Music

The 10 Best Careers Launched On ‘Australian Idol’, Ranked

'Australian Idol' has proved to be one of the only local talent television shows that gave a large pool of their alum long, storied and incredibly successful careers -- you might even forget they were once contestants.

Australian Idol alum

Australian Idol’s reign over ratings was a brief moment in the broad scheme of reality television, but it was incredibly glorious and stratospheric. As somewhat of an anomaly, Australian Idol has proved to be one of the only talent television shows that gave a large pool of their alum long, storied and incredibly successful careers.

The fact that there are even 10 contestants to choose from is a feat in itself. We’ve decided to rank only the very best post-Aus Idol careers to give you a sense of just how impactful the show was and continues to be, even over a decade since it ended.

No, Nollsy isn’t on the list. But he deserves an honourable mention, along with names like Conrad Sewell, Paulini Curuenavuli, Anthony Callea, Casey Donovan, Amali Golden, Stan Walker, Lee Harding and plenty others.


#10. Brooke Addamo

“Did you know Owl Eyes was on Australian Idol?” “Wait, really?”

At this point, the above exchange is a staple of any Australian festival that Owl Eyes, or Flight Facilities, appear at. Before she was giving us stunning indie pop gems that were made for festival stages like ‘Raiders’, and before she was touring the country with one of the biggest electronic duos Australia has ever seen, Brooke Addamo was just a singer from Melbourne who scored a spot in the finals of the sixth season of Australian Idol.

She only managed to get 11th place, but that hasn’t stopped her from spreading her wings since.


#9. Rob Mills

We swear he’s not just on this list due to that encounter with Paris Hilton. Rob ‘Millsy’ Mills came fifth on the first season of Australian Idol, and his music career was incredibly short lived but he excelled elsewhere. He became a mainstay of the Australian theatre scene, appearing in large-scale productions like Wicked, Hair and Legally Blonde: The Musical.

On top of that, he scored the role of Mr. Danny Zucco himself on the Australian production of Grease, and was nominated for a Helpmann award for his performance as Sam in Ghost The Musical. Now, he appears as Finn on Neighbours and he hasn’t slept with Paris Hilton since.


#8. Dean Geyer

Responsible for the backflip seen around the nation, Dean Geyer was the token hot dude for his season of Australian Idol. Between his eyes, his hair and that backflip, there was no way this dude wasn’t gonna sell…except, he kinda didn’t.

He had a top 10 single in 2007 but that’s really it. It was when he turned to acting that he really hit his stride. Like Millsy, he appeared on Neighbours, God bless, but he also managed to earn himself a role on the fourth season of Glee, making him one of the few Idol alum to hit it big internationally.


#7. Lisa Mitchell

Even during her stint on Australian Idol, Mitchell was always viewed as a diamond in the rough. Her now instantly recognisable airy vocals carried her all the way to the top 6 of her season of Idol, and have given her an equally impressive post show career.

Alternative music fans fell in love with stunning songwriting, particularly with her huge song ‘Coin Laundry’. Mitchell inspired a whole wave of songwriters with her incredibly nuanced story telling, and her tracks like ‘Spiritus’ and ‘Bless This Mess’ are staples of early 2010’s Aussie indie music.


#6. Hayley Warner

Hayley Warner isn’t a name that is as instantly recognisable as the others on this list, but you’d do well to know who she is and what she’s up to. She came to the last season of Australian Idol as a Hayley Williams/Jenna McDougall type performer, and was the runner up, being beaten by Stan Walker.

She released the fantastic ‘Good Day’ following her stint, and then seemingly went silent. But she wasn’t done with music, she went behind the scenes as a songwriter and her roster is impressive. After writing for pretty much every Aussie pop star over the past decade, she headed overseas and started penning tracks for some seriously massive names.

Her latest effort? Katy Perry’s ‘Never Really Over.’ Yep, a runner up of Australian Idol is writing songs for one of the world’s biggest superstars.


