5 of the Most Successful ‘American Idol’ Contestants Who Didn’t Win Their Seasons

American Idol has been on the air for over two decades, and it doesn’t look like the hit ABC show is stopping anytime soon. We’ve seen countless winners catapult to success. Kelly Clarkson, Fantasia Barrino, Carrie Underwood, and Caleb Johnson are just a few winners who kickstarted their careers on Idol. But what about the non-winners who became successful? Let’s look at a few American Idol contestants who didn’t win their season but became famous anyway.

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1. Jennifer Hudson

If you weren’t around to see this season of American Idol, you might be shocked to hear that Jennifer Hudson didn’t actually win. Despite a massive career that followed her time on the show, Hudson got the boot on Season 3 of Idol in favor of winner Fantasia Barrino. She’s since become an EGOT winner, an actress, and one of the most memorable American Idol contestants who didn’t win of all time.

2. Adam Lambert

Adam Lambert is the most successful male contestant to lose American Idol, and it’s a title that the singer wears with honor. After being eliminated from the show in 2009, Lambert rose to fame with countless tours and five successful studio albums. His net worth is also reported to be around $20 million. Not bad!

3. Katharine McPhee

McPhee ended up losing her Season 5 spot on the show to Taylor Hicks in 2006. Luckily, just appearing on the show did quite a bit for her music career. She’s released five different studio albums since then and has appeared in a number of TV programs. She was also recently on The Masked Singer as well. Nice job, Katharine!

[See Katharine McPhee Live on Tour in 2024]

4. Chris Daughtry

Daughtry’s elimination was extremely controversial. That controversy and the fact that he was so loved by fans ended up doing him some favors. He has since become very successful in his music career, and his debut album under his band Daughtry sold over six million records in the US. Daughtry also appeared on The Masked Singer.

5. Clay Aiken

The second season of American Idol was a major one, and fans were shocked when Clay Aiken lost to Ruben Studdard. Luckily, being the loser of the season did more good than harm. He’s since gone on to become a Broadway performer, an accomplished writer, and even ran for Congress.

Photo by Jason Merritt

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