The Season 19 finale of “American Idol” just wrapped up on ABC with rock/country singer Chayce Beckham winning the coveted title. But the third place finisher, Grace Kinstler, and the runner-up, Willie Spence, shouldn’t worry too much. After all, if two decades of watching “Idol” has taught us anything, it’s that losing is just the beginning. Tour our photo gallery above of the 13 most successful losers in “American Idol” history.
A lot of talent has crossed the “Idol” stage since its debut on Fox in 2002. The show found a new home, ABC, in 2018. Each season thousands of contestants line up for their chance in front of the judges, but there can be only one winner. The following artists are part of a select few who made an impression on America so big they were able to overcome their loss and still find fame and fortune. You know them. You love them.
13. Constantine Maroulis
New York born Constantine Maroulis placed 6th on Season 4 of “American Idol” in 2005. He’s the only contestant to ever originate a hit show on Broadway and be nominated for Tony Awards for best actor (“Rock of Ages”) and producer (“Spring Awakening”). He’s added many other Broadway shows, guest star roles at TV and indie movies to his resume. His newest album “Until I’m Wanted” is at full airplay on SiriusXM and pre-Covid was touring regularly.
12. Lauren Alaina
Beginning her “American Idol” journey in Nashville, Lauren Alaina placed runner-up to Season 10 winner Scotty McCreery. After her loss in 2011 Alaina went on to release her debut album “Wildflower” which sold over 275,000 thousand copies. In 2019 she came in fourth place on “Dancing with the Stars.”
11. Tamyra Gray
Tamyra Gray was lucky enough to be a contestant on the very first season of “American Idol” in 2002. Gray placed 4th and as we all know fan favorite Kelly Clarkson went on to the winner’s seat. Gray can be seen in various TV shows and the 2008 film “Rachel Getting Married.”
10. Haley Reinhart
Pop-jazz singer Haley Reinhart placed 3rd after Lauren Alaina and Season 10 winner, Scotty McCreery. Reinhart first auditioned for “American Idol” Season 9 but was eliminated before the Hollywood round. Reinhart has released four studio albums since her loss in 2011.
9. Diana DeGarmo
“American Idol” Season 3 runner up, Diana DeGarmo, lost the title to Fantasia Barrino in 2004. Later the same year, opening sales of her debut album “Blue Skies” reached 47,000 and came in number 52 on the Billboard chart.
8. Kimberly Caldwell
Texas born Kimberly Caldwell placed 7th on Season 2 of “American Idol.” Five years later in 2008 Caldwell began a one-year relationship with Season 7 winner David Cook.
7. Tori Kelly
Tori Kelly made it to Hollywood Week during Season 9 in 2010 but was cruelly cut before the live shows started up. She went on to win two Grammys for “Hiding Place,” her second studio album. Kelly returned to the “Idol” stage in Season 19 to sing duets with some of the artists still in the competition.
6. Kellie Pickler
Country singer Kellie Pickler lost Season 5 of “American Idol” in 2006 but was able to take the win on Season 16 of “Dancing with the Stars” in 2013. Pickler’s debut album “Small Town Girl” had three singles reach the top 25 Billboard Hot Country Song charts in 2006.
5. Clay Aiken
Definitely one of the more well-known “American Idol” losers, Clay Aiken placed runner up in Season 2. Losing to Ruben Studdard didn’t slow Aiken down. Aiken went on to run for congress, perform on Broadway, appear on “Celebrity Apprentice” and write a New York Times bestselling book “Learning to Sing: Hearing the Music in Your Life.”
4. Chris Daughtry
Fourth place Season 5 contestant Chris Daughtry has become very successful after his loss on “American Idol.” His band “Daughtry” released their self-titled debut album in 2006 which has reached sales of over six million in the United States alone. The band is still currently together. In 2019 he appeared as the Rottweiler on “The Masked Singer,” making it all the way to second place.
3. Katharine McPhee
Even though Season 5 runner-up Katharine McPhee lost in 2006 to Taylor Hicks she continued on to a very successful career. McPhee has released five studio albums and landed parts in various TV shows and films including 2008’s “The House Bunny.”
2. Adam Lambert
Hands down the most successful male to lose the “American Idol” title, Adam Lambert has had no trouble rising to fame. Lambert was the Season 8 runner-up to Kris Allen in 2009. Lambert’s star has far surpassed Allen’s and his net worth is estimated at over $20 million. Lambert is currently on tour with the collaboration group “Queen + Adam Lambert.”
1. Jennifer Hudson
Unbelievably Jennifer Hudson came in 7th place on Season 3 of “American Idol.” Like Adam Lambert, Hudson has had much more success than the season’s winner, Fantasia Barrino. Two years after “American Idol” Hudson started an acting career and has had parts in over a dozen films. In 2007 Hudson took home an Oscar for her performance in the 2006 movie “Dreamgirls.” Hudson is considered the most successful contestant to lose “American Idol.”