In one of the more bizarre post-Idol careers, the Georgia native found a steady stream of gigs performing for Muhammad Ali, who recruited the singer to perform at multiple book-signing events and receptions held in his honor. Day did his best to stay active in the music biz by working as a Royal Caribbean cruise singer and wound up with writing credits on Raven-Symoné's sophomore album Undeniable.
The Crystal Lake, Illinois native went dance-y on us after Idol, releasing his debut album Rollercoaster in 2005 that spawned "You Turn It On," a Top 25 hit on Billboard's Dance Club Songs song. He released follow-up singles and albums (many of which come with provocative album art) throughout the decade, but remained quiet on the music front throughout the '10s. On the acting side, he starred in 2004's gay-themed comedy Eating Out, its sequel Eating Out 2: Sloppy Seconds in 2006 and 2008's Another Gay Sequel: Gays Gone Wild!
The youngest Top 10 finalist, the singer struggled to find his sound after Idol when his team wanted him to go in a pop direction while a then-17-year-old Gil wanted to pursue R&B. Almost a decade later, he got his wish when he released his full-length soul record Love Me Later in 2011 to little fanfare. He's continues to work behind the scenes of the biz by writing songs and working as a sound engineer.
Despite signing with RCA Records (the same label as Kelly Clarkson), the California native said her career was put on hold when she refused to make an album with "an Avril Lavigne sound." After three years of fighting, Starr was released from the deal and found some solo success when her single "My Religion" hit No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Digital Songs chart. In addition to performing with her recently formed rock band Aces, Starr has also lent her vocals to songs like Sander Kleinenberg's dance track "Chemically."
Remaining one of the more visible Idol finalists, Starr landed cameos on That '70s Show, CSI and later became better known as a reality show star on shows like VH1's The Surreal Life. But she never quite figured out how to use her Twitter account.
Staying relatively quiet post-Idol, Christian landed a correspondent role with the TV Guide channel where she covered (what else?) American Idol for the network. She's reportedly still involved in music and working on an album, but admitted to People: "I'm not a big fan of fame."
Cutie pie RJ Helton took a different route than the Top 4 finishers and signed with a Christian label. In 2004, he released his debut LP Real Life, which hit the Top 15 of Billboard's Christian Albums chart and single "Even If" went Top 40 on the Hot Christian Songs chart. He landed big promo slots on The Tonight Show, TRL, Good Morning America and more.
Helton later abandoned the inspirational-music route, explaining his decision when he came out on Sirius satellite radio show OutQ in the Morning. "I can have a faith, but can't be who I want to be," he said of the Christian music world. "So, a lot of it was just personal things I needed to overcome and just be proud of who I was...just because I am gay does not mean I can't love God." He still sings and appears at events today.
A frontrunner throughout the season, Gray landed a deal with 19 Records post-Idol and released her debut album, The Dreamer, in 2004. The disc sold a respectable 39,000 copies, debuting at No. 23 on the Billboard 200. She's since written on albums for Fantasia, Jessica Simpson and Kristina DeBarge. She also snagged acting cameos on popular shows like Boston Public, Tru Calling and What I Like About You, most recently having a small role in Academy Award-nominated film Rachel Getting Married.
Gray had somewhat recently booked studio time with hitmakers like Ryan Tedder and The Runaways, but no new album has materialized.
Apparently facing similar issues that plagued Ryan Starr, McKibbin also fought with RCA Records and 19 Management and no music ever resulted, apparently after the label pushed her to release country music when she wanted to stay rock. Without a label, in 2005 she joined Dallas rock band Downside, but left that same year due to creative differences. She kept her face on TV appearing on reality shows like Fear Factor, Kill Reality and Battle of the Network Reality Stars. An album finally came out in mid-2007, the independently released Unleashed, but failed to make much of a splash. A year later, she appeared on Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew to treat cocaine and alcohol addiction and later appeared on Rehab-spinoff Sober House.
In a true full circle moment, Nikki accompanied her son Tristan as he auditioned for the 13th season of Idol. Sadly, he was cut before the live shows.
After landing the runner-up position and filming From Justin to Kelly alongside Clarkson (remember that travesty?), the singer released two ill-received albums but found his place as a host and Broadway star.
His 2003 self-titled LP sold 134,000 copies, debuting at No. 20, and his follow-up, 2005's Stranger Things Have Happen, didn't make it onto the Billboard 200. Guarini's since found more success on TV (co-hosting shows like Regis and Kelly, VH1's Top 20 Countdown and The Today Show) and onstage (he's appeared in Broadway productions of American Idiot, Wicked and Romeo and Juliet). In fact with four roles landed on the Great White Way, Guarini is the most successful Idol when it comes to Broadway.
Also, you might have caught him in a certain commercial...
And, of course, you know Kelly Clarkson. But do you know the extent of her accomplishments?
After winning the inaugural season, Kelly earned three No. 1 albums, three No. 1 singles and three GRAMMY Awards. Her debut single, "A Moment Like This," initially broke the record for biggest jump to No. 1 in American chart history before her 2009 single, "My Life Would Suck Without You," broke that same record when it soared from No. 97 to top the ranking. Plus, Clarkson is currently the only artist to win the Best Pop Vocal Album GRAMMY twice as well as the only female artist to ever earn the year's biggest-selling holiday LP with 2013's Wrapped in Red.
Past her record breaking, Kelly's been accepted into multiple genres throughout her career, earning chart entries on pop, country, dance, adult contemporary and rhythmic charts throughout her 13 years in the biz. Not only that, the girl has even conquered the greeting card market: She created a line with American Greetings in April 2015 too. What can't she do?