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American Idol runners-up, Clay Aiken, Melinda Doolittle, Kellie Pickler


American Idol has produced its fair share of superstars after fourteen seasons—and many of its most famous contestants didn't even win. Heck, Jennifer Hudson won an Oscar and she didn't even make the Top 5! In honor of the show's fifteenth and final season premiering this week, we took a look back at where some of your favorite non-winners have found themselves in the years since their time on the show—Broadway, Nashville and Washington, D.C. included. American Idol premieres Wednesday, Jan. 6 at 8 p.m. on Fox.

Justin Guarini, Season 1 (Runner-Up)

Listen, we've all seen the masterpiece that is From Justin to Kelly, but the very first Idol runner-up has stayed in the biz since we all fell in love with his amazing head of hair. Most recently, you've seen him as Lil Sweet, a.k.a. Diet Dr. Pepper's glam rock mascot. He's also pretty hilarious on Twitter.

Clay Aiken, Deviated Septums

Ben Gabbe/Getty Images, SGranitz/WireImage

Clay Aiken Season 2 (Runner-Up)

You definitely heard songs from Aiken's post-Idol singing career, since he dominated the radio for a while after before turning to politics. The North Carolina native ran as the Democratic candidate for his home state's second congressional seat in 2014 (but ultimately lost to the Republican incumbent).

Ace Young, Diana DeGarmo, Christmas 2015

William Kidston

Diana DeGarmo, Season 3 (Runner-Up)

Idol was so influential in the young singer's life that she even married Ace Young, a fellow Idol vet. (They got engaged on live TV during the season 11 Idol finale.)  She's done stints on Broadway (including the revival of Hair, where she met Young) and The Young and the Restless, and continues to act.

The Color Purple, Jennifer Hudson

Matthew Murphy

Jennifer Hudson, Season 3 (Seventh Place)

J.Hud is definitely the most egregious case of "voted off too early" in Idol history, but things worked out pretty well for her, Oscar and successful singing career and all. She recently made her Broadway debut in The Color Purple.

Bo Bice, Season 4 (Runner-Up)

Fun fact: Bice released a few solo albums after finishing second to Carrie Underwood, and is now the lead singer of the touring version of the iconic band Blood, Sweat & Tears.

Constantine Maroulis, Season 4 (Sixth Place)

Who would've thought the rocker would make his name on Broadway? Maroulis earned a Tony nomination for his role in the musical Rock of Ages, and a Drama League Award nomination for Jekyll and Hyde. He was also a producer of Deaf West's critically acclaimed Spring Awakening revival.

Elliott Yamin, Season 5 (Third Place)

Yo, "Wait for You" was a jam. (Probably one of the best post-Idol singles ever, right?) Dude's crushing it in Japan, and has released multiple full-length albums exclusively in the country in the past few years.

Chris Daughtry


Chris Daughtry, Season 5 (Fourth Place)

You've definitely rocked out to Daughtry in the car. The rocker and his band released their most recent album, Baptized, in 2013—which means it's totally time for a new one, right? The singer-songwriter has also been busy writing tunes for other artists, and has begun to try his hand at acting.

Scorpion, Katharine McPhee

Neil Jacobs/CBS

Katharine McPhee, Season 5 (Runner-Up)

For those who happened to miss the entirety of Idol's fifth season, Smash had the honor of "introducing" the singer-actress to the rest of the TV-viewing public. While McPhee continues to occasionally release new music, she can be found every Monday at 9 p.m. starring on CBS' drama Scorpion.

Melinda Doolittle, Season 6 (Third Place)

Hands down, one of the most talented singers to grace the Idol stage has released plenty of material since her time on the show, focusing on old-school soul, and regularly tours. Plus, she's still an Idol superfan and provides plenty of astute commentary during the season via Twitter and other outlets.

David Archuleta


David Archuleta, Season 7 (Runner-Up)

Adorable Archie took a few years off from his singing career to complete his Mormon mission. Since returning, he's back on social media and returning to music.

Kyle Jacobs, Kellie Pickler, 2015 CMA Awards

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Kellie Pickler, Season 7 (Sixth Place)

The bubbly blonde might not have taken the title on Idol, but she's since launched a successful country career and won the Mirrorball Trophy with Derek Hough on season 16 of Dancing With the Stars. She and husband Kyle Jacobs star in the CMT reality show I Love Kellie Pickler together.

Adam Lambert, Season 8 (Runner-Up)

Have you been living under a rock? Because if not, you've definitely been listening to Lambert's excellent post-Idol dance pop, including everything from his A+ 2015 release, The Original High.

Haley Reinhart, Season 10 (Third Place)

Girlfriend never really got the accolades she deserved on Idol, but her post-show career is shaping up to be a good one. She's been touring with the group Postmodern Jukebox, covering modern pop songs with a vintage twist after several of their collaborations went viral, and is set to release a new solo EP in 2016. She continues to make music with Idol bestie Casey Abrams, and voiced a young boy named Bill Murphy in Netflix's most recent original series, the animated F Is for Family.

Paul McDonald, Season 10 (Eighth Place)

McDonald has recorded plenty of post-Idol music, including an EP with then-wife Nikki Reed, whom he met on the Red Riding Hood red carpet in a segment that was actually broadcast on Idol. He dropped new music in late 2015.