Winning American Idol might guarantee you a recording contract, but it doesn’t mean you’ll be the biggest star that comes out of the television series. Each year that contestants competed for the ultimate crown, the non-winners have translated their TV fame into stunning careers. As we prepare for the series finale on April 7th that will crown the 15th and final American Idol winner, we return to all those might-have-beens who were turned into stars.
Not every season produced a ton; some were more rife with star power than others, with seasons 3 and 5 having the biggest glut of Idol almost-champs. Across the board, however, was the sense that weeks of singing cover tunes and sharing 15-second video packages about your life could build a fanbase that would carry stars on in the world of music as well as to television, film, Broadway and beyond. In honor of the finale season, we celebrate the best and brightest losers from 15 years of American Idol.