What Happened To William Hung After American Idol

William Hung skyrocketed to fame back in 2004 when his endearingly bad rendition of Ricky Martin's "She Bangs" won over millions of American Idol viewers. Unimpressed judge Simon Cowell cut Hung's spirited audition short ("You can't sing, you can't dance," the British music mogul said), but the Hong Kong-born American was given just enough screen time to kick-start his fifteen minutes of fame. 

His earnest performance of Martin's provocative classic turned him into an overnight pop culture sensation, and he went on to perform at numerous sporting events, regularly showing up at minor league baseball games. "I'm a baseball fan in general, and I love performing in small towns," he told Deadspin in 2008. More than a decade has passed since then, however. Does he still have a cult following today? Whatever happened to this unlikely star? Let's take a look at what life had in store for William Hung after the American Idol buzz died.

William Hung landed a record deal and made three albums

Believe it or not, Hung actually managed to land a record deal on the back of his American Idol appearance. The enthusiastic singer was signed by Koch Entertainment and he released a total of three records in quick succession. His debut album, Inspiration, hit music stores in 2004. "I think I represent a symbol of hope," Hung would later tell The New York Times in a telephone interview. "I tell people all the time to never give up and keep trying until they succeed." According to MTVInspiration included one original track, (the annoyingly catchy "Free") but was otherwise comprised of covers. Hung's love for Latin pop fusion became even more evident — his debut album included unique takes on Enrique Iglesias hit "Bailamos" and "Shake Your Bon Bon," another Ricky Martin track. 

Inspiration was great and all, but we'd argue that his finest work was his album of Christmas standards, the amazingly titled Hung for the Holidays. Sadly, Hung's festive LP only sold a measly 35,000 copies, down from the 200,000 copies that Inspiration, which climbed to #34 on the U.S. Billboard chart and even hit #1 on the U.S. independent chart, per The Slant (via Medium) managed to shift. We've heard of the sophomore curse, but if any album was going to be the exception to the rule, it deserved to be Hung for the Holidays.

William Hung met 'many famous people'

William Hung showed up on virtually every talk show on TV at the height of his fame. Sure, Simon Cowell didn't allow him to finish his version of "She Bangs" when he auditioned for American Idol, but Hung got to perform the song in full, complete with a band and backup dancers, when he appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He was a man in high demand, and he parlayed that demand into commercial work — Hung wound up starring in adverts for some pretty big brands, such as Ask JeevesAT&T, and Jack in the Box

It wasn't long before TV writers began to see his value, too. Hung had cameos on a number of popular comedies, including MADtv, George Lopez, and of course, Arrested Development, in which he played the leader of the house band William Hung and His Hung Jury for the daytime courtroom show parody, Mock Trial with J. Reinhold. "The entertainment career has been incredible," Hung told author and journalist Ricky Potts in 2018. "I met many famous and interesting people around the world. I learned so much that many people don't have the same chance to. I am very grateful for my fans and supporters."

You may have seen William Hung in several movies

He launched a short-lived music career on the back of his failed American Idol audition, but did you know that William Hung has also appeared in several movies? The smiley singer popped up in a Chinese comedy named My Crazy Mother in 2005, and he's branched out into more serious fare since then. A few years after playing the Godson in My Crazy Mother, Hung portrayed a character named Ting in the historical drama Chinaman's Chance: America's Other Slaves, a role that he reprised in 2018 sequel, Railroad to Hell: A Chinaman's Chance. Both films are set in the Old West and explore the exploitation of Chinese workers during the construction of the American railroads.

Speaking to The Slant in 2018, Hung revealed that he's actually been offered the chance to appear in a number of other films over the years, but he won't take on any roles that don't align with his image. "There was a movie deal where I would have had to use a lot of profanity, or say bad things to other people — I mean, I would [have gotten] paid a substantial amount of money, but that's not right," he said (via Medium). "That's not me. So I refused. That's okay, there were other opportunities, and if I did that one, maybe I wouldn't get that other opportunity." As far as Hung is concerned, it's morals over money.

Wait, William Hung worked where?

He has an irrepressible love for performing, but it turns out that William Hung also has quite the analytical mind. He was a student at UC Berkeley when he auditioned for American Idol, studying for a degree in civil engineering. "I heard on Fox News that San Francisco will be hosting American Idol auditions," he recalled during his 2018 conversation with Ricky Potts. "I just showed up like 3,000 other people did. I had no expectations, but somehow I made it past multiple rounds through staff members and producers. That's how I made it to see Randy, Paula, and Simon."

