8 Black Women Who Should Have Won ‘American Idol’ But Never Did

LaPorsha-Renae-American-Idol-Top-10As of April 7th, 2016 American Idol is no more. The final winner was crowned, an ungodly amount of past contestants showed up to perform in awkward medleys, and all three original judges showed up. And as bittersweet as the whole affair was, seeing so many contestants from so many seasons perfectly crystallized the #1 reason why the show was ending: too often, the most talented singers didn’t take home the crown.

It was actually a running joke on the show since its inception. Black singers (commonly women) would sing their faces off on stage yet get maligned for being too “churchy”, singing too many runs, or not being commercial enough. All code for “too black”. So, we’ve compiled a list of 8 black women (in no particular order) that more than deserved that American Idol title:

1. La’Porsha Renae

It is so ironic that the final season of American Idol perfectly depicted why that show was canceled. Year after year, the most talented singers failed to take home the crown while lackluster pretty (white) faces reigned supreme. Inevitably, these singers had vapor careers.

The same could be said for La’Porsha’s loss to Trent Harmon. She clearly had been the best performer of the season, but her loss steals any credibility either of them might have had. Her voice was intoxicating. Her passion was palpable. And she could hold her own in a duet with Fantasia.


2. Jennifer Hudson

From the moment Jennifer Hudson sang her heart out in her audition, it was evident that she was special. But she struggled with the ancillary pieces that made many viable winners. Her sense of style seemed undefined. And her IDGAF personality rubbed some folk the wrong way. But what could never be denied was the sheer power of her vocals.

The awesomeness of having her on a season with Fantasia and Latoya London “split the vote” (i.e. those that voted based on talent), and she was the first diva to be sent home. But the future Oscar winner left her mark on the season with still memorable performances of “The Circle of Life” and “Weekend in New England.”

3. Latoya London

She just picked the wrong year. Latoya London seemed to have everything going for her, even the beginnings of a career in her hometown of Oakland, CA. A trip to Idol seemed like the perfect stepping stone. But too much blackness in one season left her the “odd diva out”, while most of the praise and adulation went to others.

4. Melinda Doolittle

Who could forget the meek background singer that staked her claim to be a headliner? Every week she brought a dignity and distinguished professionalism to the stage that only comes from truly paying your dues in the industry. Yet, this is what proved to be the nail in her coffin when she was axed in favor of the much younger skewing Jordin Sparks and Blake Lewis.

5. Paris Bennett

The pint-sized teenager with an impressive musical lineage was a knockout on Season 5. She was young in age but old in spirit. And truth be told, if she had waited a year or two before auditioning, there’s no telling how differently things might have gone down.

6. Frenchie Davis

Early in her season, Frenchie and Kimberly Locke were paired together as the two big black girls with big voices that no one wanted to deal with. And Frenchie’s stint on the show was cut terribly short when producers discovered she had previously done some nude modeling to pay tuition.

Frenchie went on to star in notable Broadway shows like Rent and even took a stab at singing competition glory again on The Voice.

7. Mandisa

Mandisa is an established gospel singer now, but her penchant for praise songs on Idol was likely one of the reasons she was shown no love. Nevermind her powerful and flawless voice. She was also known for receiving a rare on-camera apology from Simon Cowell for the pot shot he made at her regarding her weight.

8. Tamyra Gray

Kelly Clarkson is great and all, but I’m still salty that Tamyra Gray didn’t win the inaugural season. A lot of the singers that year had laryngitis, and when Gray had her turn, the public was unforgiving, showing her out the back door.

Still, the powerhouse vocalist went on to have a successful writing career, an independent album, and even a role on the FOX series Boston Public.

Who was your favorite non-winner? Tell us in the comments section below!


Photo credit: YouTube

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Daren W. Jackson

Daren is one half of the Water Cooler Convos team. He's a writer, music connoisseur, and comic book geek who spends his free time working on his novel and other short stories.