Through many seasons, the original American Idol provided the big break for stars such as Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, Chris Daughtry and more to launch their careers into stardom. Of course, along with the many winners, there were even more who didn’t make it to the spotlight or were rejected from the show all together. It might be surprising to learn that some other well known celebrities all tried to get their career off the ground by auditioning for American Idol, but it didn’t work out so well for them. Here are 13 popular celebrities who didn’t make it on American Idol but found their way to stardom anyway!
13. Alan Ritchson
Despite auditioning for American Idol in an effort to jumpstart his career, Alan Ritchson is now known, but not for his singing. Ritchson auditioned in the show’s third season in 2004 and even performed a striptease to persuade judge Paula Abdul to push him through to the next round. Ritchson’s antics got him to the top 87, and while his singing career didn’t pan out, the very next year he landed a role on the hit superhero series Smallville as Arthur Curry/Aquaman. Now, he is best known for his roles as Thad Castle in Blue Mountain State, Gloss in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Raphael in the new Teen Mutant Ninja Turtles films.
12. Tori Kelly
Victoria Loren aka “Tori” Kelly actually made it a lot further in the American Idol process than many of these other stars. Kelly appeared on American Idol in 2010’s season nine when she was only 16 and made it all the way to Hollywood Week but was cut right before the top 24. She definitely didn’t let the loss stop her, however. In 2012 she released her first EP and has since released two more albums, appeared as an advisor on season 10 of The Voice, was nominated for a Grammy in 2016, is managed by Scooter Braun and signed to Capitol Records, and she has opened for Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith.
11. Amber Riley
Those who watched Glee know that Amber Riley definitely has some singing chops! The singer/actress starred through 112 episodes of the hit series as Mercedes Jones, but before landing the role, she tried to be a singer by auditioning for season two of American Idol. “I auditioned for ‘American Idol’ at 17, they told me, ‘No.'” she told Wendy Williams in 2009. She added that she didn’t even get to perform for the judges. “I got the producers. I didn’t get to meet anybody,” but she doesn’t regret the way things worked out. “You know what? I still work on FOX and I get Paid! Thank you, ‘American Idol,'” she said at the time.
10. Chris Lane
Chris Lane probably should have stuck to his country talents when he auditioned for American Idol in season seven. The country singer who has seen singles such as “Fix” and “Take Back Home Girl” rocket up the country music charts, auditioned for American Idol with his twin brother Cory as a beatboxing rap duo, which the judges were not interested in and the reel before their audition told the story of how both brothers were interested in the same girl. Luckily, Chris broke away from beatboxing, rap, and the weird love triangle to make himself one of country music’s hottest new stars.
9. Todrick Hall
Todrick Hall is an extremely talented singer, actor, dancer and YouTuber which is why many forget he actually began his career on American Idol. Unlike many of the other stars on this list, Hall made it to the Top 16 before he was eliminated, but his career post-Idol has been the most impressive. He has nearly 3 million YouTube subscribers and has released three albums becoming one of the most popular internet sensations of the past few years.
8. Kane Brown
Kane Brown has been on the country circuit for what seems like only a minute, and he has already smashed the charts with hits such as “Used to Love You Sober” and “What Ifs” but it turns out American Idol wasn’t into his country sound. In an interview with Billboard, Brown revealed that he knew Lauren Alaina from school choir and saw how American Idol helped jumpstart her career, so he auditioned too but was told “they didn’t need another Scotty McCreery,” referring to season 10’s winner. Brown didn’t give up though and set his sights on X Factor, and made the cut, but said the show “tried to put me in a boy band, so I quit. I went home and did my own American Idol with covers online.” Now Brown is touring the world as one of country’s most promising young artists.
7. Naya Rivera
Even without American Idol, Naya Rivera has become a well known Hollywood star thanks to her role as Santana Lopez on the hit series Glee. On top of being an actress, Rivera is a recording artist, but it seems American Idol didn’t see the talent in front of them. While she wasn’t initially rejected, she was cut in the first round, after singing “Emotion” by the Bee Gees. Interestingly enough, it was that song that landed her the role of Santana on Glee.
