Since the series premiered in 2002, American Idol has captivated audiences with its hilariously bad auditions, nail-biting finales, epic performances, and heartwarming stories. Many fans choose their favorite singers at the beginning and root for them to claim the prize — usually a sizeable sum of cash and a recording contract. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always guarantee a lifetime of fame and fortune. Sometimes the losers fare better than the winners.
Let’s take a look at the stars who’ve found the most success post-American Idol.
41. Sanjaya Malakar
Malakar continuously advanced on the sixth season of American Idol, much to the chagrin of Simon Cowell. In truth, all the judges seemed to be puzzled by Malakar’s success with the American public. Despite their negative comments, Malakar kept advancing.
Eventually, Malakar was voted off — finishing seventh place in the finals. It seemed unlikely that he would have an enormously successful music career post-Idol. Unfortunately for Malakar, this proved true. However, he did make multiple appearances on TV shows. Malakar placed fifth on the show I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here, where celebrities live in the jungle and compete with one another for votes. Malakar has a net worth of $300,000.
40. Lee DeWyze
Season nine winner of American Idol Lee DeWyze has made seven albums, but he’s never quite enjoyed the commercial success of many of the other winners. Also, unlike most of his peers, his first album was not his best selling. Who knows, maybe his next album will be a smash hit?
American Idol fans saw DeWyze transform from a shy kid to a confident star — he dropped jaws with his rendition of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer.”
Despite the disappointing album sales, DeWyze has struck gold before. His song “Blackbird Song” was the most viral song the week it was featured on an episode of AMC’s The Walking Dead.
DeWyze has an estimated net worth of $500,000.
39. Brittany Kerr
Kerr, unfortunately, didn’t make it into the live rounds of American Idol before she was eliminated, yet she remains arguably one of the richest people on this list. She currently has a net worth upwards of $500,000 on her own accord but that’s not where it stops for this contestant.
Brittany Kerr is married to Country star, Jason Aldean, who has a net worth of approximately $60 Million. What’s his is hers, so fortunately for her, she’s sittin’ pretty at the top of this ranking.
38. Danny Gokey
Some American Idol alumni didn’t do well enough to crack the top 30, but still captured the hearts of fans and found success in their own right.
Such is the case with Danny Gokey. The singer claimed third place on the eighth season and has had a moderately successful music career post-Idol.
Fans will remember Gokey’s tragic backstory: Gokey’s wife of four years perished due to complications from surgery to treat congenital heart disease only one month before the show began. He succeeded against the odds, nearly winning the season. After his impressive finish, we went on to be nominated for an American Country Music Award and Grammy. In 2018, he signed a new record deal with Capitol Christian Music Group. Gokey has a net worth of $600,000.
37. William Hung
Despite not even making it past the audition round of American Idol, William Hung has had a fairly successful career in show business. Hung’s performance of Ricky Martin’s hit “She Bangs” went viral for all the wrong reasons. Afterward, he began appearing onscreen in some unlikely places, including an episode of Arrested Development. His debut album peaked at 34 on the US charts.
His success was not without controversy. Many critics speculated that he owed a large part of his success to embodying negative Asian stereotypes, others simply thought he was taking attention away from hardworking, talented artists that deserved the shine. Hung retired from music in 2011 to accept a job as a crime analyst for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Currently, he’s back in show business…kind of. He’s a motivational speaker, with an estimated net worth of $600,000.
36. Blake Lewis
Blake Lewis claimed second place on American Idol’s sixth season, ultimately losing to Jordin Sparks. His first album, titled Audio Day Dream, peaked at number 10 on the US charts. He’s released two albums since then, the last of which he released on his own label, Audio Day Dream Records. Unfortunately, neither have had great commercial success.
Lewis is an ardent supporter of cancer research and treatment, largely because his best friend and his friend’s girlfriend were diagnosed with lymphoma. When competing on Don’t Forget the Lyrics, Lewis used the platform to raise money for the Seattle Children’s Hospital. Blake Lewis has an estimated net worth of $600,000.
