Where Are They Now? American Idol Winner Ruben Studdard

American Idol has begun its 22nd season. When all is said and done, the reality show will look to crown a champion as memorable as past winners. In terms of those past champs, few are remembered quite as fondly as Ruben Studdard.

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Studdard’s odd-couple showdown with Clay Aiken made for one of the toughest choices in the show’s history, way back in the second season in 2003. His win launched him into an outstanding, varied career. Let’s take a look at what he’s done since that win, and find out what he’s doing these days.

Ruben Studdard’s Soulful Beginning

Studdard’s recording career couldn’t have started any better. Just six months after he won on Idol, his debut album Soulful arrived (following the release of the Idol single “Flying Without Wings,” a No. 2 pop hit.) Although he added a few choice covers (“How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” and “Superstar,”) it was the single “Sorry 2004” which helped him escape the Idol shadow, as it soared to the Top 10 on the pop charts.

To his credit, Studdard followed his muse for his next album, delivering a gospel-based LP in I Need an Angel. He went back to a more secular well in 2006 with The Return, which included “Change Me,” a song that topped the Adult R&B charts. Another high point in Studdard’s discography came in 2012 with the album Letters from Birmingham, which drew some of the strongest reviews of his career.

In 2018, Studdard leaned into one of the most common comparisons that he’s heard throughout his career. Ruben Sings Luther found him covering songs by legendary R&B singer Luther Vandross. All totaled, Studdard has released eight studio albums, with the most recent being The Way I Remember It in 2023.

Ruben Studdard’s Other Career Paths

Studdard has occasionally ventured into acting. He has often performed his songs on the shows and movies in which he has appeared. Perhaps his most high-profile appearance in this vein came when he delivered a cameo in Scooby-Doo Two: Monsters Unleashed in 2004.

In addition, Studdard has done his share of philanthropic work. Most notably, he’s the founder of the Ruben Studdard Foundation for the Advancement of Children in the Music Arts. Studdard also remained close to his old Idol rival Clay Aiken through the years. The pair has performed together often, most recently in 2023 in a tour celebrating the 20-year anniversary of their appearance on the show.

In a recent interview with timesonline.com about the tour with Aiken, Studdard spoke about the milestone. He discussed wanting to return the favor to the fans who first supported him all those years ago:

“20 years is a real monumental moment in your life after achieving something I never thought would happen to us. I always wanted to be a part of the music industry, but I never thought in a million years it would happen the way it did, being on ‘American Idol.’ And we wanted to celebrate with the people who gave us the chance to live out both of our dreams in some ways. This is something to be proud of and celebrated and just thankful we’re still here 20 years after.”

(Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for The Hollywood Christmas Parade)

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