Kelly Clarkson was the winner of the very first season of American Idol way back in 2002, when the show was co-hosted by series mainstay Ryan Seacrest and Brian Dunkleman, who only appeared for that first outing. She beat out runner-up Justin Guarini for the crown.
Kelly remains a massively popular music artist and is one of the most successful Idol winners on an international scale. She currently serves as a host on the rival singing competition series The Voice and will also begin hosting her own self-titled talk show later this year.
Ruben Studdard triumphed over runner-up Clay Aiken by a notoriously slim margin — he received only 134,000 more votes than the season-long fan favorite.
A decade after his win, the Alabama native appeared on another reality show: the weight-loss competition series The Biggest Loser. Besides slimming his physique, Ruben has continued to release music and perform. In 2018, he released a Luther Vandross tribute album, Ruben Sings Luther. He also partnered with his season’s runner-up Clay Aiken for the Broadway show Ruben & Clay’s First Annual Christmas Carol Family Fun Pageant Spectacular Reunion Show (aka Ruben & Clay’s Christmas Show), which debuted in December 2018.
While Jennifer Hudson remains the most recognizable and successful contestant to come out of Season 3, it was Fantasia Barrino who took home that year’s crown.
After winning, Fantasia released her first single and Idol coronation song “I Believe,” which debuted atop the Billboard Hot 100. She’s continued to release her own music since then, and even won a Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for her 2010 single “Bittersweet.” She’s also performed in major Broadway productions, including The Color Purple and more recently After Midnight. Her sixth album is forthcoming.
Country singer Carrie Underwood won American Idol season 4 over runner-up Bo Bice.
In the 14 years since her win, Carrie has gone on to become the single most successful Idol alum in the United States, selling millions of albums and winning many Grammy Awards. Nowadays, she’s a mom of two boys and continues touring to promote her latest album, Cry Pretty.
Rocker and third runner-up Chris Daughtry would eventually become the best-selling contestant as the lead singer of the band Daughtry, but soul singer Taylor Hicks was crowned the winner over runner-up Katharine McPhee in the end.
After his win, Taylor became the first Idol winner to land a long-term residency at a Las Vegas casino when he began performing at Bally’s Las Vegas in June 2012. In 2017, he released his first new single in eight years, “Six Strings and Diamond Rings.” He has also performed in musicals, debuting in the starring role of Charlie Anderson in Shenandoah in March 2019.
Pop singer Jordin Sparks triumphed over runner-up Blake Lewis on the sixth season of American Idol, which aired in 2007.
Jordin has seen success as a music artist since her win. Her self-titled debut album was certified platinum and produced two top-10 Billboard Hot 100 singles. Like many other Idol winners and contestants before her, Jordin also ventured into acting, with roles in film and on Broadway. She starred as Nina Rosario in In the Heights. She’s also married and gave birth to her first child, a son, in May 2018.
The top two finalists on season seven of American Idol were the two Davids: David Archuleta and David Cook. In the end, Cook won out, making him the first rock singer to win the Idol crown.
Since his win, David Cook has released three studio albums and also performed on Broadway. His debut, playing Charlie Price in Kinky Boots, took place in April 2018. He continues to release new music, including his October 2018 single “Death of Me.”
In what was arguably the biggest Idol finale upset ever, Kris Allen triumphed over fan- favorite glam-rocker Adam Lambert in the eighth season of the series.
The pop rock singer has released five albums since winning Idol, including the 2016 Christmas album Somethin’ About Christmas.
Alt-rock singer Lee DeWyze won season nine of American Idol. Crystal Bowersox came in second.
Lee has released several albums since winning Idol, including his most recent LP, Paranoia, in 2018. He also married model and actress Jonna Walsh in 2012.
In the battle between the two teen country singers, Scotty McCreery beat out Lauren Alaina to win the tenth American Idol title.
With his win, the country singer became the youngest male winner and also the fourth man in a row to win Idol. His debut album post-win was certified platinum in the United States and produced several top 20 country songs. He continues to perform and release music, and married his longtime girlfriend in 2018.
Phillip Phillips won season 11 of American Idol. Jessica Sanchez, who was voted out in the top seven a week before the judges opted to use their “save” option on her, was the season’s runner-up.
After his win, Phillip’s coronation song and debut single “Home” became the all-time best-selling Idol coronation song. His third studio album, Collateral, was released in January 2018. He continues to perform, co-headlining a tour with Gavin DeGraw in the summer of 2018.
Candice Glover, a 23-year-old singer, won the show’s twelfth season over Kree Harrison. She was the first woman to win Idol since Jordin Sparks in 2007, finally ending the streak of all-male winners.
Since winning her season of Idol, Candice has gone on to release two studio albums which have performed well on the Adult R&B Charts. She also sang in the Broadway show Home For the Holidays: Live on Broadway.
Caleb Johnson won season 13 of the singing competition series, with Jena Irene coming in as the runner-up. Caleb’s win came after he’d auditioned to appear on the show three times in four years.
Since winning the Idol crown in 2014, Caleb has released two studio albums. He also joined the Trans-Siberian Orchestra for their 2018 winter tour, singing on “Three Kings & I.”
Nick Fradiani (who’d previously appeared on America’s Got Talent with his band) defeated Clark Beckham in the fourteenth season of American Idol in 2015. His coronation single was “Beautiful Life.”
Since winning, Nick has released one full album, Hurricane, and has toured with a band called The Alternate Routes.
Trent Harmon won the 15th season of Idol against runner-up La’Porsha Renae.
Post-Idol, Trent released his debut album You Got ‘Em All in May 2018.
Though Idol was officially cancelled by Fox after the 15th season, ABC revived the series in 2018, and Maddie Poppe was crowned the winner of the first season to air on that network.
During the finale, season runner-up Caleb Lee Hutchinson revealed that he and Maddie were dating. The two are reportedly still together today. Meanwhile, Maddie released her debut album Whirlwind on May 17, 2019, just ahead of the most recent Idol finale.
The current reigning Idol champ is Laine Hardy, who won the 17th season of the show and second season to air on ABC post-revival.
After his May 19, 2019, win, Laine immediately released his debut single and coronation song “Flame.” He later performed the song during an appearance on The View.