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Four Decades Along the Rainbow Road

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Is America Ready for an LGBT Idol?

Contestants Ada Vox and Jurnee (Image courtesy of TVLine)
To be sure, there have been a number of LGBT and non-binary contestants on American Idol over the course of 16 seasons.  Some came out during the preliminary rounds and didn’t advance, so not much was made of it.  Some were clearly LGBT but didn’t come out until after the competition.

Notable 2nd place finishers Clay Aiken and Adam Lambert who had launched successful recording careers after the show, in my view, were the most talented among their respective competitors.  But Aiken lost to Ruben Studdard and the flamboyant and charismatic Lambert was defeated in the fan voting by low-key Christian Arkansan country singer Kris Allen in Season 8, which had been described by the Huffington Post as a “seismic upset.”  

Lambert hadn’t officially come out during the competition until a tabloid displayed photos of Lambert kissing his boyfriend.  Apparently, that plus his eyeliner, black fingernails and high-pitch notes were too much for America to take. I wrote about the Lambert defeat here.

This year is different with two open LGBT contestants in the Top 10.  Has America moved forward culturally over these years to allow such a phenomenon?  The jury is still out but lesbian singer Jurnee and drag queen Ada Vox (Adam Sanders) did not make the Top 10 voting on April 23 despite an abundance of talent for each.

But one of the judges, Katy Perry, a stout LGBT ally broke the show’s rules. “I do think we know talent when we see it,” Perry said after Ada Vox’ magnificent performance which drew the loudest ovation by the studio audience. “So I say we would like to make an executive decision right now” and gestured for Ada Vox to move to the Top 10 group on stage. Later Perry told People, “Enough was enough and you put your foot down when it’s real,” Perry later told reporters, per People. “We stand for truth and for justice.”

Silk smooth singer Jurnee, whose wife is in the military, was also added by the judges to the Top 10 area.  The point is that America did not vote to allow these two talents to advance, and I suspect, as I have before with talented contestants not receiving the requisite votes to move on, homophobia played a role.

Lasaro Arbos, a contestant from Season 12, was notable for his profound stuttering problem, which is not evident when he sings.  He recalled how in school he was shunned by his classmates—a form of bullying—and inspired a nation of kids  who are similarly bullied.

Arbos saw the rejection  of Ada Vox by America’s voters as an indication that “haters” still dominate the voting on American Idol and tweeted the following in support .

Is America ready for an LGBT Idol?  We’ll have to see as the few remaining weeks progress.

UPDATE: On April 29, America voted...and it was a split decision.  Ada Vox' "Circle of Life" failed to capture the voters' hearts while Jurnee's "How Far I'll Go" got her into the Top 7.  Good-bye Ada for now..you are inspirational.

UPDATE: On May 6, America voted...and Jurnee's journey on American Idol ended as she failed to crack the Top 5 despite two superb performances.

So for this year, America was not ready for an LGBT American Idol, but Jurnee will included in the national tour with the other Top 7 performers.

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