10 Contestants That Got No’s From The Judges But Went On To Become Mega Stars

Samantha Agate
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There are a ton of celebrities that first made names for themselves on reality talent competitions and have gone on to be super successful. But, not all of them received rave reviews from the judges in their auditions. Some stars were once turned away by judges of reality talent competitions but did not give up and have since gone on to become some of the world’s biggest names. Let’s take a deep dive into which celebrities were rejected at first but went on to prove their critics wrong on shows like American Idol, The Voice, Britain’s Got Talent and America’s Got Talent.

1. Maren Morris Was Rejected From ‘American Idol’ And More

Maren Morris is one of the biggest country superstars of this generation and is only finding more success as the days go on. But did you know that she was rejected from The Voice, American Idol and America’s Got TalentMarren’s song “My Church” won a Grammy award for Best Country Solo Performance. It also reached No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. In 2016, it was number one on the Country Digital Songs Chart. She also received four Grammy nominations already in her young career and doesn’t look like she’ll be stopping anytime soon. She said on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen: “People cover my songs for their auditions on those shows, so it’s like, not only is it really nice to have my song on a national television show — but [also] get to collect the check and have some sweet revenge.”

It is revenge indeed for “The Bones” singer who just recently peaked at No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the Hot Country Songs charts. “I think about all of the freaking talent shows I’ve tried out for in my life and I’m so glad I didn’t make any of them,” she said in an interview with Rolling Stone Country. “It’s full circle because I was rejected from The Voice. I was rejected from American Idol — and I’m happier for it now.”


2. Hillary Scott Was Also Rejected From ‘American Idol’ Twice

Hillary Scott auditioned for American Idol not once, but two times before meeting her Lady A bandmates Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood in 2006. She was hungry for success in the music industry and thought it was the right route to follow to make a name for herself. But, Hillary did not even make it passed the producers and was rejected both times. Now, two Grammy Awards and eight studio albums later, the producers are definitely kicking themselves for letting a good one go. Lady A became the first artist in CMA Award history to receive the Single of the Year honor for two years in a row. Their hit song “Need You Now” was the No. 2 Hot 100 song of the year by Billboard. They actually just appeared on Songland having other people write songs for them. And as some sweet revenge, Hillary and her bandmates were called to perform on American Idol twice.

3. Bebe Rexha Went From ‘No’ To A Mentor

Bebe Rexha is a Grammy Award-winning songwriter for artists like Eminem and Rihanna and has even gone on to launch a successful music career of her own. The singer auditioned for American Idol over 10 years ago where she waited 10 hours on line with her mother. She did not make it through to the next round. This story definitely came full circle because Bebe has since served as a mentor on the show. She was nominated for two Grammys in 2019, including Best New Artist. She had major success with hits like “Meant To Be” with Florida Georgia Line and her hit single “I’m A Mess.”


4. Amber Riley Did Not Let Negativity Bring Her Down

Amber Riley made a name for herself on the hit Fox show Glee playing the role of Mercedes Jones for six seasons. Before she had this breakout role on the show, she opened up to Wendy Williams about her past American Idol audition. When she was 17, she said after her audition the producers just told her flat out “no.” The producers really were not making the right choices because Amber has the voice of a powerhouse and the diva attitude that took her to the top. “You know what? I still work on FOX and I get paid!” Amber said. “Thank you, ‘American Idol!” She also went on to win season 17 of Dancing with the Stars in 2013. And another fun fact, Glee star Naya Rivera also auditioned for the show but also did not make it past the first round.

5. Maddie Poppe Was Rejected From ‘The Voice’

You may be thinking, wait didn’t Maddie Poppe win American Idol? The answer is yes, she did, but that wasn’t the only reality talent competition she tried out for. Maddie auditioned for season 10 of The Voice with the song “Dog Days Are Over.” None of the judge’s Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, Christina Aguilera or Pharrell Williams turned their chairs around for her. She called the experience “embarrassing.” She definitely redeemed herself though when she auditioned for American Idol in 2018 and had the judges absolutely falling in love with her. She dominated the show each and every week with her unique voice and even got a boyfriend out of it. Her song “Going Going Gone” peaked at No. 13 on the US Singles chart and was literally all over the radio.


