The Big Picture
winners aren’t always the most deserving, as talented contestants like Haley Reinhart and Pia Toscano didn’t win their respective seasons.
- Runner-ups like Clay Aiken and Katharine McPhee have gone on to have more successful careers than the winners of their seasons.
Jennifer Hudson’s success after leaving the show proves that winning
isn’t always necessary for a successful career in music and acting.
While American Idol has brought plenty of singing talents into stardom since its inception in 2002, it didn’t come without leaving some audiences upset over some of its winners. Considering the show’s voting-based format, most fans think that American Idol — like other reality competition shows — has had its fair share of eliminated contestants who should have been crowned winners. With the likes of incredible talents ending up either going home early or not winning, most fans believe that the public’s voting totally screwed over their supposed victory.
By all means, American Idol has continued to enjoy a successful run on television since its debut, bringing undiscovered talents into the limelight. However, with social media growing more prevalent than ever, the public’s opinions over voting results suggest that most winners are somewhat predictable and utterly undeserving.
7 Haley Reinhart (Season 10)
Haley Reinhart was not called Season 10’s fan favorite without reason. Many fans still think that Reinhart should have won instead of Scotty McCreery. While the season’s eventual winner had a considerably successful career after the show, Reinhart’s placing only third didn’t sit well with fans, with some arguing that she was the obvious winner out of the two remaining contestants.
6 Pia Toscano (Season 10)
Another contestant from Season 10 had fans swooning over her talent, albeit leaving the show without winning. Contrary to Reinhart, Pia Toscano left the competition too soon, placing only ninth. Of course, fans were shocked that a singer with a powerful voice left too early in the competition, even calling her deserving of staying longer than the winner.
5 Clay Aiken (Season 2)
Fans were disappointed when Ruben Studdard won the second season of American Idol instead of fan favorite Clay Aiken. With his personality and stage presence, most viewers at the time thought he had a lock on winning the entire season. Despite finishing second, Aiken had the best-selling single of 2003 with “This Is the Night.” He went on to perform in the Broadway musical Spamalot after a few years and wrote a New York Times bestselling autobiography titled “Learning to Sing: Hearing the Music in Your Life.”
4 Katharine McPhee (Season 5)
The Season 5 runner-up, Katharine McPhee, ended up having a more fruitful career than winner Taylor Hicks. After losing to Hicks back in 2006, McPhee went on to release a number of hits, enjoying her success as a singer-songwriter and an actress, with appearances in musicals, Broadway, and television shows, including Smash, the Broadway musical Waitress, and a main role in CBS’ action drama Scorpion. On the music side, the singer continued to pursue her passion, having released four follow-up albums over the last few years.
3 Jessica Sanchez (Season 11)
Season 11 winner Phillip Phillips was a force to be reckoned with during his stint on the show, followed up by a successful career after, with his single “Home” reaching greater heights. However, the season’s runner-up, Jessica Sanchez, who competed in the show at the age of 16, was a striking force of her own. With her powerhouse voice, which arguably had more range than Phillips himself, most fans argue that Phillips’ victory was a predictable one. Even then, though Sanchez didn’t end up winning, her talent has continued to wow the world, having performed alongside other A-list performers.
2 Adam Lambert (Season 8)
Adam Lambert was one of American Idol’s biggest losers, to say the least. Apart from being the most recognizable contestant — having had the most outstanding careers out of other contestants during his season — most audiences believed that Lambert would end up winning Season 8 of American Idol for having a better voice and being a more interesting performer. Instead, Kyle Allen took the victory, with some suggesting that an alleged “Textgate” played a major part in his win. Regardless, though Lambert only placed second, his life took a positive turn with chart-topping hits and an opportunity to tour with none other than the most iconic rock band the world has ever seen: Queen.
1 Jennifer Hudson (Season 3)
Fantasia Barrino also deserved to win, but Jennifer Hudson ended up winning everything in life despite leaving the competition early. Aside from winning various accolades, which earned her an EGOT win, Hudson was definitely one of the show’s most successful yet, and that came without even winning the crown. Complete with a music career that has continued to withstand the test of time, her acting career also took a step further by winning an Oscar due to her performance in the 2006 Bill Condon-directed movie Dreamgirls.