Wowing Crowds On A Talent Show Was Just The Beginning For These Memorable Contestants

It takes someone extraordinarily talented to stand out in mega shows like American Idol, the Got Talent franchise, The X Factor, and even The Voice franchise. But once a winner is chosen and the cameras stop rolling, what becomes of the stars?

From Connie Talbot from Britain’s Got Talent continuing on other shows to The X Factor’s Alexandra Burke attaining international stardom, here’s what some memorable contestants went on to accomplish after their respective talent show came to an end.

Adam Lambert: American Idol

Adam Lambert
Ray Mickshaw/FOX Image Collection via Getty Images
Ray Mickshaw/FOX Image Collection via Getty Images

While on American Idol, Adam Lambert was repeatedly called one of the most consistent and talented performers of the season. Even the season winner, Kris Allen, stated that he believed Lambert deserved to have come in first: “[Adam] was the most consistent person all year. He was seriously one of the most gifted performers that I’ve ever met.”

And, boy, did Lambert prove Allen right! After his time on Idol, Lambert when on to guest-star in Glee, release multiple solo albums, appear in the television remake of Rocky Horror Picture Show, and, the most impressive feat, he collaborates with the famous rock band Queen in Queen + Adam Lambert.

Sam Bailey: The X Factor

Sam Bailey: The X-Factor
Fremantle
Fremantle

When she walked onto The X Factor stage, no one knew what to expect. Then Sam Bailey opened her mouth and began to sing. Her rendition of Beyonce’s “Listen” received a standing ovation from both the audience and the judge’s panel. She went on to win the season.

Since her time on the show’s stage, Bailey has been busy. In 2015, she released her debut studio album, The Power of Love. Then, the next year, Bailey was cast as Mama Morton in the musical Chicago and released her second studio album, Sing My Heart Out. Most recently, the singer was cast as Betty Simpson in Fat Friends – The Musical.

William Hung: American Idol

William Hung
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

In 2004, the world was stunned when William Hung stepped into the American Idol auditioning room and performed a startling rendition of Ricky Martin’s “She Bangs.” To many fans’ displeasure, Hung did not make it to Hollywood. But that didn’t stop him from gaining a huge cult following, dropping out of engineering school, and pursuing a career as a pop artist.

Hung opted to set his microphone down in 2011 when the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department offered him a position as a technical crime analyst. Much American Idol fans’ delight, Hung did make a surprise performance during the season 15 finale.

Miranda Lambert: Nashville Star

Miranda Lambert: Nashville Star
John Russell/WireImage
John Russell/WireImage

It might be hard to believe, but international country superstar Miranda Lambert actually got her start on a singing show. In 2003, she auditioned for Nashville Star. Surprisingly, Lambert didn’t go on to win the competition, coming in third place. But the show gave her the exposure she needed.

She signed with Sony Music and began to record Kerosene and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. It didn’t take long for the industry to notice her talent, as she was nominated for her first Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. Most recently, in 2020, Lambert released her seventh album, Wild Child.

Phillip Phillips: American Idol

Phillip Phillips
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Many might remember Phillip Phillips as the American Idol contestant that went through more than one medical procedure during his time on the show. In total, he had eight different procedures done! But that didn’t stop Philips from winning the entire thing. His finale song, “Home,” became the highest-grossing coronation Idol song in digital sales.

Since his time on American Idol, Philips has released three studio albums, collaborated with big-name artists such as The Goo Goo Dolls, and even married his girlfriend, Hannah Blackwell. The two had their first child in 2019! Most recently, he was back on the American Idol stage as a performer.

Archie Williams: America’s Got Talent

Archie Williams: America's Got Talent
NBC
NBC

After 37 years of incarceration, The Innocence Project helped prove Archie Williams innocent, and he was released from prison. One of his first stops was the stage of America’s Got Talent. During his audition, Williams sang a moving rendition of Elton John’s famous song “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me.”

All four judges voted to move him to the next round. In the end, Williams landed in the bottom five of the top ten contestants. Now, Williams has even more to look forward to, including joining Elton John on the next US-leg of his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour where the superstar asked Williams to perform his audition song.

Taylor Hicks: American Idol

Taylor Hicks: American Idol
Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic
Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Taylor Reuben Hicks was the winner of the fifth season of the singing competition of American Idol. Ironically, while the other three judges loved Hicks, Simon Cowell didn’t think he’d even make it to the final round. Obviously, Cowell was very wrong! Hicks became the first male competitor to win the entire show without ever finding himself in the bottom two.

Not too bad of a legacy! While fans of the show might remember Hicks, other people probably know him as the artist who released the single “Do I Make You Proud.” Hicks was also featured on the Grammy Award-winning comedy album Blow Your Pants Off.

