Scotty McCreery attends ACM Lifting Lives Topgolf Tee-Off & Rock On at Topgolf Las Vegas on March 06, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada / Carrie Underwood attends the 2022 CMT Music Awards at Nashville Municipal Auditorium on April 11, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee / Jennifer Hudson attends the 28th Screen Actors Guild Awards at Barker Hangar on February 27, 2022 in Santa Monica, California
Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images for ACM / Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for CMT / Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for WarnerMedia

The 15 Most Successful 'American Idol' Alums

For 20 seasons, American Idol has helped jumpstart the careers of aspiring singers by giving unknowns all over the country the opportunity to audition and appear on the show. The popular competition series started on FOX and has since moved to ABC with current judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie guiding the hopeful contestants week after week. For recent American Idol winners like Maddie Poppe, Laine Hardy, Just Sam and Chayce Beckham, it's only the beginning of what's to come since the show allowed them to build up a fan base that's anxiously following the next steps in their careers. And that goes for other finalists in their seasons as well. The show is so popular that it didn't even let the pandemic stop it in 2020, which is definitely saying something.

There have been so many talented winners as well as contestants featured on the series over the years, but here are the top 15 alums who we think have become the most successful following their American Idol fame.

Kellie Pickler

Singer / Actress Kellie Pickler visits Hallmark Channel's "Home & Family" at Universal Studios Hollywood on November 05, 2019 in Universal City, California

Photo by Paul Archuleta/Getty Images

Country singer Kellie Pickler actually came in sixth place on American Idol's fifth season but she's gone on to have one heck of a career. She's released four studio albums, toured with the likes of Rascall Flatts and Brad Paisley, and even pursued a separate acting career appearing in multiple Hallmark films. Some of her best-known songs include her debut single "Red High Heels" and "Don't You Know You're Beautiful."

Katharine McPhee

Katharine McPhee attends the Clive Davis 90th Birthday Celebration at Casa Cipriani on April 06, 2022 in New York City

Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

Coming in as Taylor Hicks' runner up in season five just launched McPhee's steady music career and potentially more successful acting career. She's appeared in numerous films over the years like The House Bunny, starred in the Broadway and West End productions of Waitress, and starred in the TV shows Smash and Scorpion.

Phillip Phillips

Phillip Phillips performs at Ironstone Amphitheatre on September 09, 2021 in Murphys, California

Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

Phillips was declared the winner of American Idol's eleventh season and went down in history as having the most successful coronation song of all time with "Home." He's released three albums so far and has gone on numerous tours with everyone from John Mayer to Gavin DeGraw. He even appeared in an episode of Hawaii Five-0.

David Cook

ecording artist David Cook performs onstage during FOX's "American Idol" Finale For The Farewell Season at Dolby Theatre on April 7, 2016 in Hollywood, California. at Dolby Theatre on April 7, 2016 in Hollywood, California

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

David Cook triumphed over teenage singer David Archuleta as season seven's winner. He's released four albums, three EPs, and even starred in Kinky Boots on Broadway. He's headlined a whopping 10 tours and even hit the road with Gavin DeGraw and fellow American Idol alum Kris Allen.

Scotty McCreery

Scotty McCreery attends ACM Lifting Lives Topgolf Tee-Off & Rock On at Topgolf Las Vegas on March 06, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada

Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images for ACM

Scotty McCreery won a season stacked with talented country singers. Lauren Alaina and
Haley Reinhart came in second and third place in the tenth season where a sixteen-year-old McCreery was declared the winner. He has since gone on to become a major name in Nashville with a debut album that debuted at number one on the charts. He's a CMT and ACM Award winner who regularly releases popular country music hits.

Ruben Studdard

Singer Ruben Studdard performs in concert during Kiss 104.1 Flashback Festival 2019 Series at Mable House Barnes Amphitheatre on August 31, 2019 in Mableton, Georgia

Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images

Second season winner Ruben Studdard has had an eclectic but exciting career since his big win. He's released seven albums over the years including Soulful, which went platinum, and his award-winning gospel album I Need an Angel. He's a Grammy nominee and even made his Broadway debut opposite fellow Idol alum Clay Aiken.

