Watching reality singing competition, American Idol became a weekly norm in many households around the US following the 17-season show’s debut in 2002. While contestants competed against one another for the chance to win a sizable cash prize and a recording contract, it wasn’t always the winners who went on to experience the greatest success. Here is a glimpse of the most successful contestants today.
Kimberley Locke earned a name for herself after coming in third place during the second season of American Idol. Two years later in 2004, she released her first album, “One Love,” with its debut single, “8th World Wonder” nearing the top of the Billboard’s Hot 100 list.
Locke gave entering the limelight one more shot in 2007 and participated in the fifth season of Celebrity Fit Club. But deciding to trade in the spotlight for behind-the-scenes experience, she founded entertainment company, I AM Entertainment in 2011, which aims to help aspiring entertainers to make a living off their talent.
Locke has an estimated net worth of $1.5 million
After failing to make it past the auditions round of American Idol‘s ninth season, Illinois-born Haley Reinhart refused to let it break her. Instead, she returned for the following season and finished in third place. Since then, she has released a total of albums that showcase her raspy, soulful voice.
She gained additional recognition after doing Bill Murphy’s voice-over in Netflix’s animated comedy, F is for Family for three seasons. Reinhart is currently shooting in Texas for Robert Rodriguez’s superhero science fiction film, We Can’t Be Heroes, which will be released on Netflix as the singer’s acting debut.
Reinhart has an estimated net worth of $1.5 million
Unbeknownst to many, season three runner-up, Diana DeGarmo didn’t get her reality TV start on American Idol. In fact, before she joined the show’s third season, she was a finalist on NBC’s America’s Most Talented Kid (and she’s not the only one on this list!)
Since her Idol days, DeGarmo has ventured into the world of musical theater. She starred in a number of plays such as West Side Story, Hairspray, and Oz. She also made her televised acting debut in the CBS soap opera, The Young and the Restless, where she played fictional character Angelina Veneziano.
DeGarmo has an estimated net worth of $1.5 million
Southern rocker, Bo Bice will always be remembered by American Idol fans for his long hair and groovy glasses that he so often rocked during his on-stage performances. And as the runner-up of the series’ fourth season, he has managed to reach a comfortable level of stardom.
Following his time on Idol, Bice released his first solo album, “The Real Thing.” The album managed to go gold and reached number four on the Billboard charts. Aside from music, the rockstar has made a few TV appearances, such as when he joined the cast of American Chopper.
Bice has an estimated net worth of $2 million
US-marine-turned-singer from Michigan, Josh Gracin competed in the second season of American Idol. Though he came in fourth place behind Kimberley Locke, Clay Aiken, and Ruben Studdard, his singing career benefited a lot from the exposure he gained through the series.
In the episode in which he performed “I’m Movin’ On” by Rascal Flatts, Gracin impressed the band so much that they put him in contact with Marty Williams, the co-producer of two of their most successful albums. This got the ball rolling on the aspiring singer’s music career and he signed a record deal shortly after. Gracin has since released three albums – the first of which was certified gold.
Gracin has an estimated net worth of $2 million
American Idol‘s fifth season winner, Taylor Hicks managed to beat fan-favorite, Katherine McPhee but despite his achievements on the show, he didn’t experience the same success once the cameras stopped rolling. His first album – titled Taylor Hicks – reached number two on the Billboard charts but his record label later dropped him.
It seems the energetic performer was able to bounce back, as he joined Grease’s Broadway cast and also became the first Idol winner to lock down a Las Vegas residency. These days, Hicks hosts Amazon Prime’s State Plate, which showcases food across the US.
Hicks has an estimated net worth of $2 million
Next: This next American Idol is famous for their time on the show, but not just that
Christian gospel singer, Mandisa didn’t have the easiest journey on American Idol‘s fifth season. Not only did she claim ninth place, but she was made to withstand judge, Simon Cowell’s insults about her weight. Still, however, she managed to finish strong and has made a name for herself as one of the country’s most popular Christian and contemporary gospel artists of today.
