15 American Idol losers who found their own stardom

5 of 16

Katharine McPhee (Season 5)

Katharine McPhee may not have won her season, but she’s getting the last laugh!

McPhee was 21 years old when she auditioned for season five of American Idol. She had been pounding the pavement as an actress but was always a singer — her mom was a voice coach, so it was in her blood. She sang “God Bless The Child” by Billie Holiday. The love for her was unanimous, which brought her to tears before they even sent her to Hollywood. Randy even said she was the best voice he had heard the entire audition season, and Simon loved how “current” and authentic she was.

She struggled a bit during Hollywood week, but she was a fan favorite once she made it to the Top 24. The term “McPheever” was coined to describe how crazy America was going for her. One of the singer’s most memorable performances on the show was during the Top 3, when she performed “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Judy Garland, the song chosen for her by Simon. She chose that song to perform again the next week on the finale, and has performed her version of the song many times throughout the years since her time on Idol.

It was clear she was a star, and audiences were shocked when she lost to Taylor Hicks. But McPhee rose from the ashes and came out with her own self-titled debut album in 2007, debuting at #2 on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart.

Soon enough, she transitioned to the big screen. She appeared in 2008’s The House Bunny as a pregnant sorority girl, and in 2012 she returned to television to star in the short-lived musical drama Smash, in which she played Karen, an aspiring Broadway performer fighting for the lead role in a musical about the life of Marilyn Monroe.

After the untimely demise of Smash, she was on the show Scorpion, and made her Broadway debut in the musical Waitress as Jenna. She recently originated the role in the West End production of Waitress. She’s now engaged to music megaproducer David Foster, who she first met and performed with on American Idol.