American Idol Finalists Who Work Ordinary Jobs Today

The music business is called one of the most cutthroat industries out there, and oftentimes the many failed attempts at stardom makes an artist take a regular job, which happened to some "American Idol" alumni. For some, the reason for taking an everyday gig seems financial; unless a musician is either constantly touring, has an endorsement deal of some sort, or created that forever elusive hit record, it can be darn-near impossible to make a living solely as a recording artist. For one thing, it takes a lot of streams to pad your bank account: As The Wall Street Journal reported in April 2021, Apple Music pays artists around a penny per play.

That could be why William Hung put music on the back burner. If you recall, Hung became super famous after auditioning for the show's third season, singing Ricky Martin's "She Bangs." Afterward, he appeared on several talk shows, including "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."  He also appeared in a commercial for Ask Jeeves and put out albums under the label Koch Records. He eventually pivoted away from showbiz. According to TMZ, he became an analyst for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, and then, as he shared on "The Digital Nomad Quest" podcast, he went on to work for the Pomona Public Health Department and became a motivational speaker.

But who else took an ordinary job after "American Idol" fame, particularly the finalists? We listed some of them and explained why they explored gigs outside of the entertainment realm. 

Jessica Sierra became a waitress at Hooters

During Season 4 of "American Idol" in 2005, Jessica Sierra wowed the judges time and time again; as Today recalled, Simon Cowell even went so far as to say she and "Carrie [Underwood] outsang everyone else in the competition tonight" on one episode. While it seemed like she'd make it close to the end, Sierra finished tenth. That said, being in the top 10 did wonders for her career after "Idol": She played a string of showsentertained American troops, and created a nice little fanbase for herself. 

When her music career stalled out a bit, she took a waitressing job at the restaurant Hooters in Tampa, Florida, according to Fox 13 (via RealityTVWorld). Around that time, her personal life went through it. In 2007, she was arrested in Tampa after being accused of causing a disturbance at a bar and cocaine possession, according to the AP (via The Hollywood Reporter). Then Sierra, who also appeared on "Celebrity Rehab," was arrested at another bar in a separate incident after she gave a bouncer a hard time. "The bar scene isn't working out well for you," a judge told her, according to ABC News

She released a song called "Enough" in 2010, and that same year, she opened up to Radar Online about her life. "I'm a stay-at-home mom but still doing the studio and getting ready to put an album out and all of that stuff," she said. "It's been amazing cause I just got over two years sober."

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Jim Verraros got into staffing and bridal gowns

When an "American Idol" contestant makes the top 10, it probably serves as confirmation for that person about making all the right choices in their singing career. And after reaching that place on the show, they can probably envision many years of recording and touring, before maybe moving on to another career later in life. But for Illinois native Jim Verraros, who finished ninth on the first season of "Idol"? He didn't wait until his middle age years to start walking his new career path. Rather, he hopped on it much earlier.

According to Verraros' LinkedIn page, he's currently a staffing manager at the company Grayson Search Partners, located in Chicago. But he also works in bridal fashion, based on his Twitter profile, which reads, "Need help on what to wear for your wedding day? Ask me!" But musically, it doesn't seem that Verraros is doing much these days, as his last album was 2011's "Do Not Disturb," which came after his 2005 debut "Rollercoaster."

Sanjaya Malakar went the bartender route

Coming in seventh place in "America Idol's" sixth season is something that Sanjaya Malakar can always be proud of. Despite Simon Cowell always dissing his performances, he became wildly popular and developed a passionate fan base called the "Fanjayas." And that's not bad for someone who was called "shy" at the beginning of that season. Malakar then parlayed his "Idol" success into a TV gig, hosting the TV Guide Channel's "Idol Stars: Where are they Now?" Plus, he took fifth place in the second season of "I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!"

According to Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Malakar eventually found himself working in a New York City bar as a bartender while living in the borough of Queens. As he recalled to North Sound Life, "I moved to New York to pursue [a singing career] and needed a job. A friend said, 'Hey, can you watch my bar real quick?'" And that was that.

Speaking about the tough time he had after his "Idol" days, he told The Daily Beast (via Seattle Post-Intelligencer) that not being more successful was a result of being "young" and naïve. "I didn't know anything. Some people took advantage. Some skimmed a little off the top, financially," he explained. But in 2016 The Hollywood Reporter noted that Malakar moved back to his home state of Washington and resumed his music career, which resulted in his single "Talking Circles." He even posted a photo of himself a little before that interview to let his fans know that he was back in the studio.

Ramiele Malubay took on two regular jobs

Ramiele Malubay, who finished ninth in the seventh season of "American Idol," can easily be called a renaissance woman. Why? In addition to belting out tunes, she's working in the medical field. According to her Instagram page, she became a registered nurse after the show, specializing in strokes and neurology. 

And if all of that doesn't make her busy enough and tucker you out at the same time, she also runs an online store that sells headbands and facial masks. So that means Malubay took on two regular jobs after "Idol," although it can be argued that being a registered nurse is more on the side of extraordinary than ordinary, considering all they have to do — especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Malubay has also gotten married to a guy named Roke Almeida since her "American Idol" days, and they tied the knot in August of 2019. And based on her Instagram page, the singer, her husband, and their dogs couldn't be happier.

