A star studded evening is underway. A sold out crowd in a jam packed house sends laughter from one side of the building to the other. The man wielding the microphone sways, pauses, scans the room with the knowing look of a seasoned comedy veteran and softly inquires,
"Does anybody know who beat me on Star Search?"
It's a good question and one that baffles the audience. The comedian behind the microphone and the question is comic legend Dave Chappelle who is clearly winning this night as he has so many others. But it would appear, based on his crack anyway, that he didn't win on Star Search, that somebody beat him there. Who could that have been and, more importantly, what is Star Search?
In response to the latter, Star Search was the prelude to American Idol. It was a talent competition that hailed in a generation of superstars but not everyone who won in show business won on the show. In fact, the vast majority of today’s elite celebrities were losers on the show. Still it served as the platform that first showed us their true potential. From billboard chart toppers to local baristas, from the vocalist who bested Christina Aguilera to some of the best names comedy has ever seen, from a giddy, perm twirling Alanis Morissette to a 100% innocent Britney Spears, Star Search showed us a different side to today's stars. Here are some of the show's most notable contestants as seen then and now.
15 Christina Aguilera
Before she was ever a genie in a bottle, Christina Aguilera was a contestant on Star Search. While her rendition of A Sunday Kind Of Love, did not win the judges favor, it did aid her in obtaining a membership to a somewhat exclusive club – the Mickey Mouse Club, a place that would turn out to be the gateway for fame for multiple vocalists. Oddly, losing on Star Search almost guaranteed young stars a coveted role with Disney. In the years to follow, this stunning starlet would go on to sell over 50 million albums globally and become one of the most iconic names in pop history. She has even inspired other multi platinum superstars such as Lady Gaga and Kelly Clarkson.
Today, this ex-Star Search contestant scoffs in the face of losing a vocal competition and is known to recount this experience to her very own protégés while hosting The Voice, which, by the way, is spookily similar to Star Search in many ways. Rumors that she was fired from the Voice surfaced but didn’t materialize. Aguilera continues to hold her own alongside some of the most legendary singers in the world or in some cases, alongside holograms of some of the most legendary singers in the world. Also, she has sparked a bit of a hair-raising controversy by dying her luscious locks a brazen shade of blonde in lieu of the red hued do she was sporting for quite some time. Heads up everybody, this diva is ready for a change. Change, by the way, is also the name of her latest single.
14 Dave Chappelle
The comedian who posed the question, “does anybody know who beat me on Star Search?” will probably be surprised to learn that a writer for TheRichest went to all this trouble to provide him and the world with an answer. Let's take a look at Mr. Chappelle's time as a contestant. He was notably the youngest comic to grace the stage, serving up jokes at the ripe age of 19 and finding no shame whatsoever in defeat. He would go on to shock the world with a brand of political satirical humor never before seen on cable television, or any sort of television for that matter. While his standup and sketch comedy left his early 2000’s fans roaring with laughter, it was arguably his silence that made most of the noise. Citing creative differences and a slew of personal reasons, this acclaimed comedian turned his back on the industry before it got to turn its back on him, a rarity in this profession. Today, he enjoys doling out pop up performances and spending quality time with his family in rural Ohio. He also seems to have developed a penchant for P90-X or whatever workout routine the Hulk uses. We’re not so sure anyone would want to compete with him in a strong man competition these days.
13 Lester Barrie
This man’s name is the answer to the million dollar question. It was the infamous Lester Barrie on the Star Search stage with a microphone (that is a play on the board game Clue in case you were wondering) who took the crown from a budding young Dave Chappelle. The year was 1993 and his jokes catapulted him on to the next level of super stardom. He showed a great deal of promise in the years to come as well. He starred alongside the likes of Martin Lawrence and the Wayan’s Bros. just to name a few. His most memorable role to date was that of a preacher in the hit film Don’t Be A Menace To South Central While Drinking Your Juice In The Hood. This role must have inspired him to change his ways because, ironically enough, beloved comic Lester Barrie left the limelight in order to pursue a real life career as a Senior Pastor. Today he answers to the title Rev. Lester Eugene Barrie and he prefers the humble life that comes with preaching. As it turns out, these two opposing comedians had way more in common than just Star Search.
12 Brad Garrett
Brad Garrett stands out on this list as proof that you didn't have to lose in order to win in terms of Star Search or life. This $100,000 prize-winning comedian went on to experience great success alongside Ray Romano in the hit show Everybody Loves Raymond. Prior to signing up as a contestant, Mr. Garrett was juggling his passion for comedy with his need to pay bills via his day job as a waiter. His Star Search appearance was just the push he needed to earn a spot on the Tonight Show and things only went up from there. In addition to gaining exposure via platforms like The Carson Show and Merv Griffin, he had a significant amount of savings to fall back on. When you’re 6’9 and 215 pounds, a handsome cushion never hurts. Brad Garrett has appeared on mainstream television as a cop, a ventriloquist and even a hitman. As of late, you can find him living the high life and performing in America’s City of Sin a.k.a. Las Vegas. Viva Star Search and Brad Garrett.
