American Idol producers, network have “no fear” about gay contestants

While a report last year suggested that openly gay people may not be welcome on American Idol, a FOX spokesman, Joe Earley, tells The Advocate, “I’ve been intimate in this process, and there is no fear coming from producers or the network about a contestant’s sexuality as it relates to being gay.”

RJ Helton, who was also on the first season of the show and came out late last year, says that this season, “There are more queens on that show that I have ever seen before. I don’t think people are trying to hide their femininity. But I definitely think there is an unspoken thing to try and keep it under wraps for ratings.”

Jim Verraros told TMZ last year that “if I had come out [as gay] while I was on the show, FOX would’ve edited it out.” But now he says, “I was more concerned about how America would perceive me than the producers were. Even on tour I definitely toned it down, making sure my voice dropped an octave. Now I don’t give a fuck. But at the time I thought, You have to appeal to everybody and be as mainstream as possible.”

The magazine also reports that “several of the top 24 contestants that season [4] were gay,” according to Jacob Miller, who had his own reality series on Logo with his twin brother, “coproduced the album” that came out of American Idol 4, American Idol Season 4: The Showstoppers. He says, “It was always cool. I don’t think they are discouraged from being out.”

One of the contestants from that season, but one who did not appear on the album, is Mario Vazquez, who was accused of sexual harassment by a PA earlier this year; The Advocate says he “is now at the center of one of the bigger scandals in the show’s history.”

Meanwhile, an American Idol 2 contestant who made it to Hollywood–and is now a publicist–is blogging about the show, and identifies certain contestants as gay, including Clay Aiken, who earlier this year ambiguously refused to discuss his sexual orientation.

Of Clay, RJ Helton tells The Advocate, “It really makes me feel sad that he feels that he can’t be himself. Maybe he’s just not comfortable with his own skin yet. I think he’s got so much clout that he could do a lot for other gay artists.”

Jim Verraros says, “We don’t know who in his camp might be saying, ‘We will drop you so fast your head will spin.’ He has more to lose. I think it’s sad, because I don’t know how much more obvious you can get.”

American Idol’s big gay closet [The Advocate]
American Idol (Then & Now, The Gays and Paula & Drugs.) [JJ's Blog]

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.