Checking In With 5 Former ‘American Idol’ Contestants

“American Idol” brought pop stardom to just a handful of contestants, but others who competed over the years made an impression.

Many have faded from view, while others parlayed the talent show’s spotlight into ongoing music and other careers in show business. As “American Idol” wraps its 15-year run this Thursday, five former performers shared highlights of how “Entertainment Boot Camp 101” – as one fondly termed the “Idol” experience – helped lead them to today.

Melinda Doolittle: A professional backup singer in Nashville, Tennessee, before she became a top-three finisher in season six, Doolittle remains loyal to the city and music. She’s traveling internationally with her band and working on an upcoming project – an album and show – that will “represent all the powerful soul songs that define the genre of soul.” It’s a chance to collaborate with her favorite artists, she says, but isn’t ready to name names.

Photo: Mark Humphrey/AP, file
Waves to fans as she rides in a car at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn.

David Hernandez: The seventh-season semifinalist will tour this summer in North America and head to the Middle East to perform for U.S. troops. While describing himself as a committed balladeer, his new album (not yet titled), produced by Printz Board of the Black Eyed Peas, is pop-and-R&B influenced: “It’s like CeeLo Green meets myself.” Board’s production team shot the video for “Beautiful,” the upcoming first single.

Blake Lewis: The Seattle beatboxer, who finished second to season-six winner Jordin Sparks, has parked himself in Los Angeles to pursue music and voice-over work, building on his credits in video games (“The Last Gremlin”) and anime. With his own record label, Lewis is producing other artists as well as music for commercials. He’s toured with fellow ex-”Idol” contestants as part of the cover band Postmodern Jukebox (“A super fun hang”) and is working on a new beatboxing album.

Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, file
Arriving at the “American Idol” finale in Los Angeles.

Kimberley Locke: After finishing third in season two, Locke had a hit single with “8th World Wonder” and dabbled in TV and modeling. She’s still singing, with a cover of “I Will Survive” out this week, but she’s also building a diverse career portfolio: “I’ve rebranded myself as the artist, the coach, the cook.” She’s on the East Coast working with others on their music projects through her company, I AM Entertainment, teaches singing and has an online show, “Cooking with Kimberley.”

Danny Noriega: The flamboyant semifinalist from season eight, who was lauded by Simon Cowell as courageous, says his career went in “an unexpected direction – good unexpected” after he performed on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” He’s touring with RuPaul’s “Battle of the Seasons” as Adore, whom he calls his Hannah Montana-like alter ego, and has a new Adore album, “After Party.” Said Noriega: “If you play it smart, fans will grow with you.”