These 25 Music Stars Can Basically Thank Reality TV for Their Entire Careers

These 25 Music Stars Can Basically Thank Reality TV for Their Entire Careers

It’s been 18 years (!) since Kelly Clarkson, a then-not famous person, became the O.G. American Idol, aka a forever-wildly famous person. Yep, she launched a crazy successful career from a reality TV show. Whether she’s putting out hit records, judging The Voice or hosting her own talk show, she’s the true poster child for success. But long before 22 million people watched Clarkson win, Star Search was the original hit maker. Beyoncé, Usher, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera all took a shot at following their dreams. *pause for single tear to stream down face*

The truth is, you can find talent anywhere, whether it’s on a reality TV show, a YouTube channel, or a subway station. Reality TV competition shows like American Idol and The Voice get a bad rap for being an easy way to a record label, but there’s no doubt that these contestants are putting in the work. And the successful ones don’t just stop after the show ends. I mean, do you know how busy Carrie Underwood is?? Very busy, ppl!

And while there are a LOT of contestants whose stardom has failed to launch, reality TV show competitions are still churning out a lot of stars. Hey, you don’t even have to win. Jennifer Hudson finished seventh on American Idol and then won a freaking Academy Award (!) for her role in Dreamgirls. Anyway, here are 25 artists who rose to fame after appearing on a reality TV show.

(Kevin Winter - Getty Images)
Britney Spears

Before she was dancing with a snake and kissing Madonna at the VMAs, 10-year-old Britney Spears graced the stage at Star Search in 1992. She didn’t win, but she did go on to join The Mickey Mouse Club later that year. The Princess of Pop signed with Jive Records when she was 15, churned out Billboard hits and sold out stadiums around the world. Duh, you know all this already bc she is an ICON.

(L. Busacca - Getty Images)

Even though Usher was singing at talent shows, his career really took off when he caught the attention of a music exec during his performance on Star Search. Usher auditioned for L.A. Reid and was signed on the spot. The R&B singer has won two Grammy Awards, owns a record label, judges on The Voice and continues to put out records.

(Axelle/Bauer-Griffin - Getty Images)
Miranda Lambert

The Bluebird singer is leading the pack for nominations at the 2020 Country Music Association Awards. But long before Miranda Lambert topped the charts, she was a 19-year old contestant on Nashville Star. She came in third on the show and then signed a record deal the same year. Her first album, Kerosene, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard country charts.

(Ethan Miller - Getty Images)
Harry Styles

Harry Styles auditioned as a solo artist on the U.K. version of The X Factor, but Simon Cowell saw potential in him (and four other contestants) and One Direction was born. Although the group came in third, they became one of the most successful boy bands. Styles ventured out on his own and I've basically spent my entire summer listening to "Watermelon Sugar" so there's that.

(AFP Contributor - Getty Images)
Kelly Clarkson

It’s hard to think of a time when Kelly Clarkson and American Idol weren't household names, but before 2002, she was just a girl from Texas with a dream. Clarkson’s soulful voice captured the hearts of the country and basically put Idol on the map. She's sold more than 25 million albums worldwide, won Grammys, mentored three winners on The Voice and now hosts her own talk show.

(Frazer Harrison - Getty Images)
Cardi B

In 2015, Cardi B was the breakout star of VH1’s Love & Hip Hop: New York. She was on the show for two seasons and left to pursue her music career, and yeah, she! did! that! "Bodak Yellow" and "I Like It" both went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Oh, and she’s the only woman to win the Grammy for Best Rap Album as a solo artist.

(Dimitrios Kambouris - Getty Images)
Chris Mann

Chris Mann came in fourth place on the second season of The Voice. The opera and classical singer released two a few albums and EPs. He toured as the title role in The Phantom of the Opera for two years. Most recently, he’s been making headlines with his hilarious YouTube videos. (Seriously, you need to watch his parody of Adele's "Hello.")

(Angela Weiss - Getty Images)
Carrie Underwood

Carrie Underwood ain’t in Checotah anymore. The winner of the fourth season of American Idol put country music on the forefront on Idol. She’s sold the most records of any Idol contestant; she's racked up seven Grammy Awards and 14 Academy of Country Music Awards; aaaaand she's created CALIA by Carrie, a fitness clothing brand.

(Emma McIntyre - Getty Images)
Alanis Morissette

In 1995, an album called Jagged Little Pill came out without much fanfare, until an L.A. rock radio station started playing "You Oughta Know." The song became an instant hit and catapulted Alanis Morissette, a Canadian singer, to stardom. Her other singles on the album, "Ironic," "Hand in My Pocket," "You Learn," and "Head over Feet" had similar success. But five years before that album’s success, she made her debut on Star Search (and lost). How...ironic. (Sorry.)

(Debra L Rothenberg - Getty Images)
Chris Young

A lot of country music fans started noticing Chris Young in 2009 with his first No. 1 single, "Gettin’ You Home." Although he won the fourth season of Nashville Star in 2006, it took a few years for him to get to the top of the charts. "Tomorrow," "I’m Comin’ Over" and "Think of You¸" a duet with Voice winner Cassadee Pope, all hit No. 1. Young also became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 2017.

(Ethan Miller - Getty Images)
Camila Cabello

Camila Cabello was one of the contestants on the U.S. version of The X Factor. Even though she was eliminated, she was brought back to form the girl group Fifth Harmony, just like One Direction in the U.K. version. She left the group in 2016 and put out hits like "Havana" and "Señorita," so she's doing just fine.

