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15 'American Idol' Transformations You Won't Believe

Taylor Hicks (BEFORE)

Taylor Hicks (BEFORE)

Silver fox Taylor Hicks was the oldest person to ever win American Idol in 2006, though his career after the show was less than spectacular. His album was the lowest selling debut of an American Idol winner, followed by two other records that also performed poorly on the charts.

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Taylor Hicks (AFTER)

Taylor Hicks (AFTER)

His albums may have been flops, but his single “Do I Make You Proud” hit number one on the Billboard charts shortly after he won American Idol. Although Taylor’s career didn’t exactly take off after his season-five victory, his appearance certainly has. He left his bowl-cut hairstyle in 2006 and now has a look reminiscent of George Clooney.

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Carrie Underwood (BEFORE)

Carrie Underwood (BEFORE)

Before becoming one of country music’s biggest stars, Carrie Underwood was just a girl from Oklahoma. It wasn’t until she auditioned in 2005 that she found fame. Judge Simon Cowell told her “I will make a prediction. Not only will you win this show, you will sell more records than any previous Idol winner.” He was right.

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Carrie Underwood (AFTER)

Carrie Underwood (AFTER)

After winning the show’s fourth season, Carrie Underwood became one of American Idol’s greatest success stories. She traded her blue jeans and crimped hair for designer dresses and silky locks. As of 2019, she’s sold more than 70 million records worldwide. In 2010, she married professional hockey player Mike Fisher and they have two beautiful sons together. In addition to being a musician and mother, she’s also found time to design a fitness apparel brand—Calia by Carrie.

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Clay Aiken (BEFORE)

Clay Aiken (BEFORE)

Prior to auditioning for American Idol, Clay Aiken filled out an application for the reality TV show The Amazing Race. It was a friend of his that insisted he try out for the singing competition instead. And it seems he made the right decision because America loved his voice and his geek-to-chic transformation. He was voted Idol’s season two runner-up.

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Clay Aiken (AFTER)

Clay Aiken (AFTER)

Clay Aiken’s list of accomplishments is almost endless. He’s a multiple platinum-selling recording artist, a best-selling author, a Broadway star, and he even ran for Congress in North Carolina. Though he spiked his hair and sported a puka-shell necklace during his run on the show, Clay has since adopted a slicked back ‘do and sharp business suit.

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Adam Lambert (BEFORE)

Adam Lambert (BEFORE)

Adam Lambert rose to fame in 2009 after being named the runner-up on the eighth season of American Idol. Although he didn’t win, his theatrical performances and vast vocal range left America in awe each week. He’s had a largely successful career since leaving the show.

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Adam Lambert (AFTER)

Adam Lambert (AFTER)

His first album debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard charts, he took home the Grammy for Best Male Pop Performance in 2011, and he currently serves as the touring lead singer for Queen. The flamboyant singer is constantly changing his look. He’s recently abandoned his eclectically spiked hairstyle and clean-shaven face for a sophisticated-yet-stubbly look.

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Paul McDonald (BEFORE)

Paul McDonald (BEFORE)

Paul McDonald gained notoriety after his debut on American Idol. His husky voice was likeable and his trademark suits were memorable, but that wasn’t enough to keep him until the show’s finale. To fans dismay, Paul was eliminated sooner than expected. Luckily, this wasn’t the end of his singing career.

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Paul McDonald (AFTER)

Paul McDonald (AFTER)

After finishing eighth on season 10, Paul McDonald married actress Nikki Reed. However, the couple split up after less than three years of marriage. McDonald has been focusing on his music career. His sound incorporates a mix of indie, pop, and folk. In addition to singing and songwriting, McDonald still performs.

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David Cook (BEFORE)

David Cook (BEFORE)

Though David Cook only went to his audition to support his little brother, he would go on to become the winner of season seven. The Missouri native’s life was extremely different before American Idol. He was a bartender and a part-time musician. His performances now differ greatly from the intimate, acoustic gigs he played before.

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David Cook (AFTER)

David Cook (AFTER)

Cook’s self-titled album was a platinum-selling success, followed by two other albums. Now in his 30s, David has begun to mature in both his musical style and his fashion choices. In 2018, he made his Broadway debut in Kinky Boots and released his single “Death of Me.”

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Kellie Pickler (BEFORE)

Kellie Pickler (BEFORE)

Famously winning over the otherwise callous Simon Cowell, 19-year-old Kellie Pickler finished sixth in the show’s fifth season. Her Southern charm and ditzy demeanor won the hearts of the judges and America. After her Idol success, she quit her job as Sonic carhop moved to Nashville to pursue a career in the music industry.

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Kellie Pickler (AFTER)

Kellie Pickler (AFTER)

She has since grown up, with a string of successes including earning an international hit with “Red High Heels,” releasing four albums, winning Dancing With the Stars, and starring in her own reality show. Kellie has embraced a shorter and blonder hairstyle since she first wowed the judges in 2005.

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Katharine McPhee (BEFORE)

Katharine McPhee (BEFORE)

When Katharine McPhee auditioned for American Idol, she never could’ve predicted her immense success. Fans loved her so much that they coined the term “McPheever,” which was what all of America had caught! After being named runner-up to Taylor Hicks, she continued performing—both on stage and in TV shows and movies.

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Katharine McPhee (AFTER)

Katharine McPhee (AFTER)

McPhee landed a starring role in Smash, though she sparked controversy when she was seen locking lips with the show’s married director. She’s since landed many other auspicious roles, including her Broadway debut as Jenna in Waitress in 2018. She’s now married to famous record producer David Foster. The couple recently announced their upcoming 2020 tour.

