The Richest American Idol Winners May Surprise You

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Anybody who's won "American Idol" knows how the show can help skyrocket a singing career. The winners have gone on to perform on sold-out tours, sell millions of albums, land starring roles on television shows, and even perform on Broadway. Needless to say, the series has led these musicians to some pretty big pay days, too. "There wasn't Twitter or Instagram, and Facebook was still for college kids, so when people saw someone from 'Idol,' they had invested time into making you who you were," Season 6 winner Jordin Sparks later explained to Billboard about fans' interest.

As these winners began singing their way to success, everyone stopped to listen — and none of their music careers have ever been the same since. "I'm still the same person, but with a busier schedule," Kelly Clarkson, who won the first season of "American Idol," told USA Today — and she's a whole lot richer than she was before, too.

Read on as we work our way to the wealthiest "American Idol" winner.

Lee DeWyze now gets to write the music he wants

Before winning Season 9, Lee DeWyze was working for minimum wage in a paint store to afford to be able to play his music at night. When he got the opportunity to audition for "American Idol," he certainly couldn't pass it up. "'Idol' is just this huge platform for artists to just get their names out there and do what they want to do," DeWyze said on "Late Night with David Letterman." He's certainly made a name for himself since. Today, he's worth an estimated $500,000, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

Over the last decade, it hasn't been easy for DeWyze to get adjusted to the level of fame that the competitive series brought him, either. "Suddenly I'm in a multi-million dollar studio in New York or LA," he explained in an interview with Elmore Magazine. "And I loved all of the people I worked with, don't get me wrong — but it was all very quick. I had to fight hard to write on every song on my first record." Fans can now be certain that every song on the albums he's released since are exactly what he intended for them to hear. "Millions of people know who I am now," he reflected to The Young Folks.

Fantasia Barrino gained millionaire status

Before Fantasia Barrino got her big break, she "didn't have money or a car," she admitted during an interview with Oprah Winfrey. When she showed up to her "American Idol" audition, she had only $50 in her pocket, but the Season 3 winner is now worth an estimated $1 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

In addition to her seven studio albums, multiple hits, and a Grammy win, Barrino has become a lot more than just a singer. Only three years after leaving the competitive singing series, she starred as Celie in the Broadway production "The Color Purple," for which she got to sing every night to packed theaters. Barrino has also written her own book called "Life Is Not a Fairy Tale," which was so popular that it became a New York Times Bestseller and even a movie on Lifetime.

Though this singer has certainly become quite a success, this is still only the beginning of her story. "I want to still be singing at 70 years old," Barrino said.

Taylor Hicks has had a successful TV career

Taylor Hicks nearly didn't make it to Hollywood during his "American Idol" audition for Season 5. Yet, crazy enough, he walked away the winner and has since made himself worth nearly $1 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

After being introduced to audiences everywhere, Hicks, who is one "American Idol" contestant who is unrecognizable now, was signed to a record company and released his first single called "Do I Make You Proud" that ended up No. 1 that year on Billboard's Top 40 Hits. From there, Hicks landed a role in the Broadway musical "Grease" (via Billboard). He also became the very first winner of the singing series to receive a residency in Las Vegas, which contributed to half of his massive net worth, according to Forbes. He then took his talents to television, and he hosted the reality series "Slate Plate," for which he traveled all across the country trying the tastiest foods. "Playing in clubs and restaurants all my life, you know, I grew up around a lot of food, and so this is kind of a natural progression," he explained to BUILD Series, and fans seemed to be loving it. The series went on for three seasons.

Notably, Hicks was reportedly offered a hefty paycheck of $750,000 to release a memoir all about his career, according to People. His book, "Heart Full of Soul: An Inspirational Memoir About Finding Your Voice and Finding Your Way," hit shelves in 2007.

Candice Glover has given acting a go

Candice Glover was a part of three different seasons of "American Idol" before finally winning the show in Season 12. Though the experience connected her with some of the biggest names in the business, her transition into the music industry wasn't as easy as you'd expect. "When you're on 'American Idol,' you have to sing other people's music. When you come out with something totally different, they can either love it or hate it. It can be nerve wracking," she explained to Rated R&B. Honestly, she didn't have to worry too much. After all, she's now made herself worth somewhere around $1 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

Shortly after winning the show, Glover released her first album, "Music Speaks." The highly anticipated album — which was postponed once so Glover could perfect it — ended up at No. 14 on The Billboard 200 chart (via The Hollywood Reporter). Up next, she starred in the play "The Love Shack," which led her to an acting career on both the big and small screens. Glover has since appeared in multiple television shows and films. In fact, according to her Instagram account, she's currently studying film and television at Savannah College of Art and Design, so we're sure to be seeing more of her up on our screens.