35. Justin Guarini
Guarini was runner up on American Idol’s first season, losing to one of the most successful artists on this list, Kelly Clarkson. Simon Cowell gave Guarini high praise, saying that he was privileged to “hear somebody undiscovered who has a voice like yours.”
Guarini received similar praise from Oprah, who said, “Justin, you have it.” Justin’s self-titled debut album peaked at 20 on the US charts. He’d release another album to less commercial success in 2005. Since then, he’s focused his efforts on Broadway acting and Dr. Pepper commercials, starring in numerous plays and appearing in multiple advertisements. Guarini has a net worth of around $700,000.
34. Constantine Maroulis
Maroulis finished sixth on the fourth season of American Idol. Since then, he’s released a solo album that peaked at 75 on the US charts. Before he appeared on Idol, he was in the rock band Pray for the Soul of Betty, who benefited heavily from Constantine’s appearance on Idol before he left the band to pursue his solo career.
Maroulis has starred in several musicals and received praise from fans and critics alike. He’s also guest starred on several popular TV series, including Law and Order: Special Victims Unit and Madame Secretary. Maroulis has an estimated net worth of $750,000.
33. Lauren Alaina
Finishing as runner up on Idol’s 10th season, Lauren Alaina fell to Scotty McCreery in the finale. Despite the setback, Alaina was able to sign a lucrative record deal with Interscope, Mercury Nashville, and 19 Recordings. Both of her albums to date have performed well commercially, with Wildflower and The Road Less Traveled peaking at second and third respectively on the US Country charts.
Alaina has toured rigorously, performing all around the world to large crowds. In 2019 she performed at the Mane Stage at the Stagecoach festival to a massive, enthusiastic crowd. Alaina has a net worth of $800,000. It looks like she’ll continue to see success.
32. Nick Fradiani
Nick Fradiani won American Idol in 2015 — but he’s struggled to find great commercial success in his solo singing career. His only album to date peaked at 121 on the Billboard 200, selling only 5,000 copies to date. That being said, his career’s still young: He may have a smash hit in the future.
Fradiani’s career as a singer started before Idol. He sang in the pop/rock band Beach Avenue, which competed on the show America’s Got Talent, but didn’t make it past judgment week.
He has a net worth of close to $1 million — safe to say, he’s off to a good start.
31. Caleb Johnson
Johnson won the 13th season of American Idol, but it wasn’t his first time on the storied stage. He’d actually been on the show twice before but was eliminated early in the competition. He proved the old-time axiom “third time’s the charm” when he defeated Jena Irene in the season finale.
Johnson may not have had the record-shattering commercial success of some of his Idol peers, but he’s still done pretty well for himself. His debut album peaked at number four on the Billboard 200 but has only sold 28,000 copies to date.
Still, he’s managed to amass an impressive net worth of around $1 million.
30. Tamyra Gray
American Idol contestant Tamyra Gray only placed fourth on the show’s first season — but she still managed to become a star. Fans of the show Boston Public may recognize her for her recurring role as Aisha on season three of the television drama, and she’s had several starring roles in Broadway theater productions.
Gray has only released one album — 2004’s The Dreamer, which was moderately successful, selling over 120,000 copies and peaking at 23 on the Billboard 200. She’s also co-written a number of successful songs, including “You Thought Wrong,” which she performed with season one winner Kelly Clarkson.
Gray has an estimated net worth of $1 million.
29. Ace Young
Despite finishing seventh on the fifth season of Idol and finding only limited success as a recording artist, Ace Young’s still done remarkably well for himself. His only album to date didn’t crack the Billboard Top 100 — but he didn’t let that halt his career in music.
Young is a successful songwriter, penning the chorus of the Grammy-nominated hit “It’s Not Over,” which was recorded by castmate Chris Daughtry’s band Daughtry.
Ace Young has also performed on several Broadway plays, including Grease, Hair, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Ace Young has a net worth of $1 million.
28. Jason Castro
Castro finished fourth on American Idol’s seventh season. The folk singer has done pretty well for himself after the show. His rendition of Leonard Cohen’s song “Hallelujah,” in the style of Jeff Buckley brought many fans to tears and propelled the single to number one on the iTunes chart. It was promptly taken down because producers didn’t want to be accused of favoritism.
