“American Idol” will crown its tenth winner on Wednesday night and from the moment show host Ryan Seacrest calls either Lauren Alaina or Scotty McCreery’s name, the newest “American Idol” will embark on a life-changing journey.
Judging by past winners though, it’ll take the Season 10 champ a few beats for it all to sink in.
“I don’t think it has hit me yet. At all,” Carrie Underwood told Access Hollywood back in 2005 after winning “Idol’s” Season 4 crown. “I am in awe.”
Season 7 winner David Cook, in 2008, was more than shocked, admitting to Access Hollywood backstage after the show that when he first heard his name called, he thought it was David Archuleta who had actually taken the title.
“I had my mind made up that I was taking second,” Cook told Access backstage following the finale. “I had it in my head, ‘All right they’re going to say his name, I’m just going to make sure that I congratulate him properly.’ When they said my name, I heard Archuleta, so I turned, then it processed as I was turning.”
A then 17-year old Jordin Sparks (the same age Scotty is now) never suspected she would walk away with the prize over her Season 6 final competitor Blake Lewis.
“Everybody knew but me,” Sparks told Access the day after winning the Season 6 crown in 2007. “It was anybody’s game I thought and we were standing up there and I would’ve been fine with whatever happened.”
For the winner, as the news sinks in, they might be able to get a few hours of shut eye before a marathon series of early morning interviews, but Jordin said it was more like a catnap.
“I’m running on two – two-and-a-half hours [of sleep] I think… It’s crazy,” she laughed.
After a whirlwind press tour, including an exclusive performance at Access Hollywood, it’ll be back to preparing for another type of tour – this time across the country, performing with the winner’s fellow former contestants, something original “Idol,” Season 1 winner Kelly Clarkson said provided some much needed support.
“It is weird touring because we’re like already at arenas. I’ve been to concerts and most of the ones I go to can’t even make it to arenas. They’re like small bands and stuff, " Clarkson told Access in 2002 as she prepped for the “Idol” tour. “It’s kind of crazy because we’re doing like 30-something shows in a month-and-a-half, that’s pretty. fun. The fact that I like the other nine people [is good to], so it’s cool that I get along and I have nine other people to lean to lean on.”
And the perks start right away for the winner too – from invites to award shows and premieres, to features in magazines praising the winner for a host of reasons.
Not long after his 2008 win, Cook landed on People magazine’s “Sexiest Bachelors” list.
“It’s cool, it’s a pretty huge honor. You know, you grow up walking through the supermarket and you see People magazine and it’s like Brad Pitt, George Clooney,” he told Access at the time.
“It’s not a bad thing,” the humble star said. “But I don’t know, it’s new territory.”
Clarkson also carved out time to film a music video for her debut single, “A Moment Like This,” but it wasn’t easy.
“We had the whole MTV crew back there doing the whole ‘Making The Band’ stuff and I burnt my feet,” Clarkson laughed in an interview with Access in 2002. “People don’t realize what goes into a video, like little things, like you have to keep singing through stuff, like when you’re foot is on fire from the candle floating in the water.”
And after the tour and the rush of that first single, it’s off to the studio to start work on the winner’s debut album.
“It’s been really interesting, I have gotten into the writing process and for me, I want to put out music that that is still, you know, popular music, but also kind of strays from that [traditional] pop music vibe,” Cook told Access in 2008 as he was gearing up to hit the studio. “I have come up with some really cool songs that I am really proud of. I feel like I am in a place musically that I have never been before so it’s interesting. This record will be something.”
For Kelly Clarkson, life after “American Idol” was more than just an album – she got the starring role in a movie – “From Justin To Kelly” – and she told Access about trying to balance the two – acting and recording — back in 2003.
“The only tough thing about it is I’m trying to fit in, well I am fitting in, my album at the same time, but I don’t mind doing it on my off days, or I get some Saturdays off… I don’t mind working,” she explained.
Season 4’s Underwood even planned to follow it all up with something rather studious.
“I have one semester left, I think I can take online classes,” Carrie told Access of finishing her bachelor’s degree — something she did a year after her win, in 2006.
But beyond albums and tours, appearances and features, the newly crowned “Idol” should get themselves some good advice.
Clarkson told Access in 2003 that she got her biggest tip from her own idol — Reba McEntire.
“She said, ‘Make sure you’re having fun,’ So I’m making sure,” Clarkson laughed.