Mandisa has released six studio albums, the first of which hit number one on the Top Christian Albums chart. This triumph earned Mandisa the title of being the first female artist to debut at this position in the chart’s entire 27 years of existence.
Gracin has an estimated net worth of $3 million
Teddy bear, Ruben Studdard finished Americal Idol‘s second season in first place. Following the end of the show, he released his debut album, “Soulful,” which was certified platinum and his second album, “I Need an Angel,” which became the top-selling gospel album at the time and was certified gold.
In addition to his seven studio albums, Studdard was a contestant on The Biggest Loser‘s fifteenth season and made an appearance on screen in works like 8 Simple Rules, All of Us, and Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed. In 2018, he made his Broadway debut with a show he performed alongside his Idol runner-up, Clay Aiken.
Studdard has an estimated net worth of $3 million
When American Idol fans think back to the eighth season of the show, most remember the flamboyance and bravado that Adam Lambert showed on stage. But what many forget is that Lambert did not actually win the singing competition that year. It was Arkansas-native, Kris Allen who won, causing Lambert to come in second place.
Allen’s victory was controversial for most viewers, as Lambert was widely considered to be the season’s front-runner. But since his win, Allen has proven that he deserves to keep his title. So far, he has released a total of four studio albums with a number of chart-topping singles.
Allen has an estimated net worth of $3.5 million
While Kimberly Caldwell appeared on the second season of American Idol, her singing career isn’t all that has contributed to her wealth. After her run on the show – in which she came in seventh place – Caldwell joined Fox’s Sports Network as a correspondent on the program, 54321.
She was also a host on rapper P. Diddy‘s reality TV singing competition show (how fitting?!) called Starmaker, which aired for only one season. But her entertainment career didn’t end there. Caldwell has also made an appearance on Deal or No Deal and hosted Oxygen Network’s first season of Best Ink.
Caldwell has an estimated net worth of $4 million
Country singer, Scotty McCreery won season 10 when he was just 17 years old, making him the youngest male to be crowned the title of American Idol. His low, powerful voice and childlike charm continued to win over America even after the cameras stopped rolling.
McCreery has released a total of four studio albums. His first album, “Clear as Day” went platinum whereas his second album, “Christmas with Scotty McCreery” went gold. McCreery made history with his 2017 single, “Five More Minutes,” which reached the top of the Billboard chart and made McCreery the first country singer to chart a record without the help of a record label.
McCreery has an estimated net worth of $4 million
Next: This next contestant made American Idol history
Phillip Phillips is a name that’s hard to forget in American Idol history- not only because of its catchiness, but also because of the singer’s immense success. Phillips’ season 11 winning coronation song, “Home” became the all-time best-selling single from any Idol contestant to date.
Since the show, Phillips has focused primarily on his music, having released a total of three studio albums. In 2018, he appeared in one episode of Hawaii Five-0 and in July 2019, he announced that he and his wife are expecting their first child – a son. We hope he inherits his father’s musical talent!
Phillips has an estimated net worth of $5 million
Texas-born rocker, David Cook didn’t anticipate auditioning for American Idol. In fact, when he went to the auditions in Omaha, Nebraska, it was to support his little brother, who didn’t end up making it to the next round in Hollywood.
Cook wound up auditioning himself and became season seven’s winner. Just a week after his victory on the show, the rock singer broke a number of Billboard records – one of which was landing 11 songs on the Hot 100 list in a week (an impressive five more songs than the previous record-holder, Miley Cyrus).
Cook has an estimated net worth of $5 million
Winning the title of Junior Vocal Champion in the reality talent competition, Star Search 2 certainly helped Florida-born singer, David Archuleta feel comfortable when competing in American Idol‘s seventh season years later. His confidence and grace on stage earned him the second place position.
Archuleta’s self-titled first – and best-selling – album debuted at second place on the Billboard 200 chart. Following the release of his third album, the singer took a two-year break to carry out missionary work in Chile. He continued with his music upon return and dropped his fourth album exclusively in the Philippines. In total, Archuleta has recorded seven albums.