#5. Ricki-Lee Coulter

It was the elimination that left Australia stunned. A verdict that taught everyone the importance of voting, Ricki-Lee’s seventh placing on the second season of Australian Idol was headline news back in 2004. She was the favourite to win, and had obvious superstar potential.

It’s been 15 years since we met her, and she has made sure she carried her potential to its maximum. After a stint in the forever iconic Idol alum girl group Young Divas, she headed out solo and forged an impressive pop career. She had the right amount of confidence and sex appeal to appease the masses, but backed it up with booming hooks and that insane voice of hers.

It’s hard for anyone to remain relevant for 15 years, but Coulter has done it with class, without scandal, and hasn’t compromised her talent at all.


#4. Matt Corby

Matt Corby on Australian Idol and Matt Corby now is truly night and day. In fact, if you did a side by side you’d struggle to believe they were the same person. On the show, he looked like a missing member of Short Stack slotting nicely into the token role of teen heartthrob.

Now, he’s a father, he’s rugged, he’s a MAN, and has one of the most beautifully rich voices we’ve heard from this country in years. Couple that with his two top 10 Hottest 100 placements with ‘Brother’ and ‘Resolution’, and Corby has earned himself a status as one of Australia’s national superstars.


#3. Guy Sebastian

The Don. The OG. Numero Uno. ‘Go The Fro’ was a phrase that could be heard across the nation back in 2003, when the first ever Australian Idol put Guy Sebastian and Shannon Noll head to head. ‘Touchdowns’ were still in their early days, Dicko still had long hair, and the world was still falling in love with Andrew G. But, no man’s goatee could stand up to Guy’s fro, as he took out the inaugural title.

Since then, Sebastian has been proving his ability to keep it pushing and stay relevant some 16 years later. His performance on Eurovision was incredibly adored, he has kept putting out new music with a range of collaborators, from Paces to Lupe Fiasco, and now, in an incredibly full circle moment, he’s a judge on The Voice.

Say what you will about that, but there’s no doubt Sebastian is the most successful winner in the show’s history.


#2. Jessica Mauboy

It’s been 14 years since we saw a teenage Jessica Mauboy stand in the middle of the outback in front of Mark Holden, K*le S*ndil*ns and Marcia Hines, swatting flies out of her face and blessing us with her beautiful voice. “The wind got louder, and so did you,” Hines told her, proving that even as a teen Mauboy knew the strength of her abilities.

And, despite losing to Damien Leith somehow, Mauboy has taken that voice of hers to incredible heights. A decent career in pop music, a Eurovision grand final performance, a role in the gorgeous Aussie film The Sapphires, an appearance on Ellen (!!) and now working with some absolutely phenomenal songwriters like Briggs and Thelma Plum, Mauboy has shown that she didn’t need to win Australian Idol in order to win at basically everything else.


#1. Courtney Act

In 2003, Shane Jenek/Courtney Act made history as the first ever openly queer person to appear on a reality TV talent show. But, little did Act and the rest of the world know, that would only be a small blip in the immensely trailblazing career of Courtney Act.

She just missed out on a top 12 placement on Aus Idol, but forged herself into one of the most visible LGBTIQ icons not only in Australia, but around the world. Her appearance as a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race made her an international star.

Her win of the UK’s Celebrity Big Brother proved how much the general public absolutely adores her. But it’s her monumental performance on the most recent season of Dancing With The Stars that reminded us of what Act does best – she’s a performer, an entertainer, an artist.

While Australian Idol focused on singers being singers (they seldom performed original work), Act may have been too far ahead in her work and craft for the debut run of the show. And that’s fine by us and by her, because in a list full of touchdowns, Courtney Act is truly the Grand Royale.


Jackson Langford is a freelance music and culture writer from Newcastle. He placed 12th in the 2nd season of Australian Idol – we promise he did, don’t google that. He tweets at @jacksonlangford

All this week, Music Junkee is stepping back in time to explore the wild ride that was Australian Idol. Find more Aus Idol content right over here.