Former “American Idol” runner-ups opened up about what it felt like to come in second place on the show and what their lives were like following their time on the show in celebration of 20 years since season one aired.
In interviews with Insider, runners-up season one’s Justin Guarini, season 11’s Jessica Sanchez, season 14’s Clark Beckham, season 13’s Jena Irene Asciutto, season 16’s Caleb Lee Hutchinson, season six’s Blake Lewis, season three’s Diana DeGarmo, season 15’s A.S.E., formerly known as La’Porsha Renae, and season nine’s Crystal Bowersox.
“American Idol” premiered on June 11, 2002.
There was a mixed bag of responses to questions, but multiple runners-up said that they were frustrated by the experience after the show.
Some Were Frustrated Following The Show
While many of the finalists said they weren’t necessarily upset that they didn’t win the show, some were upset about how they were treated after the show.
“When you’re on the show, you are the center of the world,” DeGarmo told the outlet. “And we didn’t fully grasp that.”
She said she was completely cut off from the outside world while on the show.
Afterward, it was “frustrating” for her while trying to figure out what she wanted to do “as an artist.”
“No one from the show was by your side anymore,” DeGarmo said, telling Insider that she finished high school after her time on the show.
Asciutto told the outlet that she began being upset when everyone immediately connected her with “American Idol” even years later.
“After the fact, like two or three years after, I was pissed,” she told the outlet. “Is that all I’m f***ing known for?”
She also said she was not offered any record deals following the show.
“All anyone cares about is this ‘American Idol’ title, which is dope, but it’s a reality-TV show,” she shared. “And it’s also not the music industry, which is a complete fact.”
Some Called the Experience a ‘Reality Check’
Following the show, some contestants said they experienced a “reality check.”
When “the ‘Idol’ stuff dies down,” according to Hutchinson, it became clear that some who supported him on the show only wanted to be on TV. He was also dealing with his social media presence growing exponentially while on the show.
“Going from no one caring, to a lot of eyes on you and Twitter fingers pointed at you, it was weird,” he shared. Sanchez agreed.
About her experience with social media since being on the show, she told Insider, “For me, I was a 16-year-old girl that all of a sudden had a million-plus followers on Twitter and Facebook. And I thought, ‘OK, what do I do with this?'”
Season 20’s Runner-Up Has Been Working on New Music Post-Show
Huntergirl, who was the runner-up of season 20 of the show, has been working hard and booking gigs since the season ended. On June 17, 2022, she announced that she’ll be the Grand Marshal of the Gatlinburg Fourth of July Midnight Parade.
“I am so excited and honored,” she wrote in the announcement. “I hope everyone can come out and celebrate the Fourth of July with us. Hope to see you all there!”