Justin Guarini turned into an entrepreneur

Whether it was his made-for-TV smile, the much-panned film "From Justin to Kelly," or his famous hairdo, some might find it hard to forget about Justin Guarini, who came in second in the first season of "American Idol." But remember, that was all the way back in 2002, so considering Guarini didn't have a bunch of hit singles on his 2003 self-titled debut or on his 2005 follow-up "Stranger Things Have Happened," he had to find other ways to pay the bills. And that was something he eventually did, because he began working on Broadway, making his debut in 2010 in the show "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown." Plus, Guarini probably surprised a lot of people by playing Lil' Sweet in commercials for Diet Dr. Pepper. Yes, that's actually him.

But all of that doesn't mean the actor and singer is above having a regular job, too. Well, a sort of regular job. According to his Instagram bio, he created a business to "help coaches and consultants build their online brand to create a flood of coaching clients." The company is called The F.A.M.E. Formula, and it offers live masterclasses, as well as "step by step" lessons on how coaches and consultants can make their businesses explode.

Camile Velasco made sandwiches for a bit

After placing ninth on "American Idol's" third season, Camile Velasco took on a role that had nothing to do with hitting notes or memorizing lyrics. Velasco started making sandwiches at a Subway store in Los Angeles, according to The Daily Beast (via HuffPost). She reportedly worked as a Sandwich Artist so while living in California, trying to make something happen in the music business. This was not her first foray into the food service industry. As MauiTime noted in 2019, she waitressed at an IHOP owned by her parents that was located in the Maui Mall when she was growing up. 

It looks like her days of making sandwiches are long behind her. Velasco is fully immersed in her singing career under her moniker Eli-Mac. She has released a lot of music and recorded a lot of covers since her time on "American Idol," and according to her Instagram page, she's stayed extremely busy touring. On top of that, in both 2007 and 2018, Velasco opened for her idol Lauryn Hill.

Amy Adams became a mentor to kids in her hometown

Season 3 "American Idol" contestant Amy Adams decided to give back after she placed tenth in 2004 on the show's third season. Years after Adams was off the show, she talked to The Bakersfield Californian about mentoring children at Garden Pathways Inc. in her hometown of Bakersfield, California in the performing arts department. "'American Idol' completely changed my life. There is not a day that goes by that I don't see the positive effects it has played in my life," she told the outlet. "It created a platform for me to pursue my dreams and help others in the meantime by way of mentoring through the arts." 

According to The Bakersfield Californian, Adams sung in the show "Le Reve-The Dream" at Las Vegas' Wynn Casino for five years and opened the Amy Adams Voice Studio to coach up and coming singers. Speaking with Bakersfield's Fox58, Adams said besides getting to mentor children through the arts, being on "Idol" has made her career in entertainment much easier. "I don't have to do open call auditions anymore," she explained. Moreover, the singer said that going on the "American Idol" tour put her in a different financial bracket.

Corey Clark got behind the wheel

Some might say it was completely wrong for a TMZ reporter to stick a camera in the face of Corey Clark when he discovered the former "American Idol" contestant was driving an Uber in Beverly Hills, California. Clark was one of the nine finalists on Season 2. However, he was disqualified after The Smoking Gun revealed he was arrested before the show — a detail the producers say they weren't made aware of.

When TMZ caught up with Clark in 2015, the reporter asked about the Uber decal on his windshield. The singer confirmed that he was indeed driving for the rideshare service, and then explained why he took the job.

"It offers a lot of freedom," said Clark. "More importantly, I get to make the money I need to make for my kids." It's not clear how long Clark continued to drive an Uber, and it's possible that he still does. But if that's the case, he's doing it between studio sessions because in September of 2020 he released a single called "Naughty Boy." According to Muzique Magazine, the track snagged the No. 53 position on the Top 40 Radio charts. And that's pretty darn good for someone who's been out of the public eye for a while.

Clay Aiken went from American Idol votes to political votes

You never know where life is going to take you, which can easily be said by Clay Aiken, who went from coming in second in Season 2 of "American Idol" to running for the United States House of Representatives in his home state of North Carolina in 2014. And obviously, throwing your hat into a major political race is not an ordinary job, but since it couldn't be further from singing on "Idol," we just had to include it. Unfortunately for Aiken, he lost to incumbent Republican Renee Ellmers. 

In a 2014 campaign announcement ad, the singer-turned-politician explained why he was running, and why an "American Idol" contestant was fit for the role. "It starts with the life I remember all too well," he said. "Mom working nights at Sears, clothes from the thrift store, Christmases where I might get only one small present." Aiken then compared his upbringing to the way many of his fellow North Carolinians were living when he announced his campaign. He also said being a special education teacher for students with autism many years ago showed him the type of impact someone can make in another person's life. These days, the "Measure of a Man" singer hosts a weekly podcast by Politicon called "How the Heck."