'American Idol' Contestants: Where Are They Now?
As the talent show wraps up, INSIDE EDITION looks at what became of our favorite contestants.
As American Idol comes to an end on Thursday, many are reflecting on the show as a source of many pop culture moments and figures.
Perhaps no moment in the 15 seasons of American Idol defined the show more than the declaration of Kelly Clarkson as the very first winner in 2002.
Remember Justin Guarini? He lost to Clarkson back in 2002. Now, he is a married father of three and almost unrecognizable.
"I love the fact that Idol, was and still is, one of the few reality TV shows that was all about talent," he told INSIDE EDITION.
Guarini, who still performs, says Idol is an experience he'll never forget.
"There is so much that I have gleaned from American Idol and I am proud of that," he said.
Season two fan favorite, Clay Aiken, who lost to Ruben Studdard, went on to huge success.
"There is no former contestant from American Idol that can begin to claim that they are where they are today if it weren't for that show," Aiken told IE.
Jennifer Hudson became a breakout star in the third season of Idol, even though she came in seventh place. She went on to win an Oscar in 2008 thanks to her role in Dreamgirls.
But the most successful alum of the show is Carrie Underwood, who has sold 16 million albums to date.
Journalist Mary Murphy told IE about what a great career launch the show was for many.
"American Idol was a cultural landmark on television," Murphy said. "It also created some of the best musical stars of the generation."
The original judges included Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell.
Cowell said the show went downhill after he and Abdul left, once saying: "Paula was the right leg and I was the left leg. And with both legs gone, it wasn't the same show."
Other judges including Nicki Minaj, Mariah Carey, Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and others began to rotate in the hot seats.
The Idol auditions have also become iconic - especially the dreadful ones, including the memorable performance by William Hung.
Murphy said: "One of the best parts of American Idol used to be watching the auditions with someone who was a train wreck, like William Hung."
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