Castro has released three albums to date — two of which cracked the Billboard Top 200. He cut off his signature dreadlocks in 2014 and has since kept his hair shorter. Castro has an estimated net worth of $1.3 million.
27. Melinda Doolittle
Melinda Doolittle dazzled fans on the sixth season of American Idol, overcoming her tense nervousness and ultimately finishing third in the finale. Simon Cowell said that he believed Doolittle should have won. So far she’s only released one full-length album, titled Coming Back to You, which peaked at 58 on the US charts.
She wrote and released a memoir about her time on American Idol called Beyond Me: Finding Your Way to Life’s Next Level. Doolittle also hosts the show Reality Check, a weekly American Idol recap on TVline.com. Melinda Doolittle has an impressive estimated net worth of $1.5 million.
26. James Durbin
James Durbin only claimed fourth place on season 10 of American Idol — but he’s still done well for himself. The Santa Cruz singer has released several solo albums and toured with several big-name rock bands like Evanescence, Buckcherry, and Drowning Pool. He’s even headlined a few tours on his own.
In 2017, Durbin replaced Seann Nicols as lead singer of the heavy metal group Quiet Riot, singing on their record Road Rage. While his albums may have never sold quite as well as many other American Idol alumni, he’s still managed to carve out an impressive net worth of $1.5 million.
25. Kimberley Locke
Locke placed third on season three of American Idol and stayed in the entertainment business — both in the limelight and behind the scenes.
She released her first album One Love in 2004 to decent critical reception and album sales. She’s also appeared in numerous TV shows since 2005, including Celebrity Fit Club.
Not satisfied with just a singing and acting career, Locke put her bachelor’s degree from Belmont University in Business Administration in Management to use in 2011 when she founded the entertainment company I AM Entertainment.
She’s also a life and vocal coach, amassing a fortune of $1.5 million.
24. Haley Reinhart
Haley Reinhart placed third on the 10th season of American Idol and continued her career in entertainment. She’s released four albums, taking a more artistic route than some of her American Idol contemporaries — she seems to value artistic direction over commercial success.
Reinhart recorded her 2017 album with analog recording equipment and vintage instruments and amps to give it a deliberately “retro” feel, inspired by the classic rock and soul musicians of the 1960s.
Reinhart began a voice acting career in 2015, playing Bill Murphy on the successful animated Netflix show F is for Family.
The singer has an impressive net worth of $1.5 million.
23. Diana DeGarmo
Season three runner-up Diana DeGarmo has found considerable success outside of American Idol. Some fans may not be aware that Idol was not DeGarmo’s first foray into televised singing competitions — she was a finalist on the NBC talent show America’s Most Talented Kid years prior.
After Idol, DeGarmo recorded the song “Reachin’ for Heaven” for the soundtrack to the 2005 Disney film Ice Princess.
She’s also a successful theater actress, starring in several musical productions including Hairspray, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and she even starred as Dorothy in the first national tour production of Oz.
DeGarmo has a net worth of around 1.5 million.
22. Bo Bice
Bo Bice lost to megastar Carrie Underwood on season four of American Idol. While he hasn’t reached her level of stardom, he’s certainly done well for himself. He’s released three studio albums, the first of which, The Real Thing, went gold and peaked at number 3 on the Billboard 200.
He also joined as lead singer of the legendary rock group Blood, Sweat & Tears for a five year period during the 2010s.
Bice has appeared on a few TV shows, including American Chopper, on an episode that featured a bike with a built-in Peavey guitar, microphone, and amplifier.
He’s got an estimated net worth of $2 million.
21. Josh Gracin
The country star and former US marine got his start by competing on American Idol’s second season. He’d claim fourth place in the season, losing to Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken, and Kimberley Locke — but the exposure from the show would be enough to launch his lucrative singing career.
To date, he’s released three albums, the first of which went gold and featured the number one hit “Nothin’ to Lose.” His second and third albums would both climb the Country charts to number four and number 39, respectively.
Despite fighting a publicized battle with depression, Gracin has continued touring and making music. He recently released his latest single “Lucky Stars” is out now.
Gracin has an estimated net worth of $2 million.