Archuleta has an estimated net worth of $5 million
North Carolina-born country singer, Kellie Pickler earned a name for herself after coming in sixth place on American Idol‘s fifth season. Following her time on the show, she released her debut album, “Small Town Girl,” which went gold and introduced us to three chart-topping singles.
Pickler carried on with her work in reality TV, having won the sixteenth season of Dancing with the Stars in 2013. She also co-hosted the daytime talk show, Pickler & Ben with comedian Ben Aaron between 2017-2019, which focused on human interest stories as well as beauty, celebrity, and lifestyle.
Pickler has an estimated net worth of $5 million
R&B singer, Fantasia Barrino won the third season of American Idol in 2004, giving her a fresh start after a difficult upbringing. She released in debut album, “Free Yourself” following her victory and not only did it go platinum, but it earned her three Grammy nominations.
Her second album, “Fantasia,” did even better. Its main single, “When I See U” stayed at the top of the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart for a total of eight weeks while the album itself reached gold certification and earned Barrino another three Grammy nominations. Barrino has been nominated for a total of 12 Grammy Awards and has won one.
Barrino has an estimated net worth of $5 million
“Wait For You” singer, Elliot Yamin came in third place on American Idol‘s fifth season. Even though he didn’t win, there’s no denying the Los Angeles native’s pure talent. Simon Cowell even told the singer that he was “potentially the best male vocalist” that the show had ever seen up to that point.
Yamin went on to prove his talent further by releasing a number of successful studio albums following his time on the show. For example, his self-titled debut album reached number one on the Billboard chart for Independent Albums and hit gold status in the United States and Japan.
Yamin has an estimated net worth of $6 million
Runner-up of American Idol season two, Clay Aiken has made a name for himself in more than just the music world. Following his time on the show, he released his debut album, “Measure of a Man,” which went multi-platinum. Aiken has released a total of six studio albums and has sold more than five million copies, making him the fourth highest-selling American Idol.
In 2004, he published a memoir, “Learning to Sing,” which reached second place on the New York Times Best Seller list. Aiken has also dabbled his toes in Broadway and had a number of appearances on TV shows like PBS’ Tried & True Live! and The Celebrity Apprentice. In 2014, he ran for North Carolina’s Congress and won the primary but lost the general election.
Aiken has an estimated net worth of $7 million
Katherine McPhee first gained fame after competing in American Idol‘s fifth season and finishing in second place behind Taylor Hicks. Though she has released a total of five studio albums, her music career has not been her only source of income.
Two years after competing on American Idol, McPhee made her acting debut in The House Bunny, where she played a leading sorority misfit. She later co-starred in the indie film, Shark Night 3D and made a number of TV appearances like on CSI: NY, NBC’s Smash, and CBS’ Scorpion. In June 2018, the singer married music producer, David Foster.
McPhee has an estimated net worth of $8 million
North Carolina rock singer, Chris Daughtry is yet another story of an American Idol contestant who didn’t win but still managed to find great success in his career. Following his elimination from the series’ fifth season (he came in fourth), Daughtry signed a record deal with RCA Records and became the lead singer and rhythm guitarist of his band called Daughtry.
The band’s debut album sold over one million copies within only five weeks of its release, making it history’s fastest-selling debut rock album. Since the album’s release, Chris Daughtry has collaborated with a number of other artists like Carlos Santana, Sevendust, Slash, and Timbaland.
Daughtry has an estimated net worth of $10 million
After being crowned the sixth-season’s American Idol shortly after turning 17 years old, Jordin Sparks became the show’s youngest winner. But her achievements didn’t end there. Sparks’ collaboration with Chris Brown, “No Air” became the highest-selling single released by any contestant on the series.
Her second studio album, Battlefield also earned Sparks the title of being the first Idol contestant to have their first five singles make it to the top 20 of the Billboard Top 100 chart. Aside from recording albums, Sparks has explored Broadway and acting and has also released a few of her own perfumes.
