American Idol Contestants You May Not Know Died

The following article includes discussions of suicide, mental health, and eating disorders.

"American Idol" has celebrated its fair share of talent over the years. The show's most notable contestants include Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Adam Lambert, and Jennifer Hudson, to name a few. But, with success also comes sadness, as the "American Idol" family has also had to deal with some tragedy throughout the years.

Most recently, it was revealed that Season 1 contestant Nikki McKibbin had passed away. According to Pop Culture, the singer died at the age of 42 on November 1, 2020. Prior to her death, her husband, Craig Sadler, announced on his Facebook page that she had suffered a brain aneurysm and was going to be taken off life support.

"The love of my life Nikki Sadler suffered an aneurysm on Wednesday," he said. "She was so loved that I know thousands of you will be grieving with us. There are only a few hours left for me to hold her hand and kiss her forehead," Sandler continued, adding, "She loved so many of you and I know you loved her too."

Sadly, McKibbin is not the only person from the "American Idol" family that has died. Keeping reading to find out more.

Leah LaBelle and husband Rasual Butler both died in a car crash

Season 3 contestant Leah LaBelle and her basketball player husband Rasual Butler both passed away on January 31, 2018, in a car crash in Studio City, California, per Pop Culture. Labelle was 31 years old when she died. According to TMZ, Butler, 38,  was driving and crashed into parking meters and a concrete wall when losing control. Per NBC Los Angeles, the former NBA player was speeding "two to three times" above the limit. The couple immediately died and it was reported that Butler had drugs — including meth, amphetamine, oxycodone, and marijuana — and alcohol in his system.

Three days before their death, Butler honored their daughter Raven on Instagram, according to The Sun. "My daughter is so [water wave emoji] yyyy! Her Aura, spirit, style, creativity, intellect, passion and understanding for her age is a beautiful thing to watch as very proud father!" he wrote, adding, "She understands things about being solid many adults struggle with!"

Butler continued, "I love you with every single element of human anatomy that allows me to be here in the physical as your father, friend, partner and inspiration for everything driving me to be the ultimate best version of me."

Rickey Smith was hit by a pickup truck

Season 2's Rickey Smith (pictured above center right) was found dead at 36 years old on May 5, 2016, after he was hit by a drunk driver in Oklahoma City, according to Pop Culture. As previously reported by Variety, the Oklahoma Office of the Chief Medical Examiner noted that Smith "died on the scene of multiple blunt force injuries." He was killed when a 27-year-old man named Gerardo Cerda Jr. slammed straight into Smith's vehicle while driving a pickup truck. After being treated for injuries at the hospital, Cerda faced DUI charges.

Singer and actor Ruben Studdard, who was a contestant on the same season of "American Idol," took to Instagram after hearing the shocking news, writing, "As I sit here in utter disbelief about the fact that you went to be with the Lord, I think back on all the fun times we had."

"How we set up for hours in our room in the 'Idol' mansion talking and listening to music. How much fun we all had on our very first tour," he said, adding, "You were the heart of our season and the true definition of a real friend. I will miss you my friend. RIP Ricky Smith. I'm sure you're in heaven singing you're heart out!"

A hit-and-run driver crashed into memorable auditionee Alexis Cohen

Alexis Cohen, who auditioned for both Seasons 7 and 8, was also killed by a car at age 25 after a hit-and-run driver crashed into her in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, per Pop Culture. After being hit, an autopsy disclosed that she had suffered head, chest, and abdominal injuries from the incident, according to Rolling Stone.

Cohen never made it to the live shows, but was remembered for her memorable auditions. For her first time trying out, she sang a rendition of Jefferson Airplane's "Somebody To Love." After failing to impress the three panelists — Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, and Paula Abdul — Cohen was sent back home after Cowell described her performance as "possessed." In return, she told him to "kiss my a**" after walking out the audition room. 

The following season, she returned with a new look. Cohen sang Madonna's iconic "Like a Prayer," which the panel believed was worse than her first audition. Cohen threw her middle fingers up at the British judge as a joke after he claimed she could not sing.

Joanne Borgella died from a rare form of endometrial cancer

Joanne Borgella, from Season 7, died in October 2014 at age 32 after a rare form of endometrial cancer spread to her brain, according to Pop Culture. As previously reported by the outlet, she made the top 24 on the singing talent show. Prior to appearing on "American Idol," Borgella won the first season of Mo'Nique's Fat Chance pageant in 2005.

Borgella's family announced the sad news via her Facebook page on October 14, 2014. "To God be the glory! With heavy hearts, we are deeply saddened to announce the passing of our beloved Joanne," they wrote, adding, "On Saturday, October 18, 2014 at 5:45AM, Joanne Borgella Ramirez was called by the Lord to heaven."

"At an early age, Joanne made a choice to serve and trust the Lord; and since her diagnosis over a year ago, Joanne made a choice to also be a fighter and share her journey with the world," they continued. "Her faith, courage and strength were unshaken throughout every obstacle she encountered. Although our family is suffering with this great loss, we find comfort in the closeness Joanne shared with the Lord. We know her spirit still shines and will continue to live on in heaven."

Michael Johns died from an enlarged heart soon after suffering a leg injury

Australian singer Michael Johns, who had already moved to the U.S. to pursue his career in Atlanta before his time on "American Idol," died at 35  from an enlarged heart and a "fatty liver" on August 1, 2014, according to Billboard. He appeared as a contestant on the show in 2008 and placed eighth during Season 7, per Pop Culture. Johns took part in the "American Idol Live!" tour and went on to release a studio album, "Hold Back My Heart," and an EP, "Love and Sex."

Prior to his death, he suffered a leg injury. It was originally reported that Johns died from a blood clot in his ankle. As previously reported by TMZ, family members said the injury triggered a blood clot, while others claimed alcohol was the reason. 

After his sudden death, the "American Idol" website featured a statement from John's family, according to Today. "Our family is devastated by the passing of our beloved Michael, a wonderful husband, son, brother, uncle and friend," they said. "We appreciate the outpouring of love and support we have received from all corners of the globe. Please keep Michael in your thoughts and respect our need to grieve privately in this difficult time."

Paula Goodspeed, the obsessed Paula Abdul fan, died by suicide

Season 5's Paula Godspeed, who was born Sandra May McIntyre, was so obsessed with judge Paula Abdul that she legally changed her first name to match hers, according to Pop Culture. During her audition, Simon Cowell quickly noticed a similarity between Goodspeed and Abdul before she even sang. The aspiring star performed Tina Turner's legendary "Proud Mary," but did not impress the panelists. Abdul said she was left speechless for all the wrong reasons, while Randy Jackson called her singing "terrible."

Godspeed died by suicide after a drug overdose while inside her car. She was parked near Abdul's home in Sherman Oaks, California and passed away at age 30 in 2008. As reported by Bangor Daily News, her family revealed she had continuously struggled with depression and eating disorders, specifically anorexia.

"They said she OD'd on Seroquel. They said it slowed her heart right down till it stopped," Goodspeed's brother, Charles McIntyre II said. "They did do a blood test, and that's how they found out it was an overdose."

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.