‘American Idol’: Where Is William Hung Now?

If there’s anything we’ve learned from the swell of reality TV shows of all stripes, it’s that people like to watch others showcase their talents, but they also like to see people crash and burn. Sure, it’s fun to see a truly capable individual show off their vocal talents or whip up a gourmet meal in 30 minutes that wows the judges, but those of us sitting at home on our couches also like seeing the decidedly talentless brazenly take the stage with unearned confidence.

While American reality competitions may have a well-deserved and earned a reputation for being “too mean,” there is no denying that some competitors over the years haven’t exactly earned themselves top marks. 

Perhaps no one highlights this fact better than the legendary William Hung, an early American Idol participant who went down in history for his stunningly bad rendition of “She Bangs.” What has Hung been up to since his 2004 rise to fame? 

William Hung auditioned for Season 3 of ‘American Idol’

William Hung
William Hung | Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc

American Idol premiered in 2002 and featured an exciting take on talent competitions. While the competitors would have to perform for judges from the music industry, they would also be performing for the American public who would get to weigh in on the final outcome with their votes from afar.

Over the years, some real stars have come from the show — including some who didn’t actually win the competition but still used their newfound fame to build impressive fan bases. Occasionally, the judges have been wrong about who has what it takes, but there was one case where pretty much everyone agreed that the competitor wasn’t ready for the stage. 

Hung became a viral sensation when he took to the Season 3 American Idol auditions and sang Ricky Martin’s song “She Bangs” with passion — and not a lot of skill. 

William Hung captured the hearts of fans

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In his audition, Hung explained that he was a student at the University of California-Berkeley and that he was studying civil engineering. The then 20-year-old performed his off-key singing with a decidedly uncoordinated dance routine.

Judge Simon Cowell hung his head and covered his face with his hands while Randy Jackson hid behind a piece of paper. Paula Abdul playfully bopped along to the terrible song while stifling her giggles.

Eventually, Cowell cut him off with a curt “thank you.” When Cowell bluntly told him he couldn’t dance or sing and asked why he was there, Hung had an answer ready. 

Hung responded that though he had “no professional training,” he had given his “best” and had “no regrets at all.” Abdul told him he was “the best” for his great attitude before the panel sent him home. 

Where is William Hung now? 

It’s been nearly 20 years since that fateful day that Hung rose to momentary fame, so what’s happened since then? While Bustle lists him as a “forgotten” early 2000s celebrity, it turns out that Hung did leverage his fame in some interesting ways.

According to The List, Hung turned his skills not to civil engineering as he had planned with his college major but into motivational speaking. In Hung’s own words, he “can actually inspire people to discover and leverage their talent. I can help people choose happiness in their daily lives.”

He’s done so through two TEDx talks and multiple appearances across the globe for businesses and organizations. He’s also penned a memoir titled Champion By Choice that focuses on how to define your own version of success and use it to guide your life choices.

While Hung may have become a momentary joke for his bold audition, it turns out that he has used that moment to create a life of inspiring others.