‘American Idol’ Winners Then & Now: Carrie Underwood & More Transformations

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A winner will be crowned on the season 18 finale of ‘American Idol’ on May 17. Ahead of the big episode, take a trip down memory lane and see how far the past winners have come!

Season 18 of American Idol has been quite unprecedented! While most of the show was filmed in 2019, the live shows were meant to begin airing in April 2020, but those plans were derailed by the coronavirus. However, the show must go on, and the last four weeks of competition were filmed straight from the artist and judges’ homes for some incredible virtual shows. On May 17, the winner will be named in the same fashion. This person will join just 17 other artists who have been lucky enough to earn the elite title over the years.

American Idol became an immediate sensation when it first debuted in 2002, and Kelly Clarkson quickly became a superstar after winning the inaugural season. She has since become an international star, and has released several albums that’ve all fallen in the 1st, 2nd or 3rd spots on the Billboard charts. Kelly has been nominated for 15 Grammy Awards and won three. Now, she’s a judge on another singing competition show, The Voice, and is able to lend her firsthand expertise to the artists on her team.

If you don’t think of Kelly when you think of American Idol winners, chances are, you probably think of Carrie Underwood. Carrie has become one of the most well-known singers in country music since she won the show’s fourth season in 2005, and she has released six albums in the years since her victory. Her most recent album, Cry Pretty, came out in 2018. Throughout her career so far, Carrie has taken home seven Grammy Awards, nine CMA Awards and 14 ACM Awards. She was inducted into the historic Grand Ole Opry in 2008, as well.

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The most recent winner of American Idol was Laine Hardy, who won season 17 in 2019. Since the show, Laine has been working on his music, and didn’t rush to release anything. He finally put out two hot new songs in April 2020, and it was worth the wait. Laine even returned to Idol to perform during Disney week on season 18, so fans could see just how far he’s come in a year.

carrie underwood
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Of course, some other winners of the show aren’t as well-known as these stars, but you might be surprised to learn what some of them have been up to in the years since they were crowned champions! Click through the gallery above to see what all the American Idol winners are up to now — and how much they’ve changed since their time on the show!