(John Shearer - Getty Images)
Nicole Scherzinger

Nicole Scherzinger was part of the group Days of the New, but quit to appear on the WB show Popstars. The show produced the girl group Eden’s Crush, which was short-lived but iconic nonetheless. Nicole's popularity on the show helped launch her into stardom as the lead singer of another group: The Pussycat Dolls. The song "Don’t Cha" was their breakthrough hit, followed by "Buttons," which was nominated for a Grammy. Scherzinger is back to her reality TV roots as a judge on The Masked Singer.

(Mike Marsland - Getty Images)

R&B singer Miguel appeared on the BET show Blowin’ Up! Fatty Koo in 2005 to audition for the group. He didn’t make it, but he signed a record deal two years later and released his first album in 2010. The Grammy-winning musician has released four successful albums, and in 2019, he released a Spanish EP.

(Frazer Harrison - Getty Images)
Kacey Musgraves

You know her now as one of the biggest singer/songwriters of the decade, but Kacey Musgraves had a looong journey to fame. She finished in seventh place on Nashville Star in 2007. Five years later, she was signed to a label and released her first album. Despite winning Grammy Awards for the album and her single "Merry Go ‘Round," Musgraves is vocal about how country music radio stations didn’t play her songs. Luckily for her, she’s doing just fine now. Her album Golden Hour won an Album of the Year Grammy, CMA and ACM award, TYVM.

(John Lamparski - Getty Images)
Justin Timberlake

Justin Timberlake made his first reality TV debut on Star Search when he was 11, but his true breakout was in The Mickey Mouse Club. The babyfaced Timberlake started capturing hearts in 1993. Two years later, he became one of the lead singers of the insanely popular boy band NSYNC. He’s gone on to have success as a solo artist and made the jump to the big screen with films like The Social Network and Friends with Benefits.

(John Shearer - Getty Images)
Lindsey Stirling

Despite having success on her YouTube channel, it wasn’t until 2010 that Lindsey Stirling gained a massive following. She wowed judges on America’s Got Talent by incorporating the violin with dance. She was a quarter finalist on the show and went on to create popular albums of covers and original music. Her YouTube channel, Lindseystomp, continues to *thrive* with more than three billion (!) total views.

(C Flanigan - Getty Images)
Jennifer Hudson

There just wasn’t room for two R&B powerhouses in season three of American Idol. Jennifer Hudson was shockingly eliminated early on while Fantasia Barrino took the win for the season. In 2005, that all changed. She was cast in the role of Effie White in the film adaptation of Dreamgirls, a role she won an Oscar, Golden Globe and SAG Award for. She’s continued to act, record albums, and star on Broadway. And she was the best part of Cats—this is not up for debate.

(Steven Ferdman - Getty Images)
Chase Rice

Before Chase Rice gained fame on country music radio, he was a contestant on Survivor: Nicaragua. In 2010, he was the runner-up, earning a $100,000 prize. He co-write Florida Georgia Line’s hit song "Cruise" and then started putting out chart toppers of his own. Rice’s 2019 hit single "Eyes on You" is his first No. 1 on country radio.

(Frazer Harrison/ACMA2019 - Getty Images)

Is there anything Queen Bey can't do? Beyoncé has won 24 Grammys and put out countless No. 1 singles. She’s acted, earning a Golden Globe nomination for her role in Dreamgirls. She's made documentaries, visual albums, and live performances that made my head actually explode. But long before all that, Beyoncé appeared on Star Search with the group Girl’s Tyme. They didn’t win, but eventually reorganized to become Destiny’s Child, one of the most popular girl groups in history. NBD.

(Jason LaVeris - Getty Images)
Chris Daughtry

Despite three seasons of pop and R&B winners on American Idol, Chris Daughtry proved that there’s a place for rock music on the show. He came in fourth on Idol, but quickly put out the fast-selling debut rock album in Nielsen SoundScan history. Daughtry was nominated for a Grammy for the debut single "It’s Not Over." His latest single, "World on Fire," has landed him back on the Billboard charts.

(Jesse Grant - Getty Images)
Jackie Evancho

When she was only 1o years old, classical crossover singer Jackie Evancho finished as the runner-up on the fifth season of America’s Got Talent. Her fans were outraged, but she quickly signed a record deal. Seven of Evancho’s albums have hit No. 1 on the Billboard Classical Albums chart. This year, she checked back into reality TV by appearing as a contestant on The Masked Singer.

(Jason Merritt - Getty Images)
Michael Ray

Not many people have heard of The Next, since the CW reality show only aired for one season in 2012. But that was enough for Michael Ray, the winner, to make his debut. The country music star has released two albums with his label, Warner Music Nashville. The single "Kiss You in the Morning" went to No. 1 on the charts.

(John Shearer - Getty Images)
Lucy Hale

Many of us know Lucy Hale as Aria Montgomery in Pretty Little Liars. But before she was on TV, she finished in fourth place on the children’s reality singing show, American Juniors. Her debut album, Road Between, came out in 2014.

(George Pimentel - Getty Images)
Riley Green

Riley Green is a newcomer on the country music scene, but some fans recognize him from CMT’s Redneck Island. Although he was part of a messy love triangle, Green was eliminated early on the fourth season and came back and won the $100,000 prize on the fifth season. His debut single, "There Was This Girl" is getting some buzzy buzz rn.

(R. Diamond - Getty Images)
Christina Aguilera

Christina Aguilera was only 9-years-old when she appeared on Star Search, coming in second place. She joined The Mickey Mouse Club, appearing alongside Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake. Her debut album hit No. 1 with hit singles "Genie in a Bottle" and "What a Girl Wants." Aside from winning five Grammys, Aguilera starred in Burlesque and was an original judge on The Voice. She also wrapped up a headlining Las Vegas residency in early 2020. We stan.

(Steve Jennings - Getty Images)

Some people wait a lifetime for a moment like this. IYKYK.