6. Lewis Capaldi Never Got A Call Back From ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ Producers

There’s no other way to say this except Lewis Capaldi’s songs are currently everywhere. You can’t turn on the radio or walk into a store without hearing his song playing in the background. The star admitted that he auditioned for Britain’s Got Talent with the song “White Blank Page” by Mumford and Sons when he was just 13 years old. He said that the producers loved his audition and said that they would call him back when they were ready for him to face the judges.

However, he never got that call. Maybe it worked out for the best because his single “Someone You Loved” topped the UK Singles Chart for seven weeks. It also reached the top spot on the US Billboard Hot 100 not to mention it was nominated for Song of the Year at the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards. He is coming off a win at the Brit Awards for Best New Artist. Another one of his singles called “Before You Go” is topping the UK Singles Charts and flooding the airways so maybe his ‘BGT’ audition worked out for the better.

7. James Arthur Did Not Get Any Chair Turns On ‘The Voice’

 James Arthur won The X Factor in 2012. But before dominating this show, he actually auditioned for The Voice. The coaches definitely did not realize how big of a talent they had in front of them but that’s ok because he went on to dominate The X Factor. His story on the show was very emotional and coming from a broken home really drove him to perform his best and build a new life for himself in the spotlight. He was mentored by Nicole Scherzinger who helped him even when he was suffering anxiety backstage before the live shows.

James is the first-ever winner of the show to have previously been in the bottom two. While he stirred a little bit of controversy for his past comments, he was featured on The Greatest Showman: Reimagined soundtrack and had a huge hit with the song “Say You Won’t Let Go.” It was his breakthrough hit in the US, peaking at number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100. Also, this song garnered him a whopping 1.1 billion views on YouTube.

8. Colbie Caillat Went From Rejection To Perfection

Colbie Caillat auditioned for American Idol twice. She failed to make it in front of the judges during her first audition but successfully got to perform in front of them during her second audition. It wasn’t enough to impress them and she instead turned to social media to launch her career. Colbie released her debut album in 2007 after becoming a MySpace phenomenon. Her song “Bubbly” is to this day her biggest hit to date. Her duet “Lucky” with Jason Mraz earned her a Grammy in 2010. She was also featured on Taylor Swift’s groundbreaking Fearless album. Colbie has sold over six million albums worldwide and over 10 million singles. She is another artist who has returned to American Idol as a mentor and performer after being rejected which goes to show you that you can’t let rejection stop you from reaching your dreams.

9. Kane Brown Used Social Media To Grow His Career After Hearing “No’s”

Kane Brown was inspired to audition for American Idol after his classmate Lauren Alaina made a name for herself on the show. In his audition, he said that the producers compared him to winner Scotty McCreery and that he was not unique enough. He also went on to audition for The X Factor but quit the show when the producers tried to put him in a boyband. He is yet another artist that turned to social media to launch his career. His own single “Used to Love You Sober” actually hit one million views on YouTube in less than three hours of its release in 2015. In 2017, he became the first artist to have simultaneous number ones on all five main Billboard country charts. He has done some super successful collaborations with artists like Becky G, Camila Cabello and John Legend. And he just performed at the virtual BET Awards and blew everybody away.


10. Chris Lane Went From Rap To Country After ‘Idol’ Appearance

Chris Lane auditioned for American Idol with his twin brother Corey during season seven. And even though we know him as a successful country singer today, he auditioned as a rapper. Needless to say the audition was a mess. But when a friend introduced him to a country music exec and listened to his mixtape, his life changed forever. This was the moment that launched Chris’s career as an up-and-coming country music artist. He went on to open for Florida Georgia Line on their This Is How We Roll Tour. He also released his debut album Girl Problems in August 2016. Chris did a collaboration called “Take Back Home Girl” featuring fellow American Idol alum Tori Kelly. Also, his music videos on YouTube all have huge viewership which is largely due to the fact that his wife Lauren Lane is featured in some of them after she was made famous on The Bachelor franchise.


If there’s one thing these artists stories should tell you, it’s that you should never give up on your dreams even if you get rejected or told “no.” There are opportunities out there for everybody, you just have to go out there and find them.

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