American Idol: Season 3
The third season of American Idol premiered on Monday, January 19, 2004 and continued until May 26, 2004. The third season was won by Fantasia Barrino, who defeated Diana DeGarmo by an approximate margin of 2%; the vote total was the highest recorded vote total in the show’s history until the May 23, 2007 finale of the sixth season. This season also featured Jennifer Hudson, who would subsequently win the 2006 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Season 3 is the first season where both the winner and the runner-up had been in the bottom 2 or 3 prior to the finale, being followed by the eighth and twelfth seasons. It is the first season to have a finale with two female contestants, followed by the twelfth season; while the second, seventh and eighth seasons had a finale with two male contestants. It is also the first season where a Wild Card contestant, Leah LaBelle, is eliminated in the first episode of the finals. It is the first season to have a gender imbalance among the finalists, followed by season 8, each having eight finalists of the dominant gender. Season 3 has eight female finalists, whereas the eighth season had eight male finalists.