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The Most Successful Losers From ‘American Idol’ and Other Reality Shows

Gabrielle Olya

Just as winning a reality competition show doesn’t ensure success, losing a competition on one of the best reality shows doesn’t indicate a nail in a career coffin. Many of the most successful singers, dancers, models and chefs who got their starts on reality TV shows didn’t win the top prize — but ended up outshining the people who beat them in the long term.

Click through to find out which reality show stars failed big before getting it right.


  • Reality TV show she lost: “The Voice”

  • Net worth: Unknown

RaeLynn appeared on “The Voice” when she was just 17 years old, and though she didn’t even make it as far as “The Voice” finale, she’s one of the most successful singers to come from the show. After her loss, she moved to Nashville to continue pursuing a country music career. Her first E.P. featured the single “God Made Girls,” which made it onto the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In 2017, she released her debut album “Wildhorse,” which peaked at No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 200 chart. In between, she toured with her “Voice” coach Blake Shelton, as well as his famous ex, Miranda Lambert. Her new single, “Tailgate,” is available now.

Lauren Alaina

  • Reality TV show she lost: “American Idol”

  • Net worth: $800,000

Lauren Alaina didn’t win season 10 of “Idol” — she was beat out by Scotty McCreary during the “American Idol” finale — but she’s been a winner on the charts. Her debut album, “Wildflower,” reached No. 2 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart, and her follow-up album, “Road Less Traveled,” reached No. 3. She has also received an ACM Award for new female vocalist of the year and a CMT Award for breakthrough video of the year.


Stephen ‘tWitch’ Boss

  • Reality TV show he lost: “So You Think You Can Dance”

  • Net worth: $5 Million

Stephen “tWitch” Boss appeared on three seasons of “So You Think You Can Dance,” but was never crowned the winner. However, he definitely proved that he can dance, and his talents and outgoing personality led to recurring roles as Ellen DeGeneres’ deejay and sidekick on her popular daytime talk show, as well as a spot as a judge on the rich LGBTQ executive’s show “Ellen’s Game of Games.” Boss took his talents to the big screen too, starring alongside Channing Tatum in “Magic Mike XXL.”


Yaya DaCosta

  • Reality TV show she lost: “America’s Next Top Model”

  • Net worth: $1 million

Yaya DaCosta came close to being named “America’s Next Top Model” on Cycle 3, but she ended up in the runner-up spot after losing to winner Eva Marcille. Regardless of losing out on the official distinction, DaCosta did become a top model and also launched a successful acting career. She has appeared in “The Kids Are All Right” and “The Butler,” and portrayed Whitney Houston in the Lifetime biopic “Whitney.” Currently, she stars in the TV show “Chicago Med.”

Analeigh Tipton

  • Reality TV show she lost: “America’s Next Top Model”

  • Net worth: $1.5 million

Although Analeigh Tipton came in third when she appeared on Cycle 11 of “America’s Next Top Model,” which was ultimately won by McKey Sullivan, she’s gone on to be one of the franchise’s most successful models. After the show, she signed with Ford Models, walked in shows during L.A. Fashion Week and N.Y. Fashion Week and modeled for brands that include Forever 21 and Guess. She’s also had success as an actress, appearing as the babysitter in “Crazy Stupid Love” and as a guest star on “Big Bang Theory.”

Josh Gracin

  • Reality TV show he lost: “American Idol”

  • Net worth: $2 million

Josh Gracin finished fourth on season 2 of “American Idol,” but he’s gone on to become a rich country music star. He’s released five albums and has had five songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. After taking a four-year break from making music, Gracin released his the single, “Nothin’ Like Us,” in May 2018.

Allison Holker

  • Reality TV show she lost: “So You Think You Can Dance”

  • Net worth: $2 million

Allison Holker appeared on season 2 of “So You Think You Can Dance” as well as the all-star season 7, though she didn’t win either. But this was hardly the end of her dance career. Holker has gone on to appear as a pro dancer on “Dancing With the Stars,” and her choreography on the show earned her an Emmy nomination. She is also the host of “Disney’s Fairytale Weddings,” the co-founder of a dance studio and dance workshop, and the co-owner of Boss Empire clothing, which she owns with her husband and fellow reality TV “loser” Stephen “tWitch” Boss.

