What The American Juniors Look Like Today

For most of us, short-lived American Idol spin-off American Juniors was a mildly entertaining if somewhat forgettable TV talent contest that lacked the cut-throat edge of its more successful parent show. But for the kids that gave their all to be there back in 2003, American Juniors was much more than just a one-season wonder, it was a chance to showcase their singing at a young age and hopefully secure a comfortable future in the music business.

By the live stages of the show countless hopefuls had been whittled down to just ten—three boys and seven girls that would fight it out on stage for one of five places in the final group. In the end, those that won band membership saw little reward for their efforts, with a shoddy self-titled cover album released over a year after the show (and the little hype it generated) had ended.

Lead single "One Step Closer" struggled to make an impact, falling to number 25 in the charts after a brief flirt with the top ten, and the soundtrack CD that was released after the show ended also failed, only reaching number 166 in the US album standings. The numbers didn't lie, and there was little choice but to pull the plug, leaving the young pop singers free to choose their own career paths. So, how many of them made it? Did they all stay in music? One thing is for sure—they aren't kids anymore. This is what the American Juniors look like today.

Lucy Hale

Undoubtedly the most famous ex-Junior today, an all-grown-up Lucy Hale has been back in the stoplight for a number of years, making a name for herself in the world of TV with her portrayal of Aria Montgomery in Pretty Little Liars. Hale won a Teen Choice Award in 2010 and has watched the critically acclaimed show go from strength to strength since, though it wasn\'t a case of just showing up in Hollywood and switching music for acting, she had to work hard to make it happen.

After the group disbanded the Hale family left Tennessee for California, but she initially found it difficult to adapt to the LA way of life. \"I\'m originally from Memphis and the transition was a major one,\" she told College magazine. \"In LA, everyone is super career-driven and Memphis is much more laid back and family oriented. Everyone hangs out and goes to church on Sundays, but LA is totally different.\" The country girl didn\'t let the city grind her down though, and before long she had caught the acting bug.

Her debut performance was as busybody Amy Cassidy in the kids middle school comedy Ned\'s Declassified School Survival Guide (2005), and she brought similar attitude to her turn as Hadley Hawthorne on The OC (2006). In the years that followed she held down regular roles in Bionic Woman and Privileged before landing her career-changing part in Pretty Little Liars, interest in which is at an all-time high as the seventh and final season of the teen drama gets underway.

Jordan McCoy

Jordan McCoy became the envy of every American Junior when just six months after the show she was signed by P. Diddy. The McCoys were asked to swing by LA\'s Beverly Hills Hotel to take part in a quick audition for the rapper and producer, which Jordan nailed. Much to her surprise, she was signed to Bad Boy records on the spot. \"While it\'s going on you don\'t really think about it,\" she told local news back in Mount Vernon, Illinois. \"But once you step back, it\'s like \'wow.\'\"

Unfortunately for the young singer-songwriter, a difference of opinion over where she wanted to take her music meant that her planned debut album would never see the light of day at Bad Boy. \"Like most people in their teens, I went through a lot of different stages and figured out a lot about who I didn\'t want to be,\" she said. \"Now that I don\'t have anyone to answer to, along with years of experience and natural maturing, I feel like my music is finally a reflection of who I am.\"

Today the ex-Junior goes by the name Jordan Bramlett, having tied the knot with fellow musician Blake Bramlett. The pair started their own band together and are happily married with two small children, but their family was dealt a devastating blow recently when Blake was diagnosed with cancer. After a scan revealed a malignant tumor pressing into the right frontal lobe of his brain, a Go Fund Me page was setup to help cover the cost of his treatment. So far more than $23,000 has been raised, which will hopefully help this young family on the road to recovery.

Katelyn Tarver

She didn\'t make the top five, but that didn\'t put a dent in Katelyn Tarver\'s hopes of becoming a star. After her time on American Juniors ended, she sought out her own deal independently and in 2005 she managed to strike one, signing on with New York record label TC Music. Her debut record \"Wonderful Crazy\" featured tracks penned and produced by Mattias Gustafsson (who helped fire the Backstreet Boys to fame), though like many of her fellow Juniors, she also wanted to find success through acting.