11 Alanis Morissette
If you’re a fan of alternative rock, you oughta know that one of its biggest stars got her start on Star Search and as a pop singer with a totally different sound. The transformation of Alanis Morissette has never been more evident than when you take a walk down Memory Lane and watch her perform on Star Search in a very ‘80’s hairstyle and billowing polka dot ensemble. The angst-ridden singer started out in dance pop before taking a turn for the alternative. Her early releases served as more of a hindrance to her credibility than a head nod to her success. Fortunately for fans, her old sound went under rug swept and she sang on to the tune of almost 100 million albums sold worldwide. Today, you can find Ms. Morrissette showing off pics of her bouncing baby girl on Twitter, rearranging the words to ‘90s single Ironic and making bit television appearances. At 36, she’s already accomplished more than most do in a lifetime. Does she owe it all to Star Search? You be the judge.
10 Britney Spears
It would be difficult to compile a list of Star Search contestants who went through dramatic changes without including pop royalty vocalist Britney Spears, who’s been through more change than a vending machine over the course of her short career. With over 100 million record sales to her name, it’s difficult to believe that the sometimes controversial pop icon once ran through a roulette of singing competitions beginning at age five. By the time she reached the Star Search stage a few years after her What Child Is This kindergarten performance, she was practically a seasoned pro. She would go on to join fellow Star Search competitors turned Mouseketeers and later the world would witness the virtual whirlwind that was and is Britney Spears. She’s got a knack for making everything she touches famous, from risqué schoolgirl uniforms to snakes to even other entertainers and the roller coaster ride is far from over. She just recently returned to the stage at the MTV VMA’s and, ironically enough, she wasn’t the only ex-Star Search contestant to perform there that night. Almost as if in tribute to the show’s previous luster, quite a number of Star Search contestants have taken to the VMA stage. Can you guess which other Star Search singers let out show stopping VMA performances?
9 Christopher Eason
Observers of the wildly popular 90s show, Star Search, seem to think that the key to life (key as in singing anyway), was actually losing on the show. Christopher Eason might not be a name you recognize, unless you are an avid watcher of Star Search of course. Nonetheless, his chain of melody got the best of Christina Aguilera all those years ago. This former star search winner often comes up in conversations whenever Christina Aguilera sends someone away on The Voice. Her words, while meant to be encouraging for performers who don’t make the cut, could simultaneously come across as discouraging for the man she lost her crown to. Perspective sure is a doozy.
Inside Edition reports that while Mr. Eason hasn’t seen the same successes as his former competitor, he also hasn’t given up the microphone. This captivating crooner's boyish looks have given way to adult charm and his childhood dreams have yet to materialize beyond that of a barrister slinging cappuccinos across the counters of America, but don't give up on him just yet. History has shown us that “age ain’t nothing but a number” for many a singing contestant. Can you guess which recording artist from this list made that expression famous?
If you guessed that Aaliyah, the stylish songstress who rocked the 90s, was responsible for making the expression “age ain't nothing but a number” famous, you were right. When she wasn't busy popularizing new lingo and hanging with the likes of Dame Dash and Missy Elliott, she was hitting the high notes on Star Search. Over the course of her short but amazingly impactful existence, she ushered in a generation of swoop banged, low rise pants wearing, dance enthusiasts. Whether portraying a vampire queen or a low key sweetie with the voice of a siren, she was undeniably iconic. Her untimely death left the whole world wondering where her potential might have taken her. Still, at her best, she was loved. Today she lives on through the memories of those who loved and knew her best. With a whole host of super famous friends immortalizing her through song, Aaliyah’s legend is sure to go down with the best of them.
7 Katrina Woolverton
Junior Star Search Contestant Katrina Woolverton stole the audience’s heart when she went key for key with Aaliyah on one fateful day in the late ‘80s. This was all despite the fact that it was actually Aaliyah who sang my funny Valentine and incidentally, got the last laugh in terms of worldwide recognition. During the televised production, this novice singer took the crown for seven consecutive rounds of vocalization and finally finished her run, retiring to the backgrounds of a high school choir. However, Katrina lived on to become a low-key celebrity in her own right. Today she is a Red Red Records representative under the supervision of Sony, recording chart topping singles with Grammy award-winning producer Val Garay. Her YouTube account draws in a medium-sized but loyal fan base and her moves on the dance floor are further proof that she still knows how to carry on a show and a tune.
6 Justin Timberlake (Randall)
Versatility is an immensely important quality in any performer and nobody proves that better than Justin Timberlake who hit the small screen on Star Search in an oversized hat decades ago. Timberlake, who at the time went by the last name Randall, made an impactful however non-winning impression as a (gasp) country music singer at the tender age of 11. He would go on to follow a similar path as many other contestants. Stints on the Mickey Mouse Club, pop music renditions and of course, his now notorious love affair with fellow contestant and Mouseketeer Britney Spears. Was his loss on Star Search justified? Given the fact that he remains one of the hottest names across multiple genres of music, it could be argued that he was one of the biggest winners the show’s stage ever saw. Today, you can catch Justin Timberlake starring in films like Bad Teacher and Friends With Benefits, recording multi-platinum musical works and performing all across the globe. Timberlake, a.k.a. The President of Pop was one of the many Star Search performers who has found a home on the VMA stage sometimes with and other times without the accompaniment of boy band NSYNC.
