#Movies & TV

20 Celebrities Who Actually Found Fame After Talent Shows

by Jennifer Lafferty

20 Celebrities Who Actually Found Fame After Talent Shows

Only a small fraction of contestants from talent show competitions are able to sustain a long impressive career in show business. The ones who do succeed, like Justin Timberlake or Christina Aguliera, need a lot of good fortune to extend their 15 minutes of fame.


Britney Spears



Long before Britney Spears was a super-sexy international pop star phenomenon, she was an adorable 11-year-old girl competing on Star Search. Spears actually lost the competition to 12-year-old Marty Thomas, but obviously won in the long run.


Justin Timberlake



Britney’s ex, Justin Timberlake, was also 11-years-old when he lost on Star Search to Anna Nardona. Timberlake wasn’t a loser for long, skyrocketing to success with N*SYNC, before triumphing as a solo artist and actor.


Kelly Clarkson



No one knew what to make of American Idol when it premiered in 2002, or the first Idol winner Kelly Clarkson, largely written off as an amateur. But Clarkson quickly proved her critics wrong, launching a hugely successful career.


Drew Carey



Before he went on, Drew Carey was approached by Star Search competitor Joe Yannitty who said: “Hey, it’s a nice suit. A nice suit to lose in.” Yannitty did win but Carey got the last laugh, with his own hit TV series.


Leona Lewis



When Leona Lewis auditioned for The X Factor in 2006, she sang Over the Rainbow, and soon made it there, eventually winning the competition, and becoming one of the top British female solo artists of all time.





In 1993, Girl’s Tyme, a group of Texas teens including a young Beyonce, rapped on Star Search in the Best Group category. Girl’s Tyme became hit R&B pop group Destiny’s Child, and eventual solo-star Beyonce became Queen B.


Ray Romano



Everybody Loves Raymond star Ray Romano competed in the Johnnie Walker National Comedy Search as well as Star Search. Following his massively successful sitcom, Romano has remained in demand with many projects including series Parenthood and Vinyl.


Brad Garrett



Like his TV brother, Everybody Loves Raymond’s Brad Garrett competed as a comic on Star Search, but made a bigger impression, winning the $100,000 grand prize in 1984. His latest projects include Finding Dory and TV’s Fargo.


Carrie Underwood



Simon Cowell knew Carrie Underwood was headed for stardom, predicting she would not only win but “sell more records than any previous Idol winner.” The country singer went from American Idol champion to multiple Grammy winner and is still on top.


Katharine McPhee



American Idol runner-up Katharine McPhee has become as well known for her acting as her singing. Since competing on Idol in 2006, McPhee has released four albums and starred in TV series Smash and Scorpion.





Shortly after winning her high school talent competition and Miss Combermere school beauty pageant, Barbadian singer Rihanna signed with Syndicated Rhythm Productions and soon shot to stardom with her debut album Music of the Sun in 2005.





Although Usher lost Star Search, the 13-year-old who wowed everyone with how long he could hold a note impressed a LaFace Records rep who introduced him to L.A. Reid, and the multi-talented Usher has been riding high ever since.


Jennifer Hudson



Being eliminated during America Idol‘s top 7 in 2004 didn’t seem to hurt Jennifer Hudson’s momentum a bit. In addition to two hit albums, Hudson became a successful actress with Dreamgirls and The Secret Life of Bees.


One Direction



Separately entering UK’s X Factor in 2010, Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne and Niall Horan were put together by Simon Cowell and Nicole Scherzinger. One Direction’s enormous international success is a big consolation for only coming in third.


Alanis Morissette



Alternative rock singer Alanis Morissette has released eight albums, including the extremely popular, Grammy-winning Jagged Little Pill, since competing on and losing Star Search back in 1990, at age 16.


Nicole Scherzinger



Talent competitions have always been a big part of singer/actress Nicole Scherzinger’s career. The Pussycat Dolls lead has performed on and judged numerous talent shows since getting her start competing on the WB’s Popstars in 2000.


Fantasia Barrino



After winning the third season of American Idol, Fantasia Barrino not only embarked on a very lucrative recording career, but has succeeded as an actress, particularly on Broadway, performing in musicals like The Color Purple and After Midnight.


Rosie O’Donnell



Comedienne Rosie O’Donnell was among Star Search’s most memorable contestants, winning five times. She used the prize money to move to LA in 1984, where she began an acting career, followed by her hit 1990s talk show.


Miranda Lambert



Miranda Lambert only came in third place on Nashville Star, but went on to become one the biggest country music celebrities around, with several platinum albums and numerous awards, including two Grammys.


Christina Aguilera



Christina Aguilera was already a talent show sensation when she appeared on Star Search at age nine. Years after becoming a pop star, Aguilera returned to her talent competition roots in 2011, as a judge on The Voice.