Her first movie gig was as a motion capture artist for 2006 animated feature The Barbie Diaries, in which she provided the movements for the titular blonde. It wasn\'t long until she landed the part of new girl Jo Taylor in Nickelodeon\'s Big Time Rush, a role that (unfortunately for her) she is still best remembered for, despite long-running stints on ABC shows No Ordinary Family and The Secret Life of an American Teenager.

While she still has plenty of TV work in the pipeline, Tarver has been concentrating most of her efforts on finally making it big in the music industry, with her EP Tired Eyes finally made available to download in 2017 after six years in the making. Opening song \"Weekend Millionaire\" has actually been doing the rounds since 2015, when Tarver sat down with Teen Vogue to explain what the track meant to her. \"Living here, in the thick of my mid-20s, everyone\'s trying to figure themselves out,\" she said. \"The song is about my experiences of living in L.A. and that feeling of trying to keep up with the culture.\"

Chauncey Matthews

The whole mini-Michael Jackson thing Chauncey had going on was enough to convince both the viewers and the judges he was a star in the making, and in the end he was voted through to the final group as the only boy. The soulful singer struggled to catch his big break after the American Juniors disbanded, however. The group\'s appearance on the American Idol Christmas Special ended up being a very early peak in his career, and like his peers he began to consider a change of pace.

Matthews wound up studying at the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts where he was able to try his hand at the stage, taking on the part of the King of Siam in the school production of musical classic The King and I. Despite his performance earning him a nomination at the National High School Musical Theatre Awards, in the end it wasn\'t enough to build an acting career on and in the years since Chauncey has found his way back to music.

While he still indulges himself in the occasional low-key live performance, his main source of work is now Eye 2 Eye, who describe themselves as \"an engaging ensemble considered by many to be the most elite act in New England.\" Based out of Boston, the jazzy function band specialize in everything from corporate events to Bar Mitzvahs, though they also get the occasional big gig, having opened for Sir Elton John and performed for the New England Patriots in the past.

Danielle White

As the last one chosen, Danielle White made it into the final group of five by the skin of her teeth, but she managed to stay busier than most after the plug was pulled on the American Juniors in 2005. The following year White performed alongside the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra at Seaworld (making video diaries to document the experience) and by 2010 she was announcing the release of her EP Landlady on iTunes. Ultimately though, she would use her time as an American Junior as a springboard to Hollywood, as she explained during her promotion for 2011 musical drama Beautiful Noise.

\"I started singing when I was about 11 or 10, around that age,\" she said. \"I had taken a couple of voice lessons from a teacher as FST... when I left I was actually on a TV show and that kind of propelled my singing career and opened me up to a whole new field, which was acting. I was signed by CAA and I started acting and I came to love it.\"

While the budding actress expressed interest in both a sequel and prequel to Beautiful Noise, which would have explored the backstory of her character Dez, neither came to fruition. She decided to take the bull by the horns and co-produce her own vehicle Blind Pass (2015), a \"dramatic thriller reminiscent of Basic Instinct and Last Tango in Paris,\" according to the movie\'s official Facebook page. The festival circuit didn\'t agree, however, and after a number of rejections writer/director Steve Tatone quietly released it on DVD through his own Midnight Pass Entertainment brand in 2017.

Morgan Burke

Morgan Burke\'s polished performances made him a strong contender to make the final group of five, though he just didn\'t inspire voters to pick up the phone in big numbers despite positive feedback from the panel of industry experts. Producer of countless number one records Lamont Dozier said that he thought he was \"looking at a young Jackie Wilson\" during Burke\'s performance of \"Build Me Up Buttercup,\" which fellow judge Debbie Gibson had previously called \"the performance of the night.\" His failure to make the cut gave him time to explore his passion for dance, however, and his decision to change direction paid off big time when he was chosen to train at the prestigious Debbie Allen Dance Academy in Los Angeles, one of just five students to be taken in on the much sought after scholarship.