Connie Talbot: Britain’s Got Talent

Connie Talbot
ITV
ITV

Connie Talbot made international news after her performance on the first season of Britain’s Got Talent. Never having a singing lesson in her life, the young girl blew the minds of the audience and the judges, especially Simon Cowell, who wanted to sign Talbot then and there.

Amazingly, Talbot made it to the finals, where she sang a lovely rendition of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.” She came in second. After her time on the show, Talbot went on to record four albums, including her debut album Over the Rainbow. Most recently, she competed in the 2020 America’s Got Talent: The Champions.

Carrie Underwood: American Idol

Carrie Underwood: American Idol
SGranitz/WireImage
SGranitz/WireImage

During her time on the fourth season of American Idol in 2005, Carrie Underwood became a fan favorite. Week after week, Underwood dominated the voting polls. Judge Simon Cowell even told the young artist he believed her music would become more popular than previous winners.

He wasn’t wrong! Underwood went on to become wildly popular in both the country music scene and the mainstream pop scene. Her debut album, Some Hearts, became the quickest-selling debut country album in history and, more impressively, wound up winning three Grammy Awards. Most recently, Underwood plans to release a gospel cover album, My Savior, in 2021.

Calum Scott: Britain’s Got Talent

Calum Scott: Britain's Got Talent
ITV
ITV

Calum Scott blew judges away on Britain’s Got Talent, singing a rendition of Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own.” He was so impressive, in fact, that Simon Cowell gave Scott the coveted Golden Buzzer, sending him straight through to the live performances. In the end, Scott came in sixth.

Even so, Scott has had quite a successful career post-talent show. He signed with Capitol Records, released his debut album, Only Human, and was invited on more than one talk show, including Late Night with Seth Meyers. Most recently, in 2018, Scott released “No Matter What,” his new single.

Chris Daughtry: American Idol

Chris Daughtry
Greg Doherty/Getty Images
Greg Doherty/Getty Images

Even though Simon Cowell called his voice too robotic, Chris Daughtry received a golden ticket to Hollywood on the fifth season of American Idol. And while he, or at least his band, is well known today, he didn’t actually win the competition. Actually, Daughtry didn’t even come in second. He came in fourth place!

The southern rocker didn’t let his fourth-place standing get in his way. He went on to form the band Daughtry, release multiple studio albums, and even collaborate with bands such as Theory of a Deadman. Most recently, Daughtry performed as “Rottweiler” on the second season of The Masked Singer. He was the runner-up.

Grace VanderWaal: America’s Got Talent

Grace VanderWaal: America's Got Talent
NBC
NBC

Grace VanderWaal stunned judges when she hopped on America’s Got Talent stage with quirky yellow pants and a ukulele, opting to sing her original song “I Don’t Know My Name.” Howie Mandel wasted no time, hitting the Golden Buzzer and sending the young girl to the live performances. VanderWaal wound up winning the entire thing.

Post-AGT, VanderWaal’s been busy signing with Columbia Records, performing in huge venues like The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and working on a full-length album. Most impressively, though, is in 2020, VanderWaal appeared as the lead actress in the Disney+ original movie, Stargirl. She revied favorable reviews from critics and viewers.

Clay Aiken: American Idol

Clay Aiken: American Idol
Ray Mickshaw/WireImage
Ray Mickshaw/WireImage

Ironically, Clay Aiken almost didn’t make it onto the American Idol Stage. The “Invisible” singer was in the process of filling out an application for The Amazing Race when a friend suggested he go on the singing show instead. Well, he did, and went on to become the runner-up for season two.

Not long after, Aiken released his first album, Measure of a Man. The album debuted at number one of the Billboard 200 and even won the artist a Fan’s Choice Award at the AMA’s. In recent years, Aiken’s shown a lot of interest in politics, running for House of Representatives in North Carolina’s 2nd congressional district in 2014.

Scotty McCreery: American Idol

Scotty McCreery
Tyler Golden/FOX Image Collection via Getty Images
Tyler Golden/FOX Image Collection via Getty Images

In 2011, Scotty McCreery became the second-youngest person to win a season of the singing competition American Idol. After bombing one of his songs during the second week in Hollywood, McCreery told the judges he didn’t deserve to be on the big stage. They gave him a second chance. The rest, as they say, is history.

McCreery might not be one of the more famous stars to come out of the talent show, but he still made history when his debut country album was released as number one on the Billboard. Since then, he’s gone to open for talents such as Brad Paisley and The Band Perry.

Leona Lewis: The X-Factor

Leona Lewis
Ray Mickshaw/FOX via Getty Images
Ray Mickshaw/FOX via Getty Images

Compared to Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, and the great Celine Dion, Leona Lewis was a force to be reckoned with when she competed on The X Factor‘s third season. After receiving 60% of the final vote and winning the show, Lewis walked away with a $1.2 million contract with Syco Music.

