a talent show," she told Rated R&B.

She continued, "It’s a process to transition yourself from 'I won American Idol' and just scratch that sticker off your forehead and show the world 'I’m an artist.' When you’re on American Idol, you have to sing other people’s music. When you come out with something totally different, they can either love it or hate it. It can be nerve-wracking but I wouldn’t trade it for anything."

Season 13: Caleb Johnson

In 2014, Caleb Johnson made it to American Idol's top 13 after auditioning twice in previous seasons. And fortunately, his determination paid off.

After winning, he spoke with Entertainment Weekly, saying, "You know, it was just a surreal, almost kind of terrifying moment. But then it was complete shock and amazement, and I was like 'Wow, I can't believe I just won American Idol.' It's just kind of crazy, you know? But it was so incredible and the rush of energy and everything that came with that was ridiculous."

While riding the wave of his win, he teamed up with Interscope Records and released an album called Testify, which peaked at no. 24 on the Billboard 200. But in 2015, he left Interscope to create his own label, Big Johnson Records. He formed a band called Caleb Johnson & the Ramblin' Saints, and together they released Born from Southern Ground in 2019. Johnson also dropped a solo album, called Mountain Mojo Vol. 1, in June 2021.

Season 14: Nick Fradiani

One thing we can say about Nick Fradiani is that he's a go-getter. After competing on both America's Got Talent and Battle of the Bands, the singer already had a decent following as a band member. So, when he moved on to American Idol as a solo artist, he was already a natural.

A great example? When he didn't feel any nerves during the finale. "The most comfortable I ever felt was when we did the finale at the Dolby Theater, which was thousands of people and the most viewers that you're going to get from the show. That's when I felt most comfortable, no nerves whatsoever," he told Tampa Bay Times in 2015.

By 2016, he released his solo album Hurricane before coming out with Past My Past five years later. His latest single, “Never Gonna,” released during the pandemic. He explained on Instagram, “I wrote this song about two weeks into quarantine back in March of 2020. Playing this song really feels good, and I hope you feel that way when you hear it!" Aside from music, he also has been brushing up on his acting chops. He portrayed Lorenzo Anello in A Bronx Tale in 2019 and was a Neil Diamond alternate in A Beautiful Noise in 2022.

Season 15: Trent Harmon

It all started with his soulful rendition of Allen Stone's "Unaware" during the auditions. And even after dealing with health issues, Trent Harmon persevered and finished the season on top.

In a 2017 interview with Clairon Ledger, the country singer shared his biggest lesson from being on Idol. "I got a lot of benefits from doing the show from learning to sing early in the morning and always being ready to go. On this radio tour when we’d go visit them on their morning show so we’d have to sing at 6:00 in the morning. On Idol, it was like that too. We would have a dress rehearsal at 6:00 or 7:00 in the morning before you do the real thing. I didn’t know that would benefit me until this happened."

After his victory, Harmon joined Big Machine Records and released a self-titled EP, which included his hit single, "There's a Girl." Then, after a short hiatus due to contract issues, he released his debut album, You Got 'Em All, in 2018. The following year, he tied the knot with his longtime girlfriend, Kathleen Couch.

Season 16: Maddie Poppe

The folk singer and instrumentalist won American Idol after impressing the judges with her stellar voice. After winning season 16, Maddie Poppe independently released an album, Songs from the Basement. By 2019, she signed with Hollywood Records and released her first studio album Whirlwind with multiple chart-topping singles, including "Made You Miss" and "Not Losing You.”

Two years later, she wanted to move away from the folk genre she was known for in Idol. She told People, "I feel like for a while, I just wanted to do what other people wanted me to do. I lived to please other people. And I felt that since people voted for my folk/Americana sort of sound on American Idol, that was the sound I was meant to have, because they were the ones that put me here, you know? That's when I realized that I needed to love what I was putting out."

She's currently touring across the country with season 21 runner up Megan Danielle and released singles called "Peace of Mind" and "Screw You a Little Bit." However, fans may recall that she found love with fellow American Idol contestant and runner-up, Caleb Hutchinson, during the show. Sadly, around December 2022, Poppe confirmed breakup rumors after she had removed his photos from her Instagram page.