From there Burke went on something of a dance pilgrimage, first traveling to the Nashville School of the Arts and then the DC Dance Factory to further hone his moves before returning to California in search of work. In the years since he has earned a reputation as a talented performer, regularly popping up in music videos and as a live backup dancer. In 2010 he was part of the ensemble that made Florence + The Machine\'s performance at the MTV Awards so spectacular, though he doesn\'t just stick to pop music. Burke has also danced under Emmy nominated choreographers Tabitha and Napoleon D\'umo in a Cirque du Soleil production and also teaches his own classes on occasion, which definitely require a high level of fitness.

AJ Melendez

Being brought up in a household where music was a constant, it always seemed likely that AJ Melendez would seek out a career as a singer. He charmed the American Juniors judges panel with his performance of Stevie Wonder classic \"Isn\'t She Lovely,\" with Gladys Knight being particularly impressed with the 12 year old. \"You are a charmer,\" the Motown legend said. \"You\'ve got the look, the whole thing, and I loved it! It was great!\" Unfortunately, Melendez didn\'t make the final cut and lost his place in the group of five, and he suffered double disappointment when he gave stardom another shot through American Idol as an adult, and was eliminated during Hollywood Week.

Melendez tried to go it alone after that, leaving the world of reality TV behind so that he could find his own sound. He wrote and recorded three R&B tracks named \"Love Referee\", \"Dream Girl\" and \"Everything,\" songs that his bio describes as \"clear expressions of playful attempts to catch the ladies.\" While the tracks did get some spin time on KISS, they ultimately weren\'t enough to launch his career and he was never given the chance to record a full length album. He seems to be dedicating himself to more physical pursuits nowadays, leaving the mic and stage behind for a semi-pro arm wrestling team in a career change straight out of the blue.

Chantel Kohl

Chantel was one of the older looking kids to make it to the finals, and in some performances she looked as though she could have been there as a babysitter to the other contestants, not only because she was taller but in terms of her confidence, too. \"I love to have fun, and people who around me, they\'ll have fun with me,\" Kohl said of her fellow American Juniors as they prepared for their semi final showdown. \"This whole process has been a good experience, because even if I don\'t win I\'ll be able to say I made it to the semi-finals.\"

Many actually expected her to go a lot further than the semi final stage and get into the final five with ease, with Lamont Dozier telling Kohl that her vocal control was \"phenomenal\" for her age. \"I can\'t wait to hear your five years from now, you\'re going to be scary,\" the veteran producer said after Kohl\'s performance of \"You Make Me So Very Happy.\" \"You\'re definitely in the group, as far as I am concerned.\"

Dozier\'s prediction did not come true, however, and Kohl failed to make the final cut. In the years since she has disappeared from the spotlight all together and little trace of her can be found on social media (the most recent picture of her is from her MySpace account, so that should give you a pretty good idea of how long it has been since she went dark).

Taylor and Tori Thompson

The parents of sisters Taylor and Tori Thompson were put out of their misery early on finals night, breathing a sigh of relief as their daughters were named the first and second American Juniors group members. The American public seemed to fall hard for their cutesy country girl double act, and the girls remained loyal to the fan base they amassed during their time on the show (the highlight of which was being recognized by Britney Spears in a parking lot) by continuing to post their music to YouTube. The siblings were natural performers from a young age, playing local festivals and putting on shows for friends and family on a regular basis, so when American Juniors failed to take off they took it on the chin and vowed to try again.

Their second bite at the cherry came in 2011 when they won places on the first season of The Voice, impressing judge CeeLo Green with their rendition of \"Stuck Like Glue\" during the blind auditions. The duo advanced as far as the quarterfinals where their saucy performance of wartime toe-tapper \"Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy\" wasn\'t enough to take them any further. While they admitted to enjoying their time with the other contestants, the Thompsons were critical of The Voice after being given the boot, pointing out that their judge was choosing their songs for them. \"We didn\'t get to wear our cowboy boots and we didn\'t get to sing our country songs,\" Taylor revealed. \"Reality TV is not reality. It\'s a lot of, \'Say that again in this way.\'\"

While they\'d never say never, a career in the music industry now seems like a pipe dream for a pair of talented girls who never found the right audience. Taylor is now working for underwear brand Ethika which she promotes via her Instagram feed, though Tori has gone private with her online accounts as she concentrates on studying marine biology at CSUCI.