Since its debut nearly two decades ago, “American Idol” has become a favorite among viewers. From Kelly Clarkson’s captivating performance in the first season to Noah’s inspirational story in the latest one, this singing show has given singers from around the world a chance to shine.
If you’ve been a die-hard supporter of “American Idol” since its start, you no doubt remember when Kelly Clarkson won its very first season. Who could have predicted that she would go on to make chart-topping hits, take home multiple Grammys, host her own singing competition, land a daytime TV show, and pursue some other surprising business ventures?
While it may be common knowledge that some of the show’s former female contestants are involved in the music industry, you may be surprised to learn that others have opened restaurants, acted in Broadway plays, and even composed songs for television series.
Female Winners of American Idol
Kelly Clarkson’s triumph as the very first winner of “American Idol” still stands undefeated two decades later. At 20 years old, she surged to fame when her debut single “A Moment Like This” broke the Beatles’ 38-year record for fastest rise to the top of the charts.
Of her eight studio albums, three have earned multi-platinum status, garnering three Grammy awards and a host of other accolades for the Texas native.
In 2022, Clarkson concluded her eight-year stint as judge on “The Voice,” freeing up more time to focus on her Daytime Emmy-winning talk show “The Kelly Clarkson Show” and co-hosting “American Song Contest” with Snoop Dogg.
Fantasia Barrino, a North Carolina native, launched her Grammy-nominated debut album Free Yourself in 2004 after winning the third season of a television show.
Over the next several years, she earned twelve Grammy nominations and one win for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance in 2011. Seven studio albums followed, culminating in 2019’s Sketchbook.
Barrino also took to Broadway, starring in The Color Purple in 2007 and After Midnight in 2013. She later opened up about her life in her memoir Fantasia: Life Is Not a Fairytale, which was adapted into a Lifetime movie in 2006.
In 2015, Barrino married businessman Kendall Taylor. Together, they welcomed their first child, daughter Keziah, in May 2021. Barrino is also the mother of daughter Zion and son Dallas from previous relationships.
Underwood achieved great success after winning the fourth season of American Idol in 2005. She then released her debut album, Some Hearts, which featured the hit singles “Jesus Take the Wheel” and “Before He Cheats.”
This Tennessee native has since produced six amazing studio albums, which have earned her seven Grammys – the most of any Idol winner and a 2010 Guinness World Record for the most U.S. No. 1 country songs by a female artist.
Underwood made her acting debut in 2013, starring as Maria von Trapp in NBC’s The Sound of Music: live.
In 2017, Underwood suffered a serious fall on the steps outside of her house in Nashville, Tennessee, resulting in a broken wrist and requiring 40 stitches to her face.
Married to hockey player Mike Fisher since 2010, the couple share a son, Isaiah.
At the tender age of 17, Jordin Sparks accomplished the remarkable feat of winning the “American Idol” competition in 2005, a title she still holds today.
The Arizona native’s success translated over to her debut self-titled album, which was certified platinum with the help of the popular hits “Tattoo” and “No Air”, proving to be the third-highest charting single by an “Idol” champion with the second and first spots held by Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood respectively.
From her subsequent albums “Battlefield” and “One Step at a Time”, Sparks dominated the charts as both songs made it to the top.
Furthermore, Sparks has established her presence on both the big and small screen alike, appearing in film and television roles and even starring in Broadway productions such as “In The Heights” and “Waitress”.
Glover has proved that sometimes it takes three tries to be successful. After winning American Idol in 2013, she released her first single “I Am Beautiful” the very next day, followed by her debut album “Music Speaks”.
The single “Cried” from this album was featured on Billboard’s R&B chart for 19 weeks.
She has appeared in several shows such as “GRITS: Girls Raised In The South” (2019) and the short film “Colors” (2021).
Maddie Poppe’s impressive vocal talents earned her the title of American Idol champion on May 21, 2018, besting Caleb Lee Hutchinson and Gabby Barrett in the finale.
Her winning single was “Going, Going, Gone,” written by Julia Michaels, Mitch Allen, and Lindy Robbins. Aside from her idol success, Poppe had previously released an independent album titled Songs From the Basement in 2016 and then completed her first studio album Whirlwind with Hollywood Records in 2019.
Subsequently, she embarked on a tour with Ingrid Michaelson as an opener. Poppe continues to grow her music career with releases like her 2020 Christmas EP and her 2022 single “One That Got Away.”
Just Sam (Samantha Diaz)
Just Sam, more commonly known as Samantha Diaz, made history when she remotely won the competition and became the first Black American Idol since season 12’s Candice Glover, despite the restrictions of a global pandemic.
She triumphed over runner-up Arthur Song by reprising their audition song “Rise Up,” and was rewarded with a record deal from Hollywood Records. However, Just Sam made the decision to leave the label and make music on her own terms, for which she had to pay a hefty price.
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