Caleb Johnson created his own record label

Winning Season 13 of "American Idol" seemed to be exactly what Caleb Johnson needed before entering the music industry. "That was like a crash course in music business 101," he told Glide Magazine. "I learned a whole lot." In fact, he learned so much that he's made himself a millionaire. Today, Johnson is worth an estimated $1 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

After being crowned the winner of "American Idol," Johnson released his first album called "Testify," which ended up on the Billboard 200 chart. From there, his music career took off. "Two years later, I was touring with KISS and Joan Jett, Sammy Hagar, Black Stone Cherry, Cheap Trick," Johnson said. At that point, he formed his own band called Caleb Johnson and the Ramblin' Saints, released an album with them, and even created his own record label. "I hope to continue making albums like this in the future because it's my vision," he said. "I have complete control over the whole process."

Nick Fradiani now has a band, too

Nick Fradiani may have not made it far on "America's Got Talent," but he definitely got the attention of the judges on "American Idol" during Season 14 when he was crowned the winner. "One dream of mine always was to make music a career," Fradiani said during an interview with Ralphie Aversa. "And 'Idol' allowed me to do that." Today, he's worth an estimated $1 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

As soon as Fradiani stepped off the set of the competitive singing series, he released multiple singles as both a solo artist and with his band, Beach Avenue. His solo single called "Beautiful Life" landed on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In 2019, Fradiani took his performing skills to the next level and decided to act, too — something he had never anticipated ever doing. "If you told me that I'd be doing musical theater, I probably would have, you know, not believed you," he even admitted on KTLA 5. That year, he began touring across the country in the musical "A Bronx Tale," based on the film starring Robert De Niro.

Today, Fradiani continues to perform all over the country, but he always makes time to tune into "American Idol," too. "I love the show. I still watch it," he told Ralphie Aversa. "I'm a big supporter of it. They gave me a lot of opportunities."

Ruben Studdard reunited with another American Idol alum

"American Idol" winner Ruben Studdard has certainly kept busy since winning Season 2 of the show. In fact, he's made himself worth somewhere around $3 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

The first single Studdard released into the world that wasn't a cover, "Flying Without Wings," was the one he performed on the finale of the competitive series. It even ended up on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. When it came time to release his first album called "Soulful," more than 1 million people pre-ordered it, according to BET — so it's no surprise it ended up as number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. After that, he released seven more albums and even got a Grammy nomination.

Even with all of the success that Studdard was having in his career (he even took on multiple acting roles), he really seemed to miss his "American Idol" roots. He eventually partnered up with the runner-up from his season, Clay Aiken, and they began touring the country together. "I enjoyed the family energy that we had on the road. Like, everybody, even some of the background singers we took on the road were actually on 'American Idol' with us," Studdard explained on "Pickler & Ben." "So it was just great, and it's always a great time when Clay and I are together." The two even starred on their own Broadway show, "Ruben & Clay's First Annual Christmas Carol Family Fun Pageant Spectacular Reunion Show," in 2018.

Kris Allen has written hit after hit

When it came time for the finale of Season 8, Kris Allen was completely shocked to hear that he had won "American Idol." "For me, making it through each week — everyone is so talented," he told Entertainment Weekly. "And, I don't know, to make it through each week is crazy." What may be even more wild is that he's made himself worth about $3.5 million today, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

The very first album that Allen ever released brought in more than $1.7 million in sales, according to Degy Entertainment. It included his popular single "Live Like We're Dying," which was played on radio stations across the country and ended up on the Billboard Hot 100. Allen has now released multiple albums and has had seven of his songs end up on the Billboard charts.

After a successful solo career, Allen formed his own band called The Dames and even considered taking a shot at acting. At this point, "I love movies, but I don't see it happening unless something crazy happens," he told Pop-Culturalist. After all, his singing career has already been extremely successful.

Phillip Phillips has been keeping busy touring

Phillip Phillips has always been passionate about playing music. Even before he ever stepped foot on the set of "American Idol," he was performing at various venues — but it wasn't easy. "I would play shows and no one would be at it," he admitted to "I'd play for food. I'd play for 50 bucks for three hours. I played on the streets for three hours." However, once he won Season 11 of "American Idol," he gained fans from all over the world. Now, he's even worth somewhere around $3.5 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

Upon leaving the show, Phillips released his first album "The World From the Side of the Moon," which quickly went platinum. It included his most popular single "Home," which hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts and brought in $4.7 million alone, according to USA Today. At that point, it was the most popular single released by any "American Idol" winner.

Phillips has since released two more albums and has toured the country with other famous musicians like John Mayer, the Goo Goo Dolls, and Gavin DeGraw. "It's been non-stop," he said on the "Today" show of his success since "Idol," "which I'm so thankful for."

Scotty McCreery's life story got a lot of attention

Scotty McCreery was only 17 years old when he won Season 10 of "American Idol" — and his singing career skyrocketed from there. "I continue to be amazed by everything that has happened to me in such a short time," he told PRNewswire. Today, he's worth an estimated $4 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

After winning "American Idol," McCreery went on to release his first single out in the world, which was met with a huge amount of success. "I Love You This Big" was the biggest debut single for a country star in two decades. It hit No. 1 on iTunes and also went gold, according to USA Today. Since then, he has released five more successful albums.

