There have been 19 seasons of the reality series American Idol but when you sit down to think about it, there are only a handful of former contestants whose lives were wildly changed by competing on the show. Carrie Underwood. Kelly Clarkson. Phillip Phillips. But let's not forget Katharine McPhee. The 21-year-old came in runner-up behind Taylor Hicks in the show's fifth season, but her career has completely thrived ever since.
McPhee grew up in Los Angeles, the daughter of a TV producer and a vocal coach. Her family and first husband, Nick Cokas, persuaded her to audition for American Idol and she was an instant favorite with her cover of Billie Holiday's "God Bless The Child." She had multiple memorable performances over the course of the season including "I Have Nothing," "Can't Help Falling in Love," "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree," "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," and more. She even toured with the other finalists following the season and recorded duets with her former guest mentor Andrea Bocelli. But unlike other past contestants, McPhee started doing a little bit of everything in addition to recording music. She started experimenting with acting.
The singer made her big Hollywood debut in the film The House Bunny as one of the sorority sisters mentored by Anna Faris. She went on to star in the NBC series Smash which followed the cast of a Broadway musical and let McPhee show off her impressive singing chops. She even starred in an actual Broadway musical, Waitress. She's gone on to star in the CBS series Scorpion, and most recently, the new Netflix series Country Comfort. McPhee explained to New York Theatre Guide in 2018 that there had been a big push to get her to do Broadway, but it hadn't felt right until the role of Jenna in Waitress came around.
"I don't know if it was peer pressure, but actually since "American Idol", there's been interest in pushing me towards Broadway and I was offered a couple of shows here and there. But I just didn't ever really feel overly excited about the particular show or role. I wanted to be really excited about it. When this came up, I knew the song from the Tony Awards when Jessie Mueller sang it with Sara Bareilles and then I fell in love with the rest of the show. People have always said: "You should do Broadway!" and I knew that, but it's not just a matter of 'doing Broadway'. It's a matter of doing the right show for you at the right time. I think this is it. This is that special show that is just right for me."
Despite having a successful acting career, McPhee has continued making music, her first love. She has five studio albums she's released so far -- Katharine McPhee (2007), Unbroken (2010), Christmas Is the Time to Say I Love You (2010), Hysteria (2015), and I Fall in Love Too Easily (2017). It's been a few years so it's unclear if any new music is on the horizon but hey...she's had a lot going on recently between new acting gigs and her family.
McPhee's marriage with Cokas ended after 8 years and she's currently married to producer David Foster, who is over 30 years her senior. Though their love story didn't begin until 2017, they had actually met years before when Foster had been a guest mentor on her season of Idol. After tying the knot in 2019, the couple welcomed their first child together, son Rennie David Foster. Currently juggling motherhood as well as her new Netflix series, McPhee gushed about how much she loves being a mom; kind of like how she regularly gushes about how in love with her husband she is. We're so excited for their growing family!
"Oh my gosh. It's the sweetest. It's just the best," she told Today. "I mean, I'm in heaven. It's really been amazing."