Star Search actually could have been The End of the Road for now famous contestant Usher who, at 13 years old, belted out the lyrics to Boyz II Men's smash single End of the Road in order to win the heart of L.A. Reid. Unlike other contestants, who were later described as losing to win the competition, there was a ton of pressure riding on Usher winning the show. In a recent interview Usher reflected on the marvelous moment when he took to the stage and the butterflies that fluttered in his stomach when he was told, “you better win”. Much like fellow contestant Christina Aguilera, Usher went on to become a multiplatinum recording artist at a very young age and later settled into a role of coaching up and coming talented singers on The Voice. Whether or not he tells the contestants on his team that they better win remains unclear but one thing we will say to any contestant who does win on The Voice is that if they enjoy even half of the success as ex-Star Search crooner Usher they certainly have a lot to look forward to.
4 Bobbie Jean Brown
Just as in life, there are sometimes professional students, people who attend school not for a degree per se but rather, for the thrill of attending school, there are also professional contestants, people who simply indulge in the thrill of competing. Former Star Search contestant Bobbie Jean Brown was definitely the latter. After winning Star Search’s spokesperson competition, she became somewhat famous for, well, winning competitions. For starters, she won on Star Search a record of thirteen times. She was also Miss Louisiana Teen USA in 1987 and a reality show cast member on Ex-Wives of Rock. It could be argued that icons like Bobbie Jean Brown were the predecessors to the Kardashian generation. Ms. Brown’s personal life does seem to take the front seat when contrasted with her musical performances. Over the years, she’s dated Tommy Lee of Motley Crue, Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray and acclaimed actor Leonardo DiCaprio. Unlike most of the contestants on this list, this Star Search star appears to have been searching for love in lieu of fortune.
3 Drew Carey
Astoundingly successful comedian Drew Carey has a funny story about everything, including his brief stint on Star Search. Rumor has it that his overconfident opponent, one Joe Yannetty, who later beat him out by just a half of a star, told Drew earlier that day that he was wearing a nice suit to lose in. Drew Carey would go on to host and star in several notable television shows including The Price Is Right and The Drew Carey Show. Comparatively, Joe Yannetty has gone on to write for other famous Star Search contestants, particularly Rosie O’Donnell, and he’s made scattered appearances everywhere from HBO movies to corporate events. While Drew Carey has clearly seen more commercial success, both contestants from that round have racked up a number of laughs. Today, you can purchase a ticket to witness either one of these comedians live. The choice all depends on what suits you.
2 Rosie O’Donnell
The Star Search contestant most known for reaching out to other star search contestants is award-winning comedian Rosie O'Donnell who made her appearance on Star Search back in 1984. Since then, the now 50-year-old jokester has seen her share of success in just about every imaginable arena and she’s had no problem whatsoever with sharing the love. Not only did she reach out to fellow contestant Joe Yannetty, but she has also had several ex Star Search contestants appear on her show. Rosie is certainly no stranger to controversy and has recently been making waves for feuding with an ex-reality show host turned presidential candidate. That's right, if you haven’t been keeping tabs on the tension between these two --- here’s what you need to know--- Over the course of the past decade or so, Donald Trump has proceeded to call Rosie O’Donnell obnoxious, rude, crude, a total loser and a fat pig. When questioned about his remarks, he responded, “She started it.” Just as a reminder folks, this man is running for president and is seriously being considered. Arguments centered on who started it could lead to major international conflicts. But alas, the vendetta between Rosie O’Donnell and Donald Trump persists.
1 Destiny’s Child
A lot of people who are familiar with the show Star Search are a bit confused about this last musical act, mistakenly thinking that only Beyonce was on stage as a contestant. In reality, the group pictured above, performing under the moniker Girl’s Tyme, consisted of several of the original members of Destiny’s Child plus two more girls who sadly faded into the background. While most of the world is fully aware of the astronomical amount of commercial success Beyonce has seen, it’s high time we discuss the accomplishments of the soldiers who sang alongside her. Soldiers as in the name of the Destiny’s Child single from the album Destiny Fulfilled.
Beginning with nine year old LaTavia Roberson, who invited her two cousins Nikki and Nina Taylor to join her on the Star Search stage, you will note that the destiny of this former contestant and child model worked out for the best. Today she is a proud parent and Grammy award winning singer who has made multiple guest television appearances. Another notable Girl’s Tyme contestant is none other than Kelly Rowland, a singer who consistently delivers whether solo or with a group. Today, this star shines on as a singer, actress, mother, wife and friend. Cheers to Star Search for introducing the world to a political activist/comedian, a determined barista who continues to chase his dreams, several multi-platinum recording artists and television show hosts and, of course, the best selling girl group of all time.
Sources: People, Us, ABC News, wikipedia