20. Taylor Hicks
Season five winner Taylor Hicks didn’t find great success immediately after American Idol. His self-titled debut album peaked at number 2 on the Billboard charts — not bad, but it was the worst selling album from an American Idol winner at the time. The label dropped him.
He didn’t give up and decided to independently release his sophomore album The Distance. It peaked at number 58 on the Billboard chart. He also toured in the Broadway show Grease, playing the role of “Teen Angel.” Currently, he hosts the show State Plate, which features food from all over the country. Hicks has an estimated net worth of $2 million.
Nobody dreams of finishing in ninth place. It was an unfortunate blow for Mandisa Hundley, as were “mean judge” Simon Cowell’s constant jabs about her weight. She famously took the high road, forgiving him for his insults and hugging him on the show.
Perhaps she should have thanked him, however. She was able to channel her pain about body image coupled with her Christian faith into her debut album True Beauty. The album performed well — peaking at number 43 on the Billboard 200 and number 1 on the Top Christian Albums. All her albums continue to chart, making her one of the most popular contemporary gospel and Christian artists in the country.
Mandisa has a net worth of around $3 million.
18. Ruben Studdard
“The Velvet Teddybear” has had great success both on and off American Idol. He’s got platinum and gold records, as well as a burgeoning acting career on Broadway. His latest album is a tribute to legendary soul singer Luther Vandross entitled Ruben sings Luther.
Studdard has also appeared in a couple of television shows and the feature film Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed.
Though his album sales have waned considerably after the release of his debut album, he seems happy just to be able to continue making the music he loves singing.
Ruben Studdard’s estimated net worth is $3 million.
17. Kris Allen
Kris Allen was determined to be a star. Even before American Idol, he had released a studio album of original songs. After winning the eighth season of Idol, Allen went on to release his self-titled album that peaked at number 11 on the Billboard 200.
Since then he’s released four more albums and dedicated a lot of his time to philanthropic efforts. He’s been on several missionary trips, including one that resulted in him contracting a rare form of hepatitis that nearly killed him. He’s a staunch advocate of music education, supporting various charity programs aimed at promoting school music programs.
Allen has a net worth of approximately $3.5 million.
16. Kimberly Caldwell
Caldwell finished seventh on season two of Idol. Her first and only album to date was released on April 19, 2011, eight years after her appearance on the show. It didn’t do very well commercially and scored mostly poor reviews from critics. However, Kimberly Caldwell has amassed an impressive fortune outside of music.
Caldwell has appeared in several movies and TV shows — most notably, she’s had a job as a correspondent on Fox News’ 54321 extreme sports program, hosted P. Diddy’s Starmaker on MTV and Best Ink on the Oxygen network. Kimberly Caldwell has an estimated net worth of $4 million.
15. Scotty McCreery
McCreary’s powerful voice and boyish charm propelled him to victory on season 10 of American Idol. His success continued with the release of his debut record Clear as Day and his sophomore release Christmas with Scotty McCreery, which both sold well — going platinum and gold respectively.
Though he’s a North Carolina native, the country star is an avid fan of the Boston Red Sox and wrote his own major league blog in 2013. He even had a successful high school baseball career as a pitcher — though you may not know it from the first pitch he threw at a White Sox game.
McCreery has a net worth of around $4 million.
14. Phillip Phillips
Phillips probably has the catchiest name in all of American Idol history — and also one of the catchiest tunes. In fact, the song “Home” from his debut album The World from the Side of the Moon is the best selling single from any American Idol contestant in the show’s history.
Phillip’s found great commercial success with the release of his first album. He also has the distinct honor of being the only American Idol winner that Simon Cowell liked after he had left the show in 2010.
Phillips has an estimated net worth of $5 million. Besides a couple of acting roles, he’s focused almost entirely on a career in music.
13. David Cook
After winning season seven, David Cook became a bona fide pop star. His first album went platinum and he broke several Billboard records. He had 11 songs debut on the Hot 100 and broke the record for most debut songs on the Hot Digital Singles chart in a single week with 14 entries.
Cook received his first guitar as a gift at the age of 13. Practice and hard work paid off, earning him the title of American Idol winner and platinum-selling artist. He currently has a net worth of around $5 million and continues to tour around the world.
