'American Idol' Alums Reveal Show's Darker Side

Justin Guarini and Ruben Studdard talk about the downside to the music biz.

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a top finisher on "American Idol" isn't all it's cracked up to be. Take it from early "Idol" alums Ruben Studdard and Justin Guarini, who finished in first and second place, respectively, on their seasons of the Fox singing competition.

In an interview on the OWN update show "Oprah: Where Are They Now?," the "American Idol" alums talked about the dark side of TV talent-show fame.

Guarini, who battled it out against Kelly Clarkson before landing in second place on the first season of the show back in 2002, said "American Idol" opened many doors for him. But while Clarkson went on to become one of the show's biggest success stories, Guarini's post-"Idol" disappointments started early on with the simultaneous flop of the campy big-screen musical "From Justin to Kelly" and the dismal sales of his debut album.

"When my CD came out after the abysmal film, it sold maybe 150,000 units, which is pathetic," he said. He subsequently found out that he was dropped from his record label and the "American Idol" management company via a "Saturday Night Live" skit.

"I didn't get a phone call. I didn't get an email. I found out when Tina Fey made a joke about me," he said.

 The experience of being ridiculed "at every turn" plunged him into a deep depression that had him unable to get out of bed in the morning. "It was a time when I dealt with horrible depression and the realization that I was not living the dream that I thought I was living," he revealed, admitting that he hid behind a happy face.

"'American Idol' did wonders for my career," Guarini said, "but it was also extremely damaging for my life."

Watch Justin Guarini talk about his battle with depression:


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Ruben Studdard did win his season of the show back in 2003, but it didn't guarantee him the career success of Clarkson or even his runner-up, Clay Aiken. The soulful singer's album sales have been all over the board, with his first release selling two million copies, and his latest, "Letters From Birmingham," moving less than 20,000 copies.

"The one thing I'll say about the music industry is that it's full of highs and lows," he said. "Sometimes you have a No. 1 album and sometimes nobody wants to buy the album. To you, it may be the best music in the world, but to the world, it may be not what they want to hear."

The Velvet Teddy Bear also explained his not-so-well-received genre change. "People, when they saw me on 'American Idol,' I think they instantly thought I'd come out singing classic soul music. And what ended up happening is that my label kind of tried to make me hip-hop," he explained.

Studdard later sued his former manager for mishandling his money and credit cards, and his 2008 marriage to Surata Zuri McCants ended in divorce due to "differences of opinion." (The stress of the divorce led to significant weight gain, which he will tackle on the upcoming season of "The Biggest Loser." )

"What I learned from that experience is I was supposed to be paying attention. You're never too busy to take care of your own business," he said. "You have to check everybody, period. Family, friends, everybody."

See Ruben Studdard on "Oprah's Next Chapter":

"Oprah: Where Are They Now?" airs Sundays at 10 PM on OWN. 

Check out episode photos from "American Idol": 

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