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The First 12 American Idol Winners: Photos Then & Now

With Season 19 of Idol crowning a winner soon, let’s look at where the original victors are now, starting with 2002 champion Kelly Clarkson.

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Kelly Clarkson — Season 1

The first American Idol winner is also one of the few who was able to sustain her stardom. Almost 20 years later, Kelly Clarkson now has six studio albums, three Grammys, and a popular talk show (on which she brilliantly covers pop songs) under her belt. Ironically, she’s also a judge on American Idol’s top competitor: The Voice.

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Ruben Studdard — Season 2

Ruben Studdard may fly under the radar compared to other Idol winners, but the Grammy-nominated artist recorded seven studio albums and went on The Biggest Loser in 2013. In 2016, Ruben returned to the Idol stage for the duets round. He even reunited with his season’s Idol runner-up Clay Aiken for a Christmas Broadway show in 2018. He’s just living his best life.

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Fantasia — Season 3

Fantasia is the only Idol winner to go just by her first name, and she’s earned it. She’s gone on to release seven albums, star in two Broadway shows, release a book about her life, and then adapt her book into a Lifetime movie starring herself — with Viola Davis playing her mom.

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Carrie Underwood — Season 4

If you don’t know where Carrie Underwood is now, you live under a rock. She essentially ties with Clarkson for the most successful Idol winner, with six platinum albums, seven Grammys, and even a couple films to her name. Billboard named her the biggest female country artist of the 2000s and 2010s. Enough said.

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Taylor Hicks — Season 5

Taylor Hicks, who won Idol in 2006, has gone on to open a restaurant in Alabama, perform a Las Vegas residency, and host the show Slate Plate in 2016. Never forget when he and Season 5 runner-up Katharine McPhee reminded people to vote in the 2016 elections, poking fun at their season’s results.

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Jordin Sparks — Season 6

After winning Idol, Jordin Sparks delivered a slew of iconic hits like “No Air” and “Battlefield,” and opened for Britney Spears on her Circus Tour. More recently, she gave birth to her son Dana Isaiah Thomas Jr., which was chronicled in a Lifetime special, and she competed on The Masked Dancer.

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David Cook — Season 7

David Cook won the Battle of the Davids against runner-up David Archuleta in 2008, making for a suspenseful finale moment. Since then, he married his longtime girlfriend in 2015 and has gone independent, most recently releasing The Looking Glass EP in April.

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Kris Allen — Season 8

Kris Allen has four studio albums, culminating with 10 in 2019, full of reworked versions of his songs to mark a decade since his win. But just as importantly, he needs to drop his skin care routine because he has barely aged a day.

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Lee DeWyze — Season 9

Easily one of the most under-the-radar winners ever, Lee DeWyze has released five albums since his 2010 win, as well as two before Idol.

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Scotty McCreery — Season 10

Scotty McCreery just might be Idol’s most successful country winner since Underwood. He’s released numerous country radio hits, recorded four albums, and even wrote a book in 2016.

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Phillip Phillips — Season 11

Let’s be real: Phillip Phillips won partly because his name is Phillip Phillips. But he’s proven himself with three albums and his coronation song “Home,” which was used countless times during the 2012 Summer Olympics broadcasts, remaining one of the biggest hits by an Idol alum.

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Candice Glover — Season 12

Candice Glover, who famously made Nicki Minaj cry on her season, went on to release her debut album, Music Speaks, after winning and sang in a Broadway show in 2017. Who will follow in Candice’s footsteps when Season 19 crowns its winner in 2021? Well, John Stamos definitely has some opinions.

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