Cher Lloyd

  • Reality TV show she lost: “The X Factor” (U.K.)

  • Net worth: $2 million

Singer Cher Lloyd came in fourth place on the U.K. version of “The X Factor” in 2010, but she’s gone on to achieve fame outside of the reality show. Lloyd has had three songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, including the single “Want U Back,” which peaked at No. 12. Lloyd is currently working on new music, and most recently released a song with producer and songwriter Joakim Molitor in June 2018.

Carla Hall

  • Reality TV show she lost: “Top Chef”

  • Net worth: $2.5 million

Carla Hall competed on both “Top Chef” and “Top Chef: All Stars,” but didn’t win either time. Despite not winning the top honor, she was a fan favorite on both seasons, and she used her breakout popularity to fuel a career both as a chef and a TV host. Hall became a co-host of “The Chew,” released two cookbooks — with one forthcoming — and has worked in several prominent restaurants in and around the Washington metro area. She’s also a Food Network star, appearing as a judge on the network’s “Halloween Baking Championship.”

Omarosa Manigault

  • Reality TV show she lost: “The Apprentice,” “The Celebrity Apprentice” and “Celebrity Big Brother”

  • Net worth: $3.5 million

Although she heard the dreaded phrase “You’re fired,” during her run on season 1 of “The Apprentice,” Omarosa Manigault cemented her status as the ultimate reality TV villain during her time on the show — and clearly made an impression on her TV boss, President Donald Trump, who himself has failed before striking it rich. In 2016, Trump hired Manigault to be the director of African-American outreach for his presidential campaign. And when he landed his spot in the Oval Office, Trump appointed Manigault as the communications director for the Office of Public Liaison. In January 2018, Manigault left the political world behind when she resigned from her role, and in February 2018 she returned to reality TV as a contestant on “Celebrity Big Brother.” Then in August 2018, she released a tell-all book that included headline-grabbing stories about her time at the White House.

Jackie Evancho

  • Reality TV show she lost: “America’s Got Talent”

  • Net worth: $4 million

Jackie Evancho appeared on “AGT” in 2010 when she was just 10 years old. Although she didn’t win, the singer has gone on to release numerous albums, seven of which have reached the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Classical Albums chart. She also holds the distinction of being the youngest solo platinum artist, according to her official website. Evancho has had the honor of singing for both former President Barack Obama — who’s adding to his net worth with a Netflix production deal — and current President Donald Trump.

Clay Aiken

  • Reality TV show he lost: “American Idol”

  • Net worth: $7 million

“Claymates” were dismayed when Clay Aiken came in second place to Ruben Studdard on season 2 of “American Idol,” but the singer didn’t let his loss end his career. Even though he never became one of the “American Idol” winners, Aiken went on to release six albums, three of which have earned platinum or gold status. He’s also had four singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Aiken has since pivoted gears, and ran for office as a Congressional candidate in 2014, though he did not win. After trying and failing to start a new career as a politician, he shifted gears again. He’s currently a host on the Bold digital news network.

Katharine McPhee

  • Reality TV show she lost: “American Idol”

  • Net worth: $8 million

Katharine McPhee was the runner-up on season 5 of “American Idol,” losing out to Taylor Hicks, but her loss hasn’t slowed down her career. McPhee has found success as both a singer and actress. As a singer, she’s released five albums and has had three singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. As an actress, she has appeared on television and in film, with roles in “The House Bunny,” “Community,” “Smash” and “Scorpion.” Recently, she starred on Broadway as the lead in the musical “Waitress.”