After her international breakthrough with her debut album Spirit, Lewis has been releasing album after album. Most recently, in 2020, she collaborated with Sam Fischer, Tori Kelly, and Smokey Robinson on a cover of “What The World Needs Now,” with all of their proceeds going towards the American Red Cross.

Darci Lynne Farmer: America’s Got Talent

Darci Lynne Farmer
Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic
Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic

Fans fell in love with Darci Lynne Farmer when she walked on stage with her puppet, a girl bunny named Petunia. They didn’t expect the young girl’s ventriloquy act to turn into a comedy/singing act! Mel B would up giving Farmer the Golden Buzzer. And, in the end, she won the entire show!

After her time on the talent show, Farmer found herself on a few talk shows, including The Ellen DeGeneres Show, where she wowed with her impressive skills. Most recently, though, Famer has been seen back on the AGT stage as a guest performer.

Kelly Clarkson: American Idol

Kelly Clarkson: American Idol, 2002
SGranitz/WireImage)
SGranitz/WireImage)

Kelly Clarkson has the unique ability to say she won the first-ever season of American Idol. In 2002, the judges and audience were blown away by the young contestant’s powerhouse vocals, winning 58% of the vote in the finale, beating runner-up Justin Guarini. From there, it was all uphill for Clarkson.

After winning the first season of the talent show, Clarkson was immediately signed to RCA Records. Now, she’s a three-time Grammy Award-winning artist, a four-time American Music Award winner, and she even has a Daytime Emmy Award under her belt! Not too shabby for a young Texas girl with a big dream.

Crystal Bowersox: American Idol

Crystal Bowersox
Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images
Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images

A “raw, natural talent.” That’s what guest judge Shania Twain said of Crystal Bowersox when she performed “Piece of my Heart” by Erma Franklin during her American Idol season nine appearance. Throughout the competition, she continued to impress the judges, with Simon Cowell even saying, “Right now, you are the one everyone has to beat.”

Unfortunately, Bowersox didn’t wind up winning the entire competition, coming in as the runner-up. After American Idol, she released her debut album Farmer’s Daughter and was even cast as Patsy Cline in the Broadway production Always, Patsy Cline.

Cher Lloyd: The X-Factor

Cher Lloyd: The X-Factor
Mike Marsland/WireImage
Mike Marsland/WireImage

When Cher Lloyd auditioned for The X Factor, she was unlike anything the judges had heard before. With a unique blend of R&B and pop, the young lady impressed the panel and made it all the way through to the final four. Unfortunately, the audience wasn’t as caught up in her style, and she was eliminated, coming in fourth.

That didn’t stop her from getting signed to Syco Music, though. After the show, Lloyd released two studio albums, with a third in the works as of 2021. However, Lloyd did give fans a sneak peek of the album’s single, “Lost.”

Kodi Lee: America’s Got Talent

Kodi Lee: America's Got Talent
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

One of the most remarkable winners to come out of America’s Got Talent is Kodi Lee. Autistic and legally blind, Lee blew the audience and judges away when he got on stage, played the piano, and sang a beautiful rendition of Leon Russell’s “A Song For You.”

Lee’s performance earned him a Golden Buzzer from judge Gabrielle Union, moving him straight to the live shows. Eventually, Lee came out on top, winning the 2019 season of AGT. Today, he’s signed with Simon Cowell’s Syco Music and writing new songs to share with the world.

Terry Fator: America’s Got Talent

Terry Fator: America's Got Talent
Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage
Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage

During the second season of America’s Got Talent, Terry Fator surprised judges with his fresh take on the art of ventriloquy. Ironically, Fator didn’t think he’d go on to win the show, only expecting to get a few talk shows out of the experience. Well, he did win, and with that came a million-dollar prize.

Honestly, that might sound like a lot, but it’s nothing compared to what the comedian wound up being offered the very next year. A year after winning the talent competition, Fator was offered a five-year $100 million contract with Las Vegas’ Mirage hotel and casino.

Leanne Mitchell: The Voice UK

Leanne Mitchel
BBC One
BBC One

Leanne Mitchell was the winner of the first-ever season of the Voice UK. Auditioning with Beyoncé’s “If I Were A Boy,” Mitchell impressed both Tom Jones and Danny O’Donoghue, ultimately choosing Jones for her coach.

After winning the singing competition, Mithell released her first hit single, a cover of Whitney Houston’s song “Run to You.” Today, she is happily married to her husband Rob Hurren and is a loving mom to her son, Leo. She continues to perform across the UK as well as onboard various cruise liners.

Cassadee Pope: The Voice

Cassadee Pope: The Voice
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images for Big Machine Records
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images for Big Machine Records

While she had a bit of music industry experience prior to auditioning for The Voice, Cassadee Pope’s time on the show definitely gave her a bit of a boost. Competing for Team Blake during the third season of the singing competition, Pope went on to win the title.