12. David Archuleta
Much like fellow Idol runner up Diana DeGarmo, American Idol was not the first time Archuleta had performed on a televised competitive stage. He nearly won the title of Junior Grand Champion on Star Search. On the show, he competed alongside Alexandréa Lushington, who he’d meet again in the seventh season of American Idol.
Just like he did on American Idol, Archuleta’s debut (and best-selling) album peaked at second place. It doesn’t seem to bother him too much — Archuleta has dedicated a lot of his time and energy toward philanthropy. A devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Archuleta has completed a missionary trip to Chile and recorded the song “Glorious” for the film Meet the Mormons.
He’s got an impressive net worth of $5 million.
11. Kellie Pickler
She may have lost American Idol, but she went on to win Dancing with the Stars. Beyond that, she’s still had plenty of success outside of competitive reality TV. Her debut album went gold, producing three singles that cracked the top 20 of the Billboard Hot Country charts.
She’s also the host of Pickler and Ben, a lifestyle and beauty daytime TV show on CMT. She’s also starred on the reality TV program I Love Kellie Pickler.
The “Didn’t You Know How Much I Loved You” singer has an enviable net worth of $5 million. Not bad at all for a “Small Town Girl.”
Fantasia Barrino won the third season of American Idol. Since then, she’s gone on to release many commercially successful albums — and attract the admiration of her idol, legendary soul singer Patti LaBelle, along the way. LaBelle has adoringly dubbed Fantasia “Baby Patti LaBelle.”
Fantasia overcame a tragic childhood and functional illiteracy to become one of the most successful members of the American Idol alumni. She’s a multi-platinum recording artist, and unlike many of her Idol peers, her recent albums continue to sell well — 2016’s The Definition Of… peaked at number 6 on the Billboard 200.
Fantasia has an estimated net worth of $5 million.
9. Elliot Yamin
Elliot Yamin won points for his exceptional singing voice — Simon Cowell said he was quite possibly “the best male vocalist” he’d heard thus far on American Idol. Stevie Wonder also told Yamin he should “definitely pursue a career in music.” His dance skills and stage presence proved to be his Achilles heel and he was only able to claim third place.
Despite losing, he’s managed to have a lasting career in music, releasing nine albums — four of which have charted in the Top 200.
A diabetic himself, Yamin has dedicated plenty of money and effort towards awareness and treatment of the deadly ailment.
Elliot Yamin has an estimated net worth of $6 million.
8. Clay Aiken
Another story of success after losing, Clay Aiken’s had quite the career post-Idol — one that includes millions of records sold, a stint on Broadway, and a congressional bid.
Aiken went through quite the transformation on the second season of American Idol, gradually shedding his “geeky” persona as he survived round after round before ultimately claiming second place.
Aiken’s first album Measure of a Man went double platinum. His second and third albums also did well, going platinum and gold, respectively. He’s played himself on the hit television shows The Office and Law and Order: SVU. In 2014, he ran for North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional seat, winning the primary but ultimately losing the election.
Aiken has a net worth of around $7 million.
7. Katharine McPhee
McPhee claimed second place on season five of American Idol. Despite losing to Taylor Hicks in the finale (she was so close!), she’d still find great success in the entertainment business. Later that year, she released her self-titled debut record on RCA records that would climb to number 2 on the Billboard charts.
McPhee doesn’t rely on singing as her only source of income: She’s also a successful actress, with lead roles on several TV shows. You’ve probably seen her in some of your favorites! She’s most well-known for her role as Karen Cartwright on the NBC show Smash.
Katherine McPhee has an impressive net worth of $8 million.
6. Chris Daughtry
They can’t all be winners. In fact, sometimes losing is a blessing in disguise. Chris Daughtry placed fourth on the show’s fifth season — but he didn’t let that stop him. The self-titled debut record by his rock band Daughtry was the fastest selling debut rock record in history. In fact, he’s been more commercially successful than season five winner, Taylor Hicks.