Chris Daughtry

  • Reality TV show he lost: “American Idol”

  • Net worth: $10 million

Despite finishing in fourth place on season 5 of “American Idol,” Chris Daughtry went on to become a successful rock musician. His debut self-titled album with his band Daughtry became the fastest-selling rock album in Soundscan history, Reuters reported. Daughtry has been nominated for four Grammys, and three of his albums have reached platinum or gold status.

Outside of his singing career, Daughtry starred as Judas in the TV movie “The Passion” and was a voice actor for the video movie “Trollz.”

Fifth Harmony

  • Reality TV show they lost: “The X Factor”

  • Net worth: $10 million

In 2012, Ally Brooke, Normani, Dinah Jane, Lauren Jauregui and Camila Cabello each auditioned separately for “The X Factor,” but judges thought they would be better as a group, and thus Fifth Harmony was born. Although they finished in third place, judge Simon Cowell took a chance on the girl group and signed them to his Syco Music record label in a joint deal with Epic Records. Their debut EP, “Better Together,” reached No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 200 chart and their debut album, “Reflection,” was certified gold. Their next two albums, “7/27” and “Fifth Harmony,” both debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 200 chart. In March 2018, the group announced that they were going on an indefinite hiatus to focus on individual projects.

Lindsey Stirling

  • Reality TV show she lost: “America’s Got Talent”

  • Net worth: $12 million

Lindsey Stirling failed to win over the judges to win “America’s Got Talent” in 2010 with her “dancing dubstep violinist” act, but she’s certainly proven them all wrong with her astronomical success. Stirling has over 10 million YouTube subscribers, has released four full-length studio albums and won two Billboard Music Awards. Stirling has also appeared on season 25 of “Dancing With the Stars,” and is currently on a solo world tour.

Adam Lambert

  • Reality TV show he lost: “American Idol”

  • Net worth: $25 million

Adam Lambert finished as runner-up to winner Kris Allen on season 8 of “Idol,” but his glam-rock style and vocal abilities made him a winner off the show. His first album, “For Your Entertainment,” is certified gold and features the single “Whataya Want From Me,” which earned him a Grammy nomination. His sophomore album, “Trespassing,” went straight to No. 1 on the charts and sold 77,000 copies in its first week, Entertainment Weekly reported. Lambert currently a touring with legendary rock band Queen.

Jennifer Hudson

  • Reality TV show she lost: “American Idol”

  • Net worth: $20 million

Jennifer Hudson is one of the most successful “American Idol” contestants, even though she only placed seventh when she appeared on season 3 of the show, the season that was ultimately won by Fantasia Barrino. Not only has she achieved success as a singer — she has earned two Grammys and has had eight songs on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart — but she’s also broken into the acting world with starring roles in the “Sex and the City” movie and “Dreamgirls,” the latter of which earned her an Academy Award.


  • Reality TV show they lost: “World of Dance”

  • Net worth: $25 million

The Jabbawockeez’s first foray into the reality TV competition world was their appearance on MTV’s “America’s Best Dance Crew” in 2008. Though they won season 1 of the show, the masked hip-hop dancers were not as successful when they appeared on “World of Dance” in 2017. Fortunately, the loss hasn’t slowed down the Jabbawockeez’s success. They currently perform a Las Vegas show seven nights a week at the MGM Grand, performed at the 2019 NBA Finals and have their own record label.

One Direction

  • Reality TV show they lost: “The X Factor” (U.K.)

  • Net worth: $150 million

The original five members of One Direction — Niall Horan, Louis Tomlinson, Zayn Malik, Harry Styles and Liam Payne — auditioned for the British version of “The X Factor” in 2010 as individual singers, but judge and mentor Simon Cowell thought they had better potential of hitting it big as a group — and his hunch was right. Though the group finished in third place, they went on to become an extremely successful boy band, with 29 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and five certified platinum albums. The band is currently on hiatus as each of the members pursues solo projects.

Net worth information was sourced from Celebrity Net Worth.

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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: The Most Successful Losers From ‘American Idol’ and Other Reality Shows