American Idol: Revenge of the Runners-Up!
Season 5 Runner-Up
After opening up about her struggle with bulimia, Katharine McPhee, 22, became a role model not just for her voice (which Simon Cowell called the "best of the competition" in 2006, even over winner Taylor Hicks), but for her courage. And McPhee (who dates actor Nick Cokas, 41) finally released her self-titled debut on Jan. 30. "I am just the person who didn't want to settle for not having everything I dreamed of," she says.
Season 4 Runner-Up
Bo Bice, who lost the 2005 title to country sweetheart Carrie Underwood, has been enjoying his family life with wife Caroline Fisher and 15-month-old son Aiden. And the seasoned Southern rocker, 31, is also hard at work on the follow-up to his 2005 chart-topping debut The Real Thing. "They allow me to go out and pretend I'm a rock star for three-quarters of the year, and when I get home, they ground me," says Bice.
Season 3 Runner-Up
Second to Fantasia Barrino in 2004, Diana DeGarmo released her debut album (Blue Skies) at only 17, but she's found her footing in musical theater. "It's led me ... where I want to be, a singer for the people," she told the Dallas Morning News in July. DeGarmo, 19, nabbed raves last year as nerdy Penny Pingleton in Broadway's Hairspray, and is back with the show after doing a summer tour with Brooklyn the Musical.
Season 2 Runner-Up
Ask the "Claymates" and they'll tell you 2003's real Idol was not Ruben Studdard but Aiken, 28, who recently released his third album A Thousand Different Ways. Despite some bumps in the road (his Kelly Ripa encounter!), Aiken continues to hit the right notes. But there's something else he'd like to accomplish: starting a family. "I want to be a father so badly," he told PEOPLE in September.
Season 1 Runner-Up
He once described his post-Idol career path as a "free fall," but despite his difficulties, Justin Guarini (who lost to Kelly Clarkson in the show's 2002 first season) hasn't given up on show-biz. Guarini, 28, is working on a follow-up to his recently released jazz standard album Stranger Things Have Happened, and he's filming the comedy Fast Girl. "To be able to go around the country and keep making music, the one overriding emotion I have is gratitude," he says.