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The end is near for American Idol, which made proper stars out of Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson and the like, and viral stars of William Hung and Crying Girl — long before the word viral entered the lexicon. Where are they now? The Hollywood Reporter checked in on a few of the Fox show’s most memorable characters.
William Hung: Hung became a national sensation in 2004 thanks to a gloriously horrific Idol audition that brought his Ricky Martin moves to millions of living rooms. In the decade since, he’s hung up his dancing shoes, retiring from music in 2011. Now a married man — he got hitched to wife, Jian, in 2014 — Hung is now an administrative assistant for the Los Angeles Department of Public Health.
Sanjaya Malakar: The 18-year old Washington native was season six’s most talked about contestant, what with his faux-hawk and considerable voter support from Howard Stern to Vote for the Worst. Malakar rocketed into the top 10 before his eventual elimination in seventh place. His swan song? Bonnie Raitt’s “Something to Talk About,” changing the lyric “how about love” to “other than hair.” Malakar won the hearts of not only Crying Girl but fans that dubbed themselves “Fanjayas.” Following his Idol exit, Malakar was named Best Teen Reality Star at the 2007 Teen Choice Awards, then went on to host a show on the TV Guide Channel (Idol Stars: Where are they Now?), write an autobiography, star in a commercial in India and take fifth place in the reality show, I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here. In 2012, he was living a quieter life bartending in Manhattan, but Malakar tells THR that he has since moved back to Seattle and is working on new music with a band of “Northwest-sourced musicians. … This is my first, fully original, full-length album and I’m extremely pumped about it.”
Corey Clark: The season-two finalist was embroiled in scandal after an alleged inappropriate relationship with then judge Paula Abdul. He is in the midst of a continuing discrimination lawsuit against the network and production company, production staff and sponsors of American Idol in New York along with nine other semi-finalists throughout the years of the program. “The discrimination case is on petition as we speak with The Supreme Court of the United States,” he tells THR. In 2015, he was arrested for alleged felony violence, but the charges were dismissed. “No charges were filed against me and the case was dismissed for lack of merit and unsubstantiated claims made by my wife,” he says. Clark is still singing, most recently in Mexico, where he performed for tourists at various resorts. “I put the recording of my second album on hold briefly to do some touring throughout Mexico,” he says. “It’s such a beautiful country.”
Frenchie Davis: Unceremoniously disqualified during season two for posing for photos deemed too racy for the family show, diva Frenchie Davis went on to roles on Broadway (Rent) and even competed on The Voice, finishing in the top 8. “I make my living singing,” she says. “Singing has paid for my education and allowed me to see the world. It’s been a great vehicle. I’m one of the lucky ones.” Her recent credits include the Syfy Channel boy band zombie apocalypse film, Dead 7, which featured members of Backstreet Boys, ‘NSync and O-Town. She also worked as an associate producer for Howard Rosenman (producer of the film Sparkle), did voiceovers for The Wonder Pets and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Musical for ‘Aint Misbehavin” with Ruben Studdard and Trenyce Cobbins. As of last summer, Davis was in the midst of recording tracks for an EDM album “mixed with R&B, pop and soul.” In the forthcoming months, she is booked with performances in Nashville and Louisville as well as a charity event in Los Angeles, raising money for a local school. As if that isn’t enough, Davis is also going for her Ph.D.
Crying Girl: Ashley Ferl, otherwise known as “Crying Girl,” the 13-year old, overcome with emotion after watching her beloved Sanjaya hip-swivel to The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” during season six, is now 22 and a student at La Sierra University, where she is majoring in liberal studies. And yes, the Riverside, Calif. resident still watches Idol. “I watch if I’m not working or at school,” she tells THR. “If I miss an episode, I’m still tuned in to everything through friends and social media.”
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