16 most successful ‘American Idol’ losers ever: David Archuleta, Jennifer Hudson …

A lot of talent has crossed the stage of “American Idol” (first on Fox, now on ABC) since its debut in 2002. Every 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 some of the most famous contestants who lost on “American Idol.” They 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. Now tour our photo gallery above of the 16 most successful “American Idol” losers ever (or click here for direct access). The 21st season of the reality TV show is expected to crown its winner in May 2023.

16. Ace Young — This singer-songwriter earned the seventh place position in Season 5. Since leaving the show, Ace Young released a self-titled album in 2008 and performed on Broadway in “Grease” and “Hair.” In 2010, he started his own music company, “Young Brothers Entertainment,” in which he and Diana DeGarmo released projects. Later, the two teamed up in national tours of  “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “First Date.” As an actor, Young has appeared in such projects as “Bones,” “All About Christmas Eve” and “Clinton Road.”

15. Jimmie Allen — In Season 10, after advancing to Hollywood Week thanks to his Maroon 5 cover of “Sunday Morning,” Jimmie Allen was later cut before the live rounds. A decade later, he became the first Black solo performer to win New Male Artist of the Year at the 2021 ACM Awards. He later claimed New Artist of the Year at the 2021 CMA Awards. Jimmie had the honor of becoming an “American Idol” mentor in the Season 20 live shows.

14. Constantine Maroulis — New York born Constantine Maroulis placed sixth 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 he was touring regularly.

13. Lauren Alaina — Beginning her “American Idol” journey in Nashville, Lauren Alaina placed as the 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.”

12. Tamyra Gray — Tamyra Gray was lucky enough to be a contestant on the very first season of “American Idol” in 2002. Gray placed fourth 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.”

11. Haley Reinhart — Pop-jazz singer Haley Reinhart placed third 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.

10. 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.

9. 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.

8. David Archuleta — Season 7 of “American Idol” ended with a David vs. David battle between runner-up David Archuleta and winner David Cook. In the years since losing the reality TV show, Archuleta released multiple studio albums and wrote a children’s book titled “My Little Prayer.” In 2021, he opened up about balancing being a part of the LGBTQ+ community with his Mormon faith.

7. Todrick Hall — The entertainer rose to fame in 2010 thanks to his stint on the 9th season of “American Idol,” in which he made it to the Top 16. He parlayed that success into his YouTube channel, where millions of fans watched his music performances and comedy videos. MTV then produced a reality TV series titled “Todrick” in 2015 that chronicled his work in the industry and his desire to be a role model for other queer people of color. A year later, Hall joined up with “RuPaul’s Drag Race” where he became a choreographer and judge. More recently, he has found success as a singer-songwriter for four studio albums and as a contestant on “The Masked Singer” and “Celebrity Big Brother.”

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 was the 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 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.” She recently appeared on “The Masked Singer” as Banana Split with her husband David Foster.

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 seventh 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 2022, she became the 17th overall EGOT recipient by finishing her Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony grand slam: Emmy for “Baba Yaga,” Grammys for “Jennifer Hudson” and “The Color Purple,” Oscar for “Dreamgirls,” Tony for “A Strange Loop.”

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