Hung decided to take a break from school when he became famous, but after 5 years of appearing at events and rubbing shoulders with A-listers, he switched to California State University Northridge and finished his course. "I was able to make more friends than my first two years in school," he told LA Weekly in 2012After graduating, Hung started working as a statistical analyst with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. His duties included calculating the probability of crimes in particular neighborhoods. "My passion has always been math, it just took a while to end up as my career," he said.

Sorry ladies, William Hung is taken

Yep, William Hung put a ring on it. Sure, the "Mrs. Hung" t-shirts that were being sold on eBay during the height of his fame may have been a little tongue-in-cheek ("He bangs," they confirmed), but all joking aside, the American Idol cast-off was an eligible bachelor when he shot to stardom as a fresh faced 20 year old. The singer and occasional actor met a lot of beautiful women after his memorable appearance on the show's third season (he was spotted socializing with reality TV star and fellow tone-deaf singer Paris Hilton at one stage, according to LA Weekly), but he didn't end up with a celeb. 

In June 2014, the American Idol alum married a licensed vocational nurse named Jian Teng. "She's a fantastic wife and I'm glad to have somebody to support me," the newlywed Hung told People at the timeThe lovebirds tied the knot in Alhambra, California.

William Hung is an avid poker player

William Hung started getting into poker shortly after his appearance on American Idol turned him into a D-list celeb. He still sees himself as a hobbyist, but considering the amount of money he's managed to rake in, it wouldn't surprise us if he decided to try and go pro at some point. According to PokerListings, Hung made over $30,000 between 2014 and 2015 alone, $17,000 of which came from an impressive third place finish in a Rio Deepstacks event. "I still remember the first time I played poker, it was $2/$4 Limit Hold'em at the Reno Hilton," he told the outlet. "I won a few hundred dollars and I got hooked into the game afterwards."

According to Hung, his background in statistical analysis allows him make the right calls when he's playing poker, but his American Idol experience has also helped him become a better player. "In poker, being able to handle adversity is very important, especially when playing tournaments because it is easy to get short-stacked and it is natural to just feel like giving up," he said. "But that is not a good attitude to have, because anything can happen in poker. If you play bad when your luck is bad, then you may not have a chance to turn things around when your luck is good."

Other players beware: William Hung is not the sucker at the poker table

William Hung prides himself on being a nice guy, but when he's at the poker table, there's no room for sentiment. Speaking to PokerListings, he revealed that other players often attempt to take advantage of him — at their peril. "Sometimes people want to play more straightforward against me because they think I am an amateur," he explained. "Other times, people are trying harder than usual to bluff me off a hand, because they think I am easy to push over." Hung is anything but a push over, as gambling columnist Matt Villano can attest to.

In an article he penned for SF Gate, Villano recounted a particularly bad beat he suffered at the hands of Hung during a 2010 cash game at the Flamingo Las Vegas, when Hung's pocket queens stood up against his pocket jacks. "I got in Hung's face about his fifteen minutes of fame, grilling him about everything from Paula Abdul to life as tabloid fodder," Villano wrote. "I think I even asked him to sing a line from his signature hit. Of course, Hung had the last laugh." After being bested by Hung, Villano told the former American Idol hopeful that he had "banged" him. "'Like I haven't heard that one before," Hung replied to Villano. "And I deserved it completely," Villano lamented. 

William Hung made a surprise return for the American Idol series finale

William Hung's American Idol journey began when he noticed a poster calling for contestants to take part in the UC Berkeley talent show. "I figured, 'Why not? There's nothing to lose,'" he told Ricky Potts. "I decided to try the song 'She Bangs' by Ricky Martin with no expectations, but to my surprise, I won! The grand prize was... A DVD player! That gave me the confidence to audition for American Idol." As we all know he didn't do quite as well in the televised competition, but he became a part of the show's legacy and it was only fitting that he returned for American Idol: The Farewell Season in 2016.

Despite being ruthlessly rejected by Simon Cowell when he tried out for Season 3, Hung harbored no ill will toward the show. The Asian-American singer performed his signature version of "She Bangs" during the final season to air on Fox, which is quite remarkable considering that the last time he was there Cowell told him that his performance was "grotesque." His unexpected return was made even more satisfying because of the fact that producers chose to bring Hung out immediately after Cowell's surprise appearance and emotional thank you.

