Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, And More ‘American Idol’ Judges Before They Were Famous

Jill O'Rourke
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Before they were critiquing aspiring singers, Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, Lionel Richie, and the previous American Idol judges were making their way up in the music industry.

Thanks to the internet, we can see these stars before they were famous. We did the hard work for you and put them all together in one place. Now you can be the judge … of their dated hairstyles.

1. Katy Perry

As a teenager in 2002, Katy Perry (then known as Katy Hudson) appeared on the Christian channel TBN performing “Search Me.” The song appeared on her first album, when she was attempting a career in gospel music. (Katy grew up with pastor parents.)

2. Luke Bryan

The above video of country singer Luke Bryan singing his song “We Rode in Trucks” was uploaded in November 2006. In the description, the user says they believe Luke “will become one of the biggest stars ever.” A year later, Luke released his debut album, which featured this song as a single.

3. Lionel Richie

Before “Hello” and “Dancing on the Ceiling,” Lionel Richie was a member of the Commodores. The musicians were students together at Tuskegee University, and released their debut album Machine Gun in 1974. Above, they perform the title track on Soul Train, with Lionel on the keyboard.

4. Randy Jackson

Before he was calling people “dawg” on American Idol, Randy was a bass player for various well-known music artists. In the 1980s, he played with the rock band Journey, and appeared on their album Raised on Radio. Above, he performs with the band, and Steve Perry even shouts him out.

5. Paula Abdul

Paula Abdul started her career as a Laker Girl, and eventually became the squad’s choreographer. This is where she was discovered by the Jacksons, who hired her to choreograph their videos. In 1988, she launched her singing career with debut album Forever Your Girl, and the rest is history.

6. Simon Cowell

We already showed you Simon as a contestant on Sale of the Century when we talked about America’s Got Talent judges before fame. Now let’s take a look at him on a show called Right to Reply in 1987. In the clip, he criticizes a sex ed program while wearing an ’80s version of his signature T-shirt.

7. Ellen DeGeneres

Remember when Ellen judged American Idol for a season? We all know her from her ’90s sitcom and long-running daytime talk show, but in 1980s she was just getting her start in stand-up comedy. In 1986, she made an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, with quite the hairstyle.

8. Jennifer Lopez

In 1990, J.Lo was the one auditioning in the hopes of becoming a star. She tried out for the Fly Girls, a dance group on the comedy show In Living Color. Although she didn’t make it through this time, the show hired her to dance the following year.

9. Steven Tyler

Aerosmith released their self-titled debut album in 1973, featuring the now-classic “Dream On.” However, the song wasn’t a hit until its re-release in 1976. As you can see from the above video, frontman Steven Tyler’s fashion sense hasn’t changed much over the years.

10. Mariah Carey

In 1990, Mariah Carey gave an interview in which she talked about the success of her debut single, “Vision of Love.” She also talks about music producer Tommy Mottola, whom she ended up marrying in 1993.

11. Keith Urban

Did you know that Keith Urban’s career started as far back as 1991? Above, he performs “Got It Bad,” from his debut album, on Australian TV. That’s quite the hairdo. As one YouTube commenter remarked, “He looks older back then and looks younger now.”


12. Nicki Minaj

Did you know that Nicki Minaj originally wanted to be an actress? She attended LaGuardia High School, a performing arts school in New York City. In the above clip, she gets a little carried away by throwing a phone during a scene, making her teacher nervous.

13. Harry Connick Jr.

Harry’s first album in 1987 was only instrumental. The next year, he released his second album, which featured vocals. In this video, he promotes his music on The Late Show with David Letterman, performing on the piano and talking about his start in music.

14. Kara DioGuardi

Kara may not have been a recognizable face to many American Idol viewers when she joined the panel in 2009, but she already had a flourishing career as a songwriter. She worked with Idol winner Kelly Clarkson, as well as Ashlee Simpson. Above, she coaches Ashlee through a recording session.

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