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Appearing on American Idol can be a life-changing experience, but it doesn’t guarantee superstardom. Singers who’ve been crowned the winner have gone on to achieve varying levels of fame. Take Ruben Studdard, who won the series’ second season. A heated finale and successful debut album made him a household name, but he never quite reached the status of fellow champs like Kelly Clarkson and Jennifer Hudson. So what exactly has the “Velvet Teddy Bear” been up to these days? Check out our update on Ruben Studdard today.

Ruben Studdard Won ‘American Idol’ In 2003

Studdard was a 24-year-old repping Birmingham, Alabama, when we were introduced to him as a contestant on Season 2 of American Idol. He earned the nickname the “Velvet Teddy Bear” for his husky physique and smooth voice. Studdard’s performances throughout the season relied heavily on the work of R&B and soul singers before him: Peabo Bryson, Barry White, Stevie Wonder, etc.

A final performance of “A House Is Not a Home” by Dionne Warwick and “Imagine” by John Lennon sealed the deal for him. On May 21, 2003, he edged out Clay Aiken and claimed victory as the second “American Idol” in history.

Unfortunately, his win came with a dose of controversy. During the finale, the show’s host Ryan Seacrest announced that Studdard was ahead of Aiken by 13,000 votes. But he corrected himself later in the program and said the actual gap was 1,335 votes. “Our accountant was drunk,” he quipped.

By the time the final figures were tallied, there was a difference of roughly 134,000 votes. All of the confusion caused some mistrust among viewers. But unlike the outcome of other close races, no one stormed the set in protest, and Studdard was declared the winner.

What Happened To Ruben Studdard After ‘American Idol’?

Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken wearing black suits and singing together on stage.
(Debby Wong / Shutterstock.com)

Like Kelly Clarkson before him and the countless winners after him, Studdard went straight to work on releasing an album after his win. Over a million fans placed advance orders for his debut album Soulful before its December 2003 release. To no one’s surprise, it immediately landed at number one on the Billboard 200.

Studdard earned a 2003 Billboard Music Award, plus a Grammy nomination for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance (he lost to his own idol, Luther Vandross). The following year, he won an NAACP Outstanding New Artist award.

To date, Studdard has released eight studio albums, the most recent one being 2018’s Ruben Sings Luther. Soulful and its follow-up I Need an Angel were certified Platinum and Gold, respectively, but subsequent albums never quite met the same success. His biggest hit to date was the soulful “Sorry 2004.”

In 18 years, Studdard hasn’t forgotten the show that kickstarted his singing career. In 2018, he co-starred with Aiken in the Broadway production “Ruben & Clay’s First Annual Christmas Carol Family Fun Pageant Spectacular Reunion Show,” a.k.a. “Ruben & Clay’s Christmas Show.”

“We’re polar opposites when it comes to almost everything, and I think that works really well for us, not only onstage but offstage,” Aiken told the New York Times.

He also returned as a guest mentor on the 19th season of American Idol, and Covid put a halt on his Ruben Sings Luther tour.

“My inspiration is always the same when it comes to aspiring professional singers,” Studdard told Billboard in February 2021. “It’s that I was once in their shoes and I know the road that lies ahead for them. Like many before me I had been trying to be a professional artist many years before my time on Idol. So understand how difficult it can be to continue pushing towards a goal that can sometimes seem unreachable.”

Is Ruben Studdard Married?

Ruben Studdard wearing a black and white striped suit with black sunglasses, smiling with his wife who is wearing a black and brown dress.
(s_bukley / Shutterstock.com)

Studdard married Surata Zuri McCants in June 2008. He originally met her at an Atlanta Walmart during a CD signing. But the marriage was short—Studdard filed for divorce three years later, citing irreconcilable differences.

McCants attempted to nullify their prenup, but a judge shot down her request. She only walked away with her wedding dress, a car, $10,000 in a property settlement, $2,000 for attorney fees, and some photo albums.

In a 2016 update, Studdard told radio station WBLS that he was single. When the DJ pressed to find out if the singer dated several people at a time, he replied no. “I don’t want people to do that to me,” he said.

“I’m single,” he asserted. “So ladies, you know, if you’re single, say hello.”

What’s The Status Of Ruben Studdard’s Weight Loss?

Ruben Studdard on 'The Biggest Loser' smiling and wearing a red t-shirt.

American Idol isn’t the only reality series Studdard has competed on. In 2013, he appeared on NBC’s The Biggest Loser in an attempt to shed some weight from his 462-pound frame. By the finale, he lost a total of 119 pounds.

“I (did) this for me; this was for my life,” he told Today in February 2014. “I’m so excited I got to take the time and do this. It was something I could do for me, and nobody else. This show has given me a second chance to live the best life I can live. I am going to be the healthiest Ruben Studdard I can be.”

He also told Billboard, “Being on The Biggest Loser was definitely a time and place for a lot of self-reflection. To think about your accomplishments, mistakes, all the things that have made you who you are; about being on a reality show to get your life together… Now I’m grown up with full direction and scope as to where I want to be in the next five-10 years: musical supremacy.”

Studdard hasn’t shared any recent updates on his weight, but if you’re looking for a unique gift, you can hire him on Cameo.com.

Ruben Studdard’s Net Worth

According to Celebrity Net Worth, Studdard’s net worth is an estimated $3 million. It’s surprisingly low compared to other Idol alums—for instance, Kelly Clarkson is said to be sitting on $35 million.

However, Studdard is relatively comfortable given his history of financial troubles. In 2005, he sued his ex-manager for misuse of funds. According to documents filed with the Birmingham, Alabama police department, Studdard alleged that Ronald Edwards forged paperwork and granted himself power of attorney to obtain credit cards and write checks using $246,000 of Studdard’s money. And in 2008, the IRS came for the singer after failing to pay $193,000 in back taxes.

Studdard resolved the problems, and even if his record sales haven’t made him obscenely wealthy, we imagine he’s content with his current cash cushion.