Sparks has an estimated net worth of $10 million
Next: Surprisingly, this next contestant didn’t even win American Idol
While much of America felt defeated following Jennifer Hudson’s elimination from the top seven of American Idol‘s third season, the powerhouse singer didn’t let her music career end there. Instead, she went on to play Effie White in the 2006 film Dreamgirls, earning her a Golden Globe, Academy Award, BAFTA Award, and a Screen Actors Guild Award.
Hudson’s success only climbed from that moment on. Two years later, she released a self-titled debut album that went gold and for which she won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Album. Her next two albums were also certified gold. For her portrayal of Shug Avery in her Broadway debut, The Color Purple, Hudson took home her second Grammy.
Hudson has an estimated net worth of $20 million
Adam Lambert wowed America with his unparalleled vocal range in American Idol‘s eighth season. But perhaps more shocking than his pipes was when he came in second place behind Kris Allen. Still, he showed us that someone destined for stardom doesn’t need to win a reality TV show competition to become successful.
Lambert released his first studio album, “For Your Entertainment” in the same year he left Idol, which included single, “Whataya Want From Me” that earned him a Grammy Award nomination for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. Lambert’s solo career has seen the release of three studio albums. His vocal command has also earned him a place on stage touring alongside Queen.
Lambert has an estimated net worth of $20 million
“Because of You” singer, Kelly Clarkson was the first American Idol in history. The show helped her earn a record deal with RCA Records and she went on to produce a number of award-winning albums and chart-topping records. Among her achievements are three Grammys, four American Music Awards, three MTV Video Music Awards, and two Academy of Country Music Awards.
Aside from her album releases, Clarkson has also found success in writing, film, and television. In 2016, Clarkson signed a deal with book publisher, HarperCollins and has released two children’s books since then. She has also worked as a judge on the The Voice‘s 14th, 15th, and 16th seasons and is a host on the daytime talk show, The Kelly Clarkson Show.
Clarkson has an estimated net worth of $28 million
“Blown Away” singer, Carrie Underwood has certainly left fans blown away by her enormous vocal range. As the winner of American Idol‘s fourth season, it’s safe to say the show gave her the platform and exposure she needed to launch a successful career in entertainment.
Her debut album, “Some Hearts” set the stage for her immense success. It became country music’s best-selling solo women’s debut album ever and the best-selling country album in history, earning Underwood three Grammys. Considered one of the most successful artists in music, she has been listed as one of Time’s 100 most influential people in the world, and was deemed “the female vocalist of her generation of any genre” by Rolling Stone.
Underwood has an estimated net worth of $85 million
American Idol season nine winner, Lee DeWyze didn’t start his music career on the show like most of Idol’s other contestants. In fact, before his time on the hit reality TV series, DeWyze formed his self-titled band, the Lee DeWyze Band.
DeWyze also had two studio album releases before his time on the show: So I’m Told and Slumberland. Since the show, he has released a total of five albums. His most recognized song is arguably “Blackbird Song,” which reportedly went viral after it was used in an episode of The Walking Dead.
DeWyze has an estimated net worth of $500,000
Most American Idol fans remember third-place contestant, Danny Gokey for his soul and gospel music. But despite mostly sticking to these genres throughout his time on the show, Gokey transformed into a country star with the release of his first studio album, My Best Days.
While this left most fans confused, Gokey’s transformation was only short-lived. A few years after My Best Days was released, he switched gears once more and released the Billboard Christian chart’s number one album, Hope in Front of Me. Gokey’s fifth studio LP, Rise was another chart-topper. It was also nominated for a Grammy.
Gokey has an estimated net worth of $600,000
At the time of William Hung’s audition for American Idol, he was a civil engineering student at the University of California, Berkeley. Even though he didn’t end up making it to Hollywood after his first audition, his rendition of Ricky Martin’s “She Bangs” went viral.
Hung was able to capitalize on this fame for a number of years. Not only did he release three studio albums, but he also performed at the half-time show for the Golden State Warriors and made appearances in shows like The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Fairly OddParents, and Arrested Development. Nowadays, Hung allegedly works as a motivational speaker.
