They Got It Wrong: 9 Celebrities Who Lost On “Star Search”

May 19, 2014  |  
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For all those born in the late seventies, early eighties, “Star Search” was quite impressive. People across the nation loved the show, tuned in and dreamed about competing. Quite a few of the celebrities we follow today got their start on the “original ‘American Idol.'” But that wasn’t the case for everybody. Some really big named stars came to the show and lost. But they didn’t let it keep them down. After their defeats they turned things around and became household names. Check out this list of celebrities who lost on “Star Search.”


When Aaliyah was ten years old, she was already a huge fan of the talent competition. She and her mother watched the show faithfully. And naturally, she wanted to be a part of it. So she auditioned and was accepted. She got on the show and sang “My Funny Valentine” because it was one of her mother’s favorite songs. She gave a solid performance but lost to the sitting champion. Her brother Rashad spoke about how he admired his sister’s reaction to the loss.

“It was tough for her to lose but what was amazing was she dried her tears and she went back out and she sat in the audience and she watched the rest of the show. And that to me embodied Aaliyah. You know what I’m not going to give up and I’m not going to be weak.”

And Aaliyah said:

“I learned about rejection and the fact that you know, you don’t win all the time. So you just get up, you dust yourself off and you try again. Wouldn’t trade it for the world.” 

Tatyana Ali 

Tatyana Ali is far from new to this entertainment game. Long before she appeared on our television screens everyday as Ashley Banks, the seven year old competed on Star Search. She sang Frankie Lymon’s “Why Do Fools Fall In Love.” Of course she was adorable. But her voice was more cutesy than substantive. And she was beat out by the equally adorable Allison Porter, later known as Curly Sue and the star of other films and television shows. If you were a fan of Star Search, you may remember Allison had a pretty successful run  and a lucrative career afterward. Plus she had the personality to back it up. So cute! Tatyana received 3.25 stars and Alison a perfect score. Luckily, Tatyana didn’t let it stop her and she decided to get into the game through acting. But she never forgot her first love. Her singing was showcased on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and her 1998 debut album Kiss The Sky which featured songs like “Boy You Knock Me Out” (featuring Will Smith) and “Daydreamin’.”

Justin Timberlake

Justin Timberlake and his parents knew he had musical talent from a very young age. And what better place to showcase that talent and develop a name for yourself other than on “Star Search.” So little 11 year old Justin Randall (his middle name) came out there, complete with his cowboy hat and sang “Love’s Got A Hold On You.” He ended up losing to 10 year old Anna Nardona who received a perfect score. What’s so interesting is that Justin wanted to sing “When A Man Loves A Woman.” Perhaps, he would have fared better if he’d sung the song he originally wanted. Little Justin didn’t take the loss too well…at first. Other contestants recall seeing him crying backstage and they tried to console him. But like everyone else on this list, he didn’t stay down. During his Master Class on OWN, Justin said that same week, while he and his mother were still in Orlando they saw an open call audition for “The Mickey Mouse Club.” As you know he landed that job and things took off from there. Anna Nardona on the other hand? She later lost a later “Star Search” compeition to a five year old. She told ABC News, I was really embarrassed by it. And I lost it. I didn’t lose my talent. I lost my interest. But I know deep down in my heart, I’m meant to sing.” There’s a real lesson in here. It’s not about winning or losing but how you respond to what happens to you.

Tressa Thomas 

I’m including this one because it’s two stars competing against one another. Now, you may not recognize the name Tressa Thomas but if you’ve seen the movie The Five Heartbeats then you may remember she’s the girl who played Robert Townsend’s (Duck’s) baby sister. On the show she competed against Countess Vaughn. If you watched “Moesha” or “The Parkers,” you know that Countess Vaughn can really sing. And she’s been honing that skill for a while. When she was 9 years old, she had a great run on the show. So when Vaughn and Thomas met, Countess came out victorious. And while Vaughn might have been a bit more successful in the long run, Thomas didn’t do too bad herself. She got to sing the song she performed in The Five Heartbeats with the legendary Patti Labelle, she was in the movie Flatliners, Message in a Bottle and the made-for-tv movie The Little Richard Story. Tressa performed for the Royal Caribbean cruise line in 2001 and was invited to sing at the 9-11 memorial service in 2001. In 2007, she produced a short film called “The Yesterday Pool.”


Rosie O’Donnell

Rosie quickly became a “Star Search” favorite in the comedy category. She had appeared and won several times before she went up against Steve Mittleman. According to ABC News, Mittleman says the fact that O’Donnell  had won so often, might have worked against her. He believes O’Donnell was starting to run out of material. But there’s no doubt that the consistent exposure helped her gain recognition and even movie roles.


Drew Carey

Drew Carey had been on “Star Search” before and had done pretty well until he competed with Joe Yannetty. Yannetty told ABC that he felt very confident and cocky that night and knew he was going to win. Carey says that he remembers his competitor wasn’t so tactful. Carey said, “He came up to me right before I went on and he said, ‘Hey, it’s a nice suit. A nice suit to lose in.'” Tacky. And even though Yannetty won that night, I didn’t know his name until I started doing research for this story. Carey, on the other hand,  went on to have a very successful career with stand up, his own sitcom, a hosting gig on “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” and his current role as the host of the legendary “Price is Right.”

Yannetty, acknowledging Carey’s success, said “I beat you by half a star, and you beat me by half a billion dollars.” Another #message moment ladies and gentleman. Always be gracious because you never know what life has in store for each of us. Maybe if Yannetty had been a bit more polite he could have worked with Carey on one of his many projects.

Destiny’s Child aka Girls Tyme

If you have Beyoncé’s latest album, you’re familiar with the “Flawless” track, you know there’s a clip from her appearance on “Star Search” with her group “Girl’s Tyme.” They lost to Skeleton Crew who got a perfect score while “Girls Tyme” got a round 3. Like Justin, the group members also cried but their parents soothed them with a trip to Disney World.

Britney Spears

What people don’t realize is sometimes multiple episodes are often filmed in one day. Britney Spears completed two episodes of “Star Search” in one sitting, with a simple outfit change. She won the first round against another young lady. But later that day she lost by a quarter of a point to a young man. But her career didn’t end there. She went on to star in a commercial and then, along with future boyfriend Justin Timberlake, she was featured on “The Mickey Mouse Club.” And then after that her solo career blew up.

Tommy Davidson

We all know Tommy Davidson from his success on “In Living Color,” his hilarious stand up, to his tv roles like “Malcolm & Eddie,” “Madtv,” “The Bernie Mac Show” and his numerous movies like Juwanna Mann, Woo and Bamboozled. But before he did all of this, he lost his “Star Search” battle with fellow stand up comedian Drake Sather. Drake had a slower, dry wit type of comedy that served him well in his career after “Star Search.” He went on to become an Emmy nominated television writer, working on shows like “Saturday Night Live,” “Dennis Miller Show,” and “NewsRadio.” He also partnered with Ben Stiller and John Hamburg to write the screenplay for Zoolander.  Sadly, Sather took his life in 2004 by shooting himself in the head. He left behind a wife and four children.

Sorry to end on such a somber note. So let’s lighten it up a little. Were you a fan of “Star Search” back in the day? Do you remember any other current stars who lost the competition back in the day?


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