In 2016, McCreery released his own memoir called "Go Big or Go Home: The Journey Toward the Dream," in which he described all the details of his "American Idol" journey as well as all the wild things that had happened to him so far. That wasn't the only story the world wanted to hear from him either. In 2021, a Hallmark movie called "Five More Minutes" was made based off of his song with the same name. "I like to think that I tell stories for a living," McCreery told FOX 11 Los Angeles, and his story is still only beginning.

David Cook has used his fame to help those in need

David Cook was willing to do whatever it took to pay the bills as an aspiring musician. "Before 'Idol,' I bartended and worked until 3 or 4 in the morning," he explained in an interview with Unlocking Connecticut. Since winning Season 7 of the show, he's made himself worth about $5 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

Cook's album "David Cook" sold over 1 million copies in the U.S. and even went platinum. He went on to release two more albums and has had 11 of his songs end up on the Billboard Hot 100 list in 2008 — more than any other artist in the music industry at the time. He also signed a global deal to be the spokesperson of Skechers. Yet, even with all of this success, he still had other things on his mind. "I've had conversations about finding creative outlets outside of being a musician, but the timing was never right," he told American Songwriter. However, things completely changed in 2018 when he landed a role in the Broadway musical "Kinky Boots." 

Out of everything this millionaire has done, his charity work continues to be his favorite. "I lost my brother Adam to a brain tumor in 2009; every year I am part of the Race for Hope-DC and my fans alone have raised over 1 million dollars for this charity," Cook said. "Far and away, that is the proudest of all my achievements."

Jordin Sparks has jumped into acting

Growing up, Jordin Sparks always had one goal in mind. "I remember telling my nana this when I was like 12 years old," she explained in an interview with Hallmark Channel, "is all I want to do is tell stories and make people feel." Since winning Season 6 of "American Idol," she's certainly done exactly that. In fact, her successful career in the entertainment industry has now made her worth $8 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

After leaving "American Idol," Sparks released her debut album called "Jordin Sparks" which went platinum. One of the songs from the album, "No Air," featuring Chris Brown, ended up at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. She went on to release three more albums and began touring with other famous musicians like Alicia Keys, Britney Spears, and the Jonas Brothers.

Though Sparks loves to sing, it turns out she loves to act, too. She made her acting debut in the popular Disney Channel series "The Suite Life on Deck." In addition to appearing in TV shows and movies, Sparks also landed a starring role for a limited time in the successful Broadway musical "Waitress." In 2021, the "American Idol" winner starred in her very first Hallmark film called "A Christmas Treasure" — and now she hopes to make herself a home on the Hallmark Channel every holiday season. "It's my first one, hopefully, of many," Sparks told TV Insider.

Kelly Clarkson has certainly come a long way

Shortly before Kelly Clarkson appeared on "American Idol," her house had burned down, and she needed a job. "I literally was just doing anything because I didn't have anything," she explained on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon." When it came time to audition for the first season of "American Idol," she had no idea she would actually win. Today, she's worth $35 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

Once Clarkson won the competitive singing series, she released her very first single "A Moment Like This," which ended up on the top of the Billboard Hot 100 list and was the most purchased single of the year. When she released the rest of the album, it went double-platinum. She's since released eight more and has won three Grammys.

Clarkson has also decided to give acting a try. She starred in the film "From Justin to Kelly" before lending her voice to many animated characters in "The Star," "UglyDolls," and "Trolls World Tour," which brought in more than $140 million combined, according to Box Office Mojo. Today, the singer has her own talk show, "The Kelly Clarkson Show," for which more than 2 million people excitedly tuned into the premiere week, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Her career has also come full circle as a judge on "The Voice," where she reportedly makes $560,000 each episode. 

In addition to writing music, Clarkson also writes children's books. She currently has a publishing deal with HarperCollins Publishers.

Carrie Underwood has become a big country star

Though Carrie Underwood won Season 4 of "American Idol," she admitted during an interview with Toyota, "I don't know if I legitimately ever thought I could be a singer." But today, she's the richest "Idol" winner with a net worth around $140 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

After winning the series, Underwood released her first album called "Some Hearts." It was the No. 1 country album sold that year, made it on the Billboard 200 chart, and ended up 8x platinum. It also became the highest certified country album since 2000. Underwood went on to release seven more albums (and one greatest hits album) and so far has earned herself seven Grammys, too. Each time Underwood tours the country and sings her songs in person, she rakes in more than $1 million for every show, according to Billboard.

In 2015, Underwood added fashion designer to her resume. Her line, Calia by Carrie Underwood, consists of all sorts of comfortable clothing — from workout wear to athleisure you can wear all day long. In fact, exercise has been such an inspiration to Underwood that she released a New York Times Bestseller about it called "Find Your Path: Honor Your Body, Fuel Your Soul, and Get Strong with the Fit52 Life." 

Looking back, Underwood told Toyota, "I probably never would have actually given myself the chance to make this my career if it hadn't been for 'American Idol.'"