Hung has an estimated net worth of $600,000
Famous for his beatboxing skills on American Idol’s season six, Blake Lewis released his fourth studio album on July 9, 2019. Despite coming in second place behind Jordin Sparks, Lewis gained some major traction on his first album, Audio Day Dream.
The album hit number ten on the US Billboard 200 chart. Since then, he has had a number of charting singles and albums. Most recently, Lewis announced via Instagram in June 2019 that he is expecting to perform on CW’s The Big Stage. The series is a talent show that features different stars from past reality competition shows.
Lewis has an estimated net worth of $600,000
Georgia-born Justin Guarini was the runner-up to Kelly Clarkson on the first season of American Idol. Following his run, he co-starred alongside Clarkson in the super cheesy comedy music film, From Justin to Kelly. He has since appeared in a number of different television commercials.
On September 18 2019, Guarini reunited with Clarkson once more on her new talk show, “The Kelly Clarkson Show.” Among other things, the two spoke about was Guarini’s latest book, Audition Secrets Volume I: the Behind the Scenes Guidebook for Nailing More Auditions and Booking More Jobs.
Guarini has an estimated net worth of $700,000
American Idol’s fourth season contestant, Constantine Maroulis may have come in sixth place on the show but he has certainly enjoyed the fruits of a successful entertainment career. In Broadway alone, he was nominated for a Tony Award and a Drama League Award.
For his role in Rock of Ages, he was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical. For his starring role in Jekyll and Hyde, he was nominated for a Drama League Award for Distinguished Performance. Aside from Broadway, Maroulis has guest starred on a number of television shows like Madame Secretary and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.
Maroulis has an estimated net worth of $750,000
Southern belle, Lauren Alaina came in second place to Scotty McCreery on American Idol’s tenth season. Following her time on the show, she released two studio albums that both reached commercial success. She is reportedly working on a new album.
Most recently, Alaina has been competing on Dancing with the Star’s twenty-eighth season. After her Argentine tango performance, judge Sarah Vaughan commended Alaina for appearing to have a strong core. Alaina’s response? “…All I have been trying to do is pretend my ribs aren’t broken this whole competition.” As if we weren’t already impressed with Alaina’s talent, she has managed to compete with broken ribs!
Alaina has an estimated net worth of $800,000
Connecticut singer, Nick Fradiani was American Idol’s fourteenth season winner. Not only that, but he was the first winner to come from the Northeast. Competing on Idol wasn’t his first time on a reality talent show, however. Fradiani was also on America’s Got Talent with his rock band, Beach Avenue, though they didn’t make it past “Judgment Week.”
As for his most recent work, Fradiani is playing Lorenzo in the 2019-2020 Broadway musical, A Bronx Tale. This is exciting news for the singer, as he will be leading the show in the North American tour.
Fradiani has an estimated net worth of $1 million
North Carolina native, Caleb Johnson took home first place on the thirteenth season of American Idol. Within three weeks, he recorded his first studio album. While some would consider this to be a big accomplishment, Johnson wishes he did things differently.
Looking back at the decision to release the album, he said, “Unfortunately I didn’t really have enough time to delve deeply into what songs I wanted. It was a very rushed process. To me, that first album was more like a product. It was not really a piece of art.” Now, in 2019, he hopes his latest album, Born From Southern Ground will be his comeback.
Johnson has an estimated net worth of $1 million
Hopeful contestant, Brittany Kerr auditioned for American Idol’s eleventh season. While Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson gave her a resounding “yes,” Jennifer Lopez wasn’t so convinced. It seems J.Lo was right, as Kerr made it through to Hollywood but didn’t make it to Idol’s live rounds.
Despite not making it far enough to perform in front of a live audience, Brittany Kerr still tops our list of honorable mentions. This is because she is the wife of country legend, Jason Aldean, which means her estimated net worth of $500,000 gets added to his estimated net worth of $60 million.
Kerr has an estimated net worth of $60 million
Sources: Finance 101, Forbes, Cheatsheet