As American Idol goes full swing into another season, it’s easy to forget about some of the faces of the past. Sure, we are reminded of the Kelly Clarkson’s each time we turn on the radio, the Jennifer Hudson’s each time we watch an awards show, and the Corey Clark’s each time we see an episode of Cops. But, what about those who don’t make the press? Do they have other projects going on or have they simply become American idles?
There are no American Idol contestants we have forgotten about quite as much as those from Season 1. It was bound to happen this way: we often forget about the match that starts the fire. Yet, many of the contestants from Season 1 have found their own voices, some through music and some through other endeavors.
Justin Guarini: As the runner up in Season 1, Justin Guarini was arguably the most talented male vocalist on the show. Following his success, he went on to star in the ill-received From Justin to Kelly. His music seemed ill received as well and the record deal he procured months earlier busted when he was dropped from RCA. Refusing to throw in the towel, Justin continued to release his music through his own production company, Justice Entertainment.
Since 2005, he has released two albums and is working on a third. He is also going back to acting (as someone who saw From Justin to Kelly, I can only say “THANK GOD”), and has been cast as a race car driver for the upcoming movie Fast Girl. Leaving no media unturned, he broke into television by signing with the TV Guide Channel as a host for Idol Chat and Idol Tonight. Out of the spotlight, Justin serves as an advocate for music in the classrooms. Since 2004, he has been the national spokesman for the Support Music Education campaign.
Tamyra Gray: Following American Idol, Tamyra Gray was cast in David E. Kelley’s Boston Public, a role that allowed her to both act and sing. She also made guest appearances on All of Us, Half and Half, Tru Calling, What I Like About You, and Las Vegas. In addition to acting, Tamyra has stayed true to her musical roots. She performed a duet with Kelly Clarkson on Clarkson’s first release, a duet that Gray helped write. Well versed in music composition, Tamyra returned to Idol to help compose the singles for Season 3.
Putting down the pen and picking up the microphone, Tamyra eventually released her own album, The Dreamer, and obtained a role in the Broadway show, Bombay Dreams. In October 2005, she jumped to the big screen in an independent film called The Gospel. Months later, she helped write songs and sang backup for Jessica Simpson’s newest record. In her personal life, she married Color Me Badd singer Sam Watters in early September, 2006. She is now working on a new album and looking for a new record label.
Nikki McKibbin: American Idol Season 1’s resident punk girl, Nikki McKibbin was signed by RCA following the show. The label, however, wanted Nikki to record a country album and she wanted to be true to her rock ‘n’ roll roots. This resulted in no album ever being produced, leading her to stay true to some other roots: Reality Shows
She appeared on Fear Factor, Battle of the Network Reality Stars, and Kill Reality, which documented the creation and filming of The Scorned. In The Scorned, a movie featuring a cast made up entirely of former reality stars, Nikki played a singer. She also appeared in a music video for Rivethead and joined the Dallas-based rock band, Downside, a band she left in late 2005. Returning as a solo artist, she released a single in 2006 and her debut album, Unleashed, is scheduled to be released on May 1, 2007.
Jim Verraros: The Idol contestant who captivated audiences by signing for his deaf parents, Jim Verraros has since come out of the closet and become a pseudo-poster child for the American gay press. This occurred when Fox made Jim remove pro-gay remarks from his American Idol website, a website sponsored by the Fox network. Since then, Jim has released an international album, Rollercoaster. One of Rollercoaster’s tracks made the Top 25 of Billboard’s Hot Club/ Dance Chart hits.
Like many of his fellow contestants, Jim was bitten by the acting bug and starred in the 2004 comedy Eating Out as well as its 2006 sequel Eating Out 2. He has also been featured four times on The Feast of Fools, a pod cast and Chicago-based variety show featuring gay themes.
Brian Dunkleman: Though not a contestant on American Idol, many people wonder what ever happened to “that other guy,” the one who was seen hosting alongside Ryan Seacrest during the first season: Brian Dunkleman. After allegedly angering Simon Cowell, Brian left American Idol to pursue other endeavors. These other endeavors included appearances on The Tonight Show, Two Guys and a Girl, NYPD Blue, Courting Alex, The Ghost Whisperer, Friends, and Las Vegas.
Brian has also done voiceover work for The Proud Family, 3 South, and American Idol Rewind. Additionally, he makes regular appearances at the Laugh Factory and other comedy clubs around the nation as well as frequent appearances as host of Family Feud Live.
These people of American Idol’s past may not be as famous as some of their former contestants, but they are still making names and careers for themselves and, it’s safe to say, they aren’t even near being done. It is certainly not time to close the curtain.
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