Of course, William Hung sang a duet with Ricky Martin

When he spoke to Ricky Potts in 2018, William Hung said that he'd recently been listening to the Los Angeles radio show Valentine in the Morning when he heard something mind blowing. Ricky Martin was on the show, and the pop star revealed that he would love to do a duet of "She Bangs" with the former American Idol hopeful. "Ricky Martin talked about bringing me on the stage to sing 'She Bangs' with him," Hung said. "I am already talking to his manager. We'll see what happens." Turns out those talks were super productive, because days later, Hung joined Martin on stage for the last night of his six-show stint in Las Vegas.

RuPaul's Drag Race judge Ross Mathews happened to be at that show, and he shared a snap of the long overdue duet on Twitter. "At Ricky Martin's concert in Las Vegas and he just welcomed William Hung during 'She Bang,'" he captioned the pic. "Dying!" The photo went down well with Matthews' followers, who had nothing but good things to say about Hung. "Thank you!" one user replied. "Smile of the day! 15 minutes of fame... still going!" Another user wrote that they were "happy to see William Hung is still around," while another added that "enthusiasm can get you places talent cannot." Hung is living proof of that.

William Hung hosted Deadpool Karaoke

In May 2018, Hung hosted Deadpool Karaoke alongside stand up comedian, actress, and filmmaker Atsuko Okatsuka. The event was organized by 20th Century Fox to promote its Ryan Reynolds-led superhero sequel, Deadpool 2. It was an evening of frivolities attended by Deadpool 2 actor Lewis Tan (who performed a version of Blackstreet classic "No Diggity" with film critic and self professed comic book geek Markeia McCarty) and a number of Los Angeles-based influencers. The idea was to drum up publicity by having those influencers get on the mic and share videos of themselves belting out songs from the movie's eclectic soundtrack, which includes tracks by Celine Dion, Cher, and Dolly Parton, as well as more modern music by the likes of DJ Shadow, Diplo, and Skrillex.

Ricky Martin's "She Bangs" isn't on the Deadpool 2 soundtrack, but Mari Takahashi (co-founder of Smosh Games and former Survivor contestant) wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to perform the song with Hung. "About last night... competed in a dance battle with Joe Bereta and sang 'She Bangs' with William Hung all in celebration of Deadpool 2," she tweeted. Fashion blogger Jenny Wu (who was a runner-up in season 26 of The Amazing Race) also jumped on the mic with Hung. Many of those in attendance were just kids when he made his infamous appearance on American Idol, but Hung's legacy clearly spans generations.

Motivational speaking is William Hung's real passion

He seemed happy with his career at the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department when he spoke to LA Weekly back in 2012, but it turns out that this wasn't William Hung's true calling in life. As of this writing, the rejected American Idol contestant works as a motivational speaker, or, as he puts it, an "empathy cultivator." Speaking to The Slant in 2018, Hung said that one of the world's biggest problems right now is a lack of communication, something he addresses when he's hired by corporations and associations to speak at their events.

"It's almost like there was a point where we really took the time to understand people for who they are, not based on color, not based on the way you look," Hung said (via Medium). "It's very polarizing. I think that's the right word — it's like, 'I'm right! You're wrong! You're stupid!' I see it in the way people talk online. [...] That's not very constructive. That's not the right way to treat people." Amen to that. Hung now has a TEDx license and speaks at independently organized events that can be viewed online. "Not only can I do a great talk, but millions of people will get to see [them]," he said.

William Hung has no regrets

If there's one word that sums up William Hung, it's positivity. The majority of people would have crumbled after being chewed out by Simon Cowell on TV, but Hung's response ("I already gave my best, I have no regrets at all") truly sums him up as a person — and he still has that attitude to this day. "It's okay not to make it to Hollywood," he told The Slant (via Medium). "So what? It doesn't define me as a person [...] just because you fail at something. That's the way I see it, and I also feel that the reason I still do what I do [is] because I have a bigger mission than myself. I want to inspire people to overcome their fears. I want to inspire people to become champions by choice."

Champion By Choice is the name of Hung's book, a memoir and self-help manual due for release in October 2019. Advance copies have been sent out to a number of reviewers, and the early responses have been encouraging. "Champion By Choice is a refreshing and powerful guide to tapping into your potential," Dorie Clark, author of Stand Out and Entrepreneurial You, said. "This book is for anyone who has ever been knocked down and is ready to reinvent failure into unlimited success." American Idol producers put Hung in front of the judges knowing full well that people would make fun of him, but he's the one having the last laugh.