Fantasia Barrino

Fantasia arrives at "Q 85: A Musical Celebration for Quincy Jones" presented by BET Networks at Microsoft Theater on September 25, 2018 in Los Angeles, California

Photo by Maury Phillips/Getty Images for BET

Season 3 winner Fantasia Barrino is best known by her stage name, Fantasia. Her debut album following her big win went platinum and earned the R&B singer multiple Grammy nominations. She won the 2007 Theatre World Award for her role as Celie in The Color Purple on Broadway and has been confirmed to reprise the role in the upcoming 2023 film adaptation.

Constantine Maroulis

Constantine Maroulis poses following recording "As Long as you're Mine" to celebrate the return of Broadway at Flux Studios on August 10, 2021 in New York City

Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

As we know, Carrie Underwood won season 4, but Maroulis was still one of the standout finalists, coming in sixth place overall. Though he's had a solo career as well as a few years singing with the rock band Pray for the Soul of Betty, it's really his acting career that takes Maroulis to the next level. He has appeared in numerous Broadway productions including The Wedding Singer and Rock of Ages, the latter earning him a Tony nomination.

Clay Aiken

Clay Aiken speaks onstage during the 2019 Politicon at Music City Center on October 26, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Politicon

Season two runner-up Clay Aiken may have lost to Ruben, but he went on to become one of the highest-selling American Idol alums of all time. The North Carolina native's debut album went multi-platinum, he had a Broadway run in Spamalot, and he's in the process of running for Congress in North Carolina's 6th congressional district.

Jordin Sparks

Jordin Sparks attends The Recording Academy Los Angeles Chapter Nominee Celebration at Spring Place on March 26, 2022 in Beverly Hills, California

Photo by Frazer Harrison/FilmMagic

Jordin Sparks won the sixth season of the series at the age of 17, the youngest winner the show had seen at the time. With hit songs like '"Tattoo" and "No Air," she's become a Grammy nominee and American Music Awards winner. Like other alums, she decided to pursue acting and has appeared in the Broadway productions of In the Heights and Waitress as well as various films and TV shows.

Adam Lambert

Adam Lambert attends the BandLab NME Awards 2022 at O2 Academy Brixton on March 2, 2022 in London, England

Photo by Joseph Okpako/WireImage

Season eight runner-up Adam Lambert lost to Kris Allen, but his career was just getting started. His theatrical pop performances gained him a steady fan following that led to albums topping the charts as well as Grammy nominations. He's toured with Queen multiple times, appeared on the TV series Glee, and sold millions of albums.

Chris Daughtry

Chris Daughtry of Daughtry performs at Ryman Auditorium on November 03, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Photo by Mickey Bernal/Getty Images

Chris Daughtry came in fourth place in season five but has gone to really make his mark on rock music. In terms of record sales, he comes in just after Clarkson and Underwood in terms of his debut album following his season, and he's gone on to release six successful studio albums with his band Daughtry.


Carrie Underwood

Carrie Underwood attends the 2022 CMT Music Awards at Nashville Municipal Auditorium on April 11, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee

Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for CMT

Underwood went on to become far and away not only the most successful contestant from her season but one of the highest-selling country stars of all time. She triumphed over fellow season 4 finalist Bo Bice as her season's winner and now has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, is a member of the Grand Ole Opry, and has countless accolades, including Grammy, ACM and Billboard wins across her nine studio albums. She even has a Las Vegas residency!

Jennifer Hudson

Jennifer Hudson attends the 28th Screen Actors Guild Awards at Barker Hangar on February 27, 2022 in Santa Monica, California

Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for WarnerMedia

Somehow J. Hud came in seventh place in the third season but went on to have a really incredible career. She won an Oscar, Golde Globe and SAG Award for her performance in Dream Girls, and she's a Grammy and Daytime Emmy winner. Not to mention, you know you have an iconic voice when Hollywood casts you as Aretha Franklin in Respect, another performance that was highly praised.

Kelly Clarkson

Kelly Clarkson attends NBC's "American Song Contest" Week 4 at Universal Studios Hollywood on April 11, 2022 in Universal City, California

Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)

Kelly Clarkson is the one who started it all. She won the very first season, which led to her contractual obligation to appear in From Justin to Kelly with runner-up Justin Guarini. But her debut single "A Moment Like This" was the most successful song of 2002 and geared up a career full of accolades at nearly every major music awards show. She hosts her own Emmy winning talk show, is a coach on The Voice, and the Texas native even inspired a line of home decor at Wayfair.


READ MORE: Flashback: Scotty McCreery's 'American Idol' Win Still Brings Tears to Our Eyes