When Chris Daughtry was eliminated from American Idol, he was visibly stunned. Lucky for him, he was immediately offered a recording contract with RCA Records. His albums and shows continue to sell and he has an estimated net worth of $10 million. Not too bad for fourth place.
5. Jordin Sparks
The youngest winner of American Idol, Jordin Sparks captured the hearts of America, defeating Blake Lewis in the season finale of season six. She also has the distinct achievement of being the only Idol winner to have their first five singles debut on the top 20 of the Billboard Top 100.
Sparks is estimated to have a net worth of $10 million. She’s earned her sizeable fortune through record sales, acting, and endorsements — including the makeup brand Avon and Wet Seal clothing.
The “One Step at a Time” singer is also a philanthropist, donating money and performing for various causes.
4. Jennifer Hudson
Despite placing seventh on season three of American Idol, Hudson found incredible success in her singing career. Many fans were appalled when she was eliminated — fortunately, she didn’t let the setback stop her. Her first two albums went gold and she’s acted in several films, most notably, she was praised for her role as Effie White in Dreamgirls.
Hudson has a net worth of $20 million. She’s made her money not just through her music and acting but also as a spokesperson for Weight Watchers. She has also put her reality TV competition expertise to use as a coach on The Voice.
3. Adam Lambert
Lambert losing to Kris Allen might be the biggest upset in the history of American Idol. Fans were shocked when it was announced that Lambert wouldn’t be claiming first prize. If there was any silver lining, it was that fans knew he was destined for stardom.
Of course, they were right. Lambert’s trajectory is nearly unparalleled. His first album For Your Entertainment went platinum in three different countries. In 2012, he became the first openly gay singer to top the US Billboard Top 200 with the release of his sophomore album Trespassing.
Lambert’s net worth is estimated to be around $20 million.
2. Kelly Clarkson
The winner of the first season of American Idol is also one of the most successful. Her debut single was a slow burn — it debuted at 60 on the top 100, before quickly ascending to number one in the coming weeks. It was the biggest jump up the Billboard charts in history, breaking a record set by The Beatles 38 years prior.
She took a bold risk on her second album, distancing herself from her American Idol image by using a harder-edged, rock and roll sound and hiring a new talent manager. The strategy seems to have paid off, the album was her most successful to date and features some of her most recognizable songs like “Because of You,” “Behind These Hazel Eyes,” and “Since You’ve Been Gone.”
Clarkson has a net worth of $28 million — but it’s not all from album sales and tour revenue. She’s also a successful children’s author, actress, and a coach on The Voice.
1. Carrie Underwood
No surprise here. After winning season four of American Idol, Carrie Underwood catapulted up the charts. Underwood was the first woman to release four country music albums that soared to number one.
So far she’s won seven Grammys, 11 Billboard Music Awards, 13 American Music Awards, and tons more accolades.
Obviously, she’s also sold extremely well also — 65 million records worldwide.
The “Blown Away” singer has an impressive net worth of $85 million. Considering she likely pulls in over $500,000 per show, that’s not surprising in the least. Forbes considers her the most successful American Idol star — a claim that’s hard to dispute.
This article was originally published on Finance101: These ‘American Idol’ alumni are incredibly wealthy
Guilty Pleasures Galore, These Are The Best Reality TV Shows Ever, Ranked
Reality TV shows are what “guilty pleasures” are made of. But some of these series are a cut above the rest, managing to become true works of art. We went through all of the crowning achievements in the world of reality television — not including competition shows — and came up with our rankings of the best shows you can’t help but revel in.
These Stars Refuse To Film Nude Scenes, And They’ve Explained Their Reasons Why
Is putting one’s body on display for the whole world to see really necessary for Hollywood fame and fortune? Not if you ask these humble actors and actresses. While many other screen stars are willing to go the whole nine yards, these ones simply refuse to do it. Here are the stars who you’ll never see in nude scenes.
Double Threats: We Didn’t Realize These Stars Made The Switch Between Music and Movies
Whether some musicians break away from the stage to act in a film as a side project, or whether they leave their singing careers behind completely in order to start on a totally new career path, some of the biggest stars have been able to reinvent themselves from music to acting. Here’s a chance to glimpse your favorite stars in a totally new light you may never have expected.