5 Black ‘American Idol’ Winners: Where are they now?

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American Idol is back and better than ever.

First airing in 2002, American Idol gained immediate attention from viewers with its renowned judging panel of Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson.

The show’s debut season saw the emergence of Kelly Clarkson, who went on to become an iconic star. Over the course of its long-running success, this popular program has given rise to many musical, TV, and Broadway stars.

This new season of American Idol has revealed some of the most talented young individuals the country has to offer.Take a look back at some of the most memorable black winners and find out where they are now.

Black American Idol Winners

Ruben Studdard

Ruben Studdard

Studdard won American Idol’s second season and was aptly dubbed the “velvet teddy bear”. His talent was celebrated when his debut album Soulful topped the Billboard 200 chart and received a Grammy nomination.


He followed with a gospel album in 2004 before switching back to R&B with his album The Return in 2006, but unfortunately his label J Records dropped him in 2007.

He released his newest album Ruben Sings Luther, a tribute to the late Luther Vandross, in 2018. This beloved singer made his return to TV when he competed as the first-ever celebrity contestant on Season 15 of The Biggest Loser.

Fantasia Barrino

Fantasia Barrino

Fantasia Barrino, hailing from North Carolina, catapulted to fame when she won season 3 of a competition, releasing her Grammy-nominated debut album, Free Yourself.

She then earned one Grammy win for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance in 2011 and a total of 12 nominations throughout her career, including her seventh studio album released in 2019, Sketchbook.

In 2007, she took on the role of Shug Avery in the Broadway musical The Color Purple and returned to the stage six years later for After Midnight.

Her memoir Fantasia: Life Is Not a Fairytale was adapted into a Lifetime movie in 2006.

Barrino also starred in her own VH1 reality show, Fantasia for Real, for two seasons. Unfortunately, in 2010, she attempted suicide with an aspirin overdose, which she later revealed publicly.

Jordin Sparks

Jordin Sparks

Sparks achieved monumental success at the age of 17 by becoming the youngest winner of “American Idol” in 2005, a feat yet to be matched. From this victory, the Arizona native released her self-titled debut album that was certified platinum with the help of her Top 10 hits such as “Tattoo” and “No Air”.

In addition, “No Air” became the third-highest charting single ever by an “Idol” champion after songs by Clarkson and Underwood.

Her fame led to certain roles in TV and films, as well as starring in Broadway productions like “In The Heights” and “Waitress”.

Candice Glover

Candice Glover

In 2013, Glover won season 12 of American Idol, being the first female to do so since Sparks.

Subsequently, she released her first album, Music Speaks, in 2014.

After a few years of taking a break from the music scene, she returned with her single “My Mistake” in 2017 and followed it up with the release of “Break Me” a year after.

Additionally, Glover was cast for the Broadway musical Home for the Holidays in 2017.

Just Sam (Samantha Diaz)

Just Sam (Samantha Diaz)

At the age of 20, Samantha Diaz, also known as Just Sam, made history when she competed in “American Idol”‘s inaugural pandemic finale.

The singer hailing from Harlem, New York had initially auditioned for both “The Voice” and “America’s Got Talent” prior to her rise to national fame on “Idol”.

After signing with Hollywood Records, Sam released her rendition of the song “Rise Up”; however, last year she announced that she was financially drained from trying to repurchase her recordings from the label, which has thus far prevented her from releasing any new music.

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