After The Voice, Pope continued on her musical journey, collaborating with stars like Chris Young. In fact, their duet “Think of You” received a Grammy nomination for Best Country Duo/Group Performance. The nomination made Pope the first Voice contestant to garner a Grammy nomination. Most recently, she released her second full-length album, Stages.

Ruben Studdard: American Idol

Ruben Studdard
SGranitz/WireImage
SGranitz/WireImage

The “Velvet Teddy Bear,” Ruben Studdard became the winner on the second season of American Idol, beating out Clay Aiken for the title by only 134,000 votes. But it was after his time on the show that Studdard started making a name for himself in the entertainment industry.

Aside from his five studio albums, all of which received critical acclaim, Studdard’s been dabbling in other areas of the industry. In 2013, he joined the cast of The Biggest Loser. And he even reunited with Aiken on Broadway in Ruben & Clay’s First Annual Christmas Show, a show which gives a portion of its profits to the National Inclusion Project.

Katharine McPhee: American Idol

Katharine McPhee
SGranitz/WireImage
SGranitz/WireImage

Katharine McPhee was one of those people who needed a bit of a push to audition for American Idol. She wound up doing it, coming in second place during the fifth season, right behind Taylor Hicks. But her time on the show made McPhee very popular, and it didn’t take much for her to sign with 19 Recordings Limited and Sony BMG’s RCA Records.

While she is still singing and performing, McPhee has recently jumped over to another side of the entertainment industry, acting. For 32 episodes, she played Karen Cartwright in Smash, and in 2021 McPhee is slotted to play Bailey in the upcoming series Country Comfort.

Matt Cardle: The X Factor

Matt Cardle: The X Factor
Christie Goodwin/Redferns via Getty Images
Christie Goodwin/Redferns via Getty Images

After winning the seventh season of The X Factor, Matt Cardle became the first contestant to be offered a joint recording contract with Simon Cowell’s Syco Music and Columbia Records. From there, it didn’t take long for Cardle to release his debut album Letters.

A change in record labels, a music theater stint as Huey Calhoun in Memphis, and four studio albums later, and it’s safe to say Cardle’s had a successful post-talent show career! As of 2021, he’s been working on his fifth album. While he hasn’t released the album’s title, he’s released its single, “Purple Crayon.”

Joe McElderry: The X Factor

Joe McElderry
Christie Goodwin/Redferns via Getty Images
Christie Goodwin/Redferns via Getty Images

Interestingly, Joe McElderry auditioned for The X Factor twice. The first time he made it to boot camp, only to walk away from the show because he thought he was too young compared to the other contestants. In 2009, he tried again and wound up winning the entire competition.

Now, McElderry has five studio albums under his belt, a Variety Silver Heart Award, a Virgin Media Music Award for Best Act of Reality TV Fame, and even some musical theater roles. His most recent project being his casting as Tommy in the musical The Who’s Tommy.

David Cook: American Idol

David Cook
R Mickshaw/American Idol 2008/Getty Images for Fox
R Mickshaw/American Idol 2008/Getty Images for Fox

David Cook was one of those guys who didn’t even think about trying out for American Idol. But he did, after a bit of a push by his mom and brother. As it turns out, it’s a good thing they pushed him since Cook went on to win the seventh season of the singing competition.

After Idol, Cook released a few albums, went on tour, and had the privilege of co-headling with talents such as Gavin Degraw. Most recently, he’s been on Broadway, playing Charlie Price in Kinky Boots. As of 2021, Cook’s been working on a new album, The Looking Glass.

Fantasia Barrino: American Idol

Fantasia Barrino: American Idol
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc

After giving an emotional performance of Porgy and Bess‘ “Summertime,” Fantasia Barrino went on to Hollywood. From there, she went on to win the third season of American Idol. At the time, she was the youngest contestant to win the show. Barrino was only 19.

After Idol, Barrino was thrown headfirst into the industry. Her debut album garnered three Grammy nominations, and, in 2007, Barrino was cast as Celie in the Broadway production of the Color Purple. In 2011, the singer won the Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. As of 2019, Barrino is working on her sixth studio album, Sketchbook.

Alexandra Burke: The X Factor

Alexandra Burke: The X Factor
Brian Rasic/Getty Images
Brian Rasic/Getty Images

It took Alexandra Burke two times on The X Factor to refine her vocal cords and win the competition. Even so, when it came time to release her debut album with Syco Music, Simon Cowell said she needed even more time to find the right songs and refine her sound.

Apparently, it was the right more. Once the songs were picked and the album released, Burke shot into international stardom, joining Beyonce on her I Am… Tour in Europe. In 2021, Burke is set to star as Julianne Potter in the theatrical adaptation of the 1997 film My Best Friend’s Wedding.