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Jennifer Hudson (BEFORE)

Jennifer Hudson (BEFORE)

In 2004, Jennifer Hudson made a name for herself by becoming a finalist on the third season of American Idol. She was born and raised in Chicago, where she sang in her church’s choir. After graduating from high school, she had the opportunity to spend a year singing on a Disney cruise ship, which was the beginning of her musical career. But it wasn’t until Idol that Hudson was truly discovered.

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Jennifer Hudson (AFTER)

Jennifer Hudson (AFTER)

Hudson has released three albums and multiple singles during her time as an artist. In addition to her music, she’s also found success on the stage and screen. She’s best known for her award-winning role in the 2006 film Dreamgirls and for her Broadway revival of The Color Purple. She was recently cast as Grizabella in the big screen production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Cats, which was released in December.

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Kelly Clarkson (BEFORE)

Kelly Clarkson (BEFORE)

Almost an entire decade later and American Idol’s season one winner is still relevant. Kelly Clarkson’s life was dramatically different before the show’s debut launched her career. The Texas native was working minimum-wage jobs in Los Angeles while trying to make it as a backup vocalist. Little did she know she’d soon be the one hiring backup vocalists!

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Kelly Clarkson (AFTER)

Kelly Clarkson (AFTER)

The singer-songwriter has sold more than 25 million albums since her days as an Idol contestant. Many believe the three-time Grammy winner is the show’s biggest success story and it’s not hard to see why. She exemplified the goal of American Idol—to produce a star who will sell records. In addition to her music career, she’s also a judge on the hit-TV show The Voice, the host of The Kelly Clarkson Show, and the star of an upcoming Vegas residency!

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Jordin Sparks (BEFORE)

Jordin Sparks (BEFORE)

Before Jordin Sparks won season six of American Idol, she was actually rejected by the show. The then-17 year old auditioned in Los Angeles, but didn’t make it past the first round. It wasn’t until she auditioned in Seattle that she earned a “golden ticket.”

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Jordin Sparks (AFTER)

Jordin Sparks (AFTER)

Thankfully, she auditioned a second time because American Idol was her claim to fame. She’s sold more than one million albums and more than 10 million singles. She also has a lengthy list of accomplishments and awards. When she’s not working on her musical career, she’s spending time with her husband and son. She also enjoys focusing on her personal health and wellness.

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Lauren Alaina (BEFORE)

Lauren Alaina (BEFORE)

Lauren Alaina was only 15 when she auditioned for American Idol. The Georgia native auditioned with a Faith Hill song and immediately won the hearts of the judges. She advanced all the way to the finale, where she was named runner-up to Scotty McCreery. The two country artists have remained friends since the competition and are really supportive of one another.

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Lauren Alaina (AFTER)

Lauren Alaina (AFTER)

After Idol, Lauren Alaina released her debut album Wildflower. Her success was immediate. The album was ranked number five on the Billboard 200 and number two on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart. She’s since been a supporting act for Jason Aldean, Luke Brian, Alan Jackson, Carrie Underwood, Blake Shelton, Luke Combs, and many other country stars. Her most recent accomplishment was dancing her way to the semifinals of Dancing with the Stars.

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Scotty McCreery (BEFORE)

Scotty McCreery (BEFORE)

Country superstar Scotty McCreery gained success after winning season 10 of American Idol. His booming voice, Southern twang, and child-like innocence were endearing. Fans couldn’t help but love him! Before being crowned the winner, he sang his own rendition of “Gone” by Montgomery Gentry and “Check Yes or No” by George Strait. His success continued after Idol as well.

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Scotty McCreery (AFTER)

Scotty McCreery (AFTER)

He’s written many singles—“I Love You Big” being the most popular. This single went on to sell more than 170,000 units in just the first week. Although he’s seemed to have slowly faded off the radar, he’s still performing and writing songs. The now-24 year old was only 17 when he won Idol and has plenty of life ahead of him.

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David Archuleta (BEFORE)

David Archuleta (BEFORE)

David Archuleta first auditioned for American Idol in 2007 with a performance of John Mayer’s “Waiting on the World to Change.” Although he was only 16 at the time, the judges loved him. He made it all the way to the show’s finale, where he was named runner-up to David Cook. Judge Simon Cowell declared Archuleta the winner of the evening, but he only received 44% of the votes—which is what really counts.

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David Archuleta (AFTER)

David Archuleta (AFTER)

Archuleta has grown up a lot since Idol. He’s written lots of music, taken time off to serve The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, traveled to the Middle East to perform for U.S. troops, and much more. He recently announced his new #OkAllRightTour which will start in March of 2020. He will be playing new and old songs!

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Ryan Seacrest (BEFORE)

Ryan Seacrest (BEFORE)

While all of the American Idol contestants have evolved, so has the show’s host Ryan Seacrest. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Ryan always knew he wanted a career in Hollywood. He got his start as a disc jockey and afternoon radio host, but it wasn’t until he became the host of Idol that he made it big.

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Ryan Seacrest (AFTER)

Ryan Seacrest (AFTER)

17 seasons later and he’s still the host of American Idol. And in addition to the singing competition television series, Ryan also has many other careers. He hosts On Air with Ryan Seacrest, he co-hosts Live with Kelly and Ryan, he hosts and produces for E! News, he co-hosts and produces Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve special, and he produces Keeping Up with the Kardashians and many other high-rating TV series.

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