Season 17: Laine Hardy

The 22-year-old singer and guitarist first auditioned in 2018 and only made it to the top 50. But when Laine Hardy returned the following year to play guitar for a friend, he accidentally became a contestant when the judges encouraged him to audition for a second time.

After winning American Idol, his coronation song, "Flame," peaked at no. 8 on the U.S. digital charts, and he went on to headline his first tour in 2019. He went on the road once again following the release of his debut album, Here's to Anyone, in 2021.

In 2022, he parted ways with his record label, but reflected on his career on Twitter. “I was just 17 years old when I first tried out for American Idol, and at the time, I couldn’t have ever imagined where I was headed. Since then, I’ve been able to tour across America, play for our troops in Asia, and make new fans in Europe. I had to grow up quickly and I am still learning more about myself every day,” he wrote. “The teams at 19 Entertainment and Disney Music Group have given me so much support and guidance, and I will forever be grateful. And now it’s time for me to take my career in a new direction and I am figuring that out. Stay tuned for what’s coming next.”

Season 18: Just Sam

Just Sam (AKA Samantha Diaz) made quite a few headlines after they won the competition—but not for the reasons you might think. In a candid Instagram Story, the 24-year-old Harlem native revealed that their victory on American Idol didn’t automatically lead to success in the music industry. Although they landed a record deal with Hollywood Records, they decided to leave the label.

Since winning, they have struggled with rising to fame in the music industry, especially during the pandemic. Per The Sun, they faced the harsh realities of competition shows. It left them returning back to singing in the NYC subway stations.

However, in a recent interview with TMZ, Just Sam said they are looking for a comeback. "Now I'm at a place where I'm like, 'Girl, it's OK to record in someone's house studio and put it out. The people are going to hear you. They're going to feel you 'cause I put my heart into my music,'" they said. "So many people are reaching out and showing love, and I have opportunities that my team and I are working on and collaborations that we're going to make happen soon."

Season 19: Chayce Beckham

On American Idol's nineteenth season, he beat out finalists Willie Spence and Grace Kinstler. Now, Chayce Beckham is making his mark in the country music scene.

He released his EP Doin' It Right with his original song, “23,” peaking at no. 1 on the U.S. digital chart. The 27-year-old singer also collaborated with Lindsay Ell for their catchy duet, “Can’t Do Without Me.” (You can check out their music video here.) Not only did Beckham headline his own North American tour, but he also served as an opening act for Luke Combs’s Canadian shows.

"I'm just a normal dude," Beckham told CMT. "The whole world changed a year ago, but I've been working very hard. I traded in my 12-hour-a-day job for a 24-hour-a-day job, and this is something that I put all my energy into now. It's nice to know that hopefully, it's making a difference for some people as far as the music goes."

Season 20: Noah Thompson

As a constructor worker living in a small town, Thompson loved music but never thought he had a shot at American Idol. In fact, it wasn't until his best friend pushed him to audition that the 20-year-old singer felt more confident about following his dreams.

As viewers fell in love with the country star, Thompson began sharing more of his vocal chops online through TikTok videos belting hits like "Stay" by Rihanna and "Blue Side of the Mountian" by Chris Stapleton. Before joining the show as a contestant, Thompson had already produced three original songs: "Pedestal," "Not a Phase," and "Hearts Painted Black."

In 2022, he released his first single "One Day Tonight" that's already landed him the number one spot on the iTunes charts before surprising fans with his first album Middle of God Knows Where. Last year, he told Spectrum News about his newfound fame, "It's unbelievable. Like, my whole family, we're all just kind of blown away by it. We're still trying to take it all in, because it's just life changing, you know. It is life changing."

Season 21: Iam Tongi

The latest Idol winner to join the list is Iam Tongi. He is the first Pacific Islander and first non-country singer in three years to win the show. Tongi has been a clear winner from the start—even making the judges emotional during the audition.

Since winning in May, he joined fellow contestant Oliver Steele on tour. He also got to sing the national anthem at this year's Home Run Derby. So far, he has released two singles called "I'll Be Seeing You" and "The Winner Takes It All."

In an interview with Michael Strahan, he recalled that special winning moment. "When they called my name, I was just very excited. It was just an amazing experience," he shared.

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Nakeisha has been interviewing celebrities and covering all things entertainment for over 8 years, but she has also written on a wide range of topics, like career...
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