6. Bebe Rexha
Bleta “Bebe” Rexha has gotten the best possible revenge after she was rejected from American Idol. The singer who is renowned for her collaborations with artists like G-Eazy and David Guetta, and for writing songs for artists such as Eminem, Selena Gomez, and Nick Jonas, shared her American Idol story on Instagram. “10 years ago my mother and I waited 10 hours in line to audition for American Idol. I didn’t even make it through the first round, but I didn’t give up on my dream,” she wrote. Now, after her success, Rexha is among those tapped to mentor the finalists on the brand new season of American Idol which premiered on March 11, 2018.
5. Colbie Caillat
Colbie Caillat has sold over six million albums worldwide with over 10 million singles, but none of it is thanks to American Idol even though she tried, twice! The first time the “Bubbly” singer auditioned for American Idol she was rejected at the pre-audition stage, so she returned the following year and that time made it in front of the judges. She performed her original song “Bubbly” but was once again given a rejection. “I’m shy,” she told the Today show’s Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb of her failed attempt at American Idol. “I’m nervous. I don’t audition well. And I honestly gave bad auditions.” She added, “The second time I auditioned with ‘Bubbly,’ which is kind of funny, But I didn’t look that great. I get it.” Despite the double rejection, she has released six albums, had six headlining tours and even won a Grammy!
4. Katie Stevens
Katie Stevens is one of the brightest young actresses on TV right now after starring roles in MTV’s Faking It, and now Freeform’s The Bold Type, but what many don’t know about the talented actress is that her first passion is singing. At 16 years old, Stevens auditioned for season nine of American Idol and was highly praised by the judges, and made it all the way to the top 8! That same season, country group Lady Antebellum did a performance on the show and even they picked her out to be a star. “There’s a girl named Katie that I thought was really good,” Lady A’s Dave Haywood recalled. “When I watched, I couldn’t stop watching her sing. I thought she had a great delivery, and I thought she was incredible. I’m sad to see her go!” Although she is incredibly talented when it comes to singing, it has been acting that has given her the most success with season two of The Bold Type coming in 2018.
3. Hillary Scott
Lady Antebellum are one of the biggest and most popular country music groups right now, but frontwoman Hillary Scott seemingly failed to impress those at American Idol…twice! “I actually tried out for American Idol twice and didn’t get past the first round, if that gives anyone hope,” Scott told Entertainment Weekly. She added that she was so unimpressive, she didn’t even see the judges. “I literally performed for the production assistants and the interns, and I just didn’t make it.” It was lucky for Hillary Scott she didn’t make it onto American Idol though as she and Dave Haywood and Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum have found incredible success as a group. Along with 16 hit singles, they have won numerous awards including six Grammys!
2. Chrissy Metz
It is no secret Chrissy Metz can sing, as the actress has showed off her talents a few times throughout This Is Us, but 10 years before she was Kate Pearson, Metz auditioned for American Idol. In her memoir This Is Me, the actress described her audition process back in the summer of 2007. Like everyone else, Metz had to audition for producers before being selected to move further in the process which becomes the live auditions that fans see on TV. She and a group of others sang, but all were told they weren’t good enough, but Metz wasn’t going to accept that. “‘I think you’re wrong I said,’ I said. Everybody looked at me like I had grown a second head,” she shared in her book. A female judge in the tent next to hers heard the interaction and asked Metz to audition for her, and that woman gave her the ticket to move on in the process. Three weeks later she auditioned in a hotel in L.A. in the next rounds for producers Nigel Lythgoe and Simon Fuller. At the time Metz was working as a talent agent which they knew and when she sang Lythgoe sneered, “I thought you were supposed to know what talent is.” Since Metz knew they were trying to demean and upset her for the cameras, but she wouldn’t give them the satisification of reacting. “I had learned a lesson. I advocated for myself at Qualcomm Stadium, because I really, really wanted that opportunity. But once I had a better sense of what the process was all about, I realized it wasn’t something I wanted to fight for. American Idol wasn’t the dream for me,” she said of her experience.
1. Maren Morris
Country singer Maren Morris has been one of the biggest breakout stars in the genre in the past couple of years with a huge hit in “My Church” and backing vocals on Thomas Rhett’s “Craving You.” She has won numerous awards including a Grammy for Best Country Solo Performance for “My Church” and the Breakthrough Star Award, but none of her success is thanks to American Idol or similar series The Voice as Morris revealed she was rejected from both! “It’s full circle, because I was rejected from The Voice. I was rejected from American Idol, and I’m happier for it now!” she told Rolling Stone. After being featured on Niall Horan’s single “Seeing Blind,” Morris is set to open for him on his 2018 Flicker World Tour.