As the sixth season of American Idol premieres tonight at 8 on FOX, the whole concept of the show has been turned upside down.
Only two American Idol champions - Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood - have sold enough CDs and garnered sufficient industry recognition to live up to the show's original tagline, ''The search for a superstar.'' But they're not the only now-household names to emerge from the series - including some who were abruptly discarded from Idol.
None currently is bigger than Jennifer Hudson - who finished seventh in season three, brusquely dismissed by judge Simon Cowell.
Now, Oscar buzz surrounds Hudson for her performance as Effie White, the force-of-nature vocalist in Dreamgirls - she cemented her status last night by winning a Golden Globe. And in a sweet twist for Hudson, Fantasia Barrino, the Idol winner that year, tried out for the Dreamgirls role.
Miami's Nadia Turner (pictured), a fourth-season finalist, looks up to Hudson.
''We're friends,'' she says. "A lot of people assume when you are not first or the runner-up how successful can you be, but you don't need to be first or runner-up to catapult to success.''
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