Glee Project’s Matheus auditions for Idol, which may have its first-ever openly gay contestant

American Idol‘s abbreviated auditions are ending, and the end-of-the-day sad story on Wednesday’s episode belonged to Matheus Fernandes, who competed on season one of Oxygen’s The Glee Project, though the show didn’t acknowledge it, and not everyone noticed.

Perhaps more surprising is that the show featured what may be its first openly gay auditioner. Papa Peachez called himself “a big black woman trapped in a little boy’s body” and sang his own song that included the lyrics, “I may be gay/but that’s okay.”

Since it’s usually not okay with American Idol, this was remarkable, perhaps the first time ever that a contestant has been identified as gay, despite the parade of straight people who’ve had their romantic and other interests identified and discussed. And the argument that it is irrelevant to the competition is an absurd argument to be made for a show that traffics in its contestants’ personalities. It has always been about who they are and their back stories, including their sexuality–if they’re straight.

Idol even has a ridiculous track record of closeting even openly gay contestants, such as Adam Lambert, a tradition that goes all the way back to season one’s Jim Verraros, who scrubbed the Internet of references to his sexual orientation at producers’ direction. In 2011, Adam Levine called the show out for closeting its gay contestants, to which executive producer Nigel Lythgoe had a ridiculous response.

As to Matheus, this is far from the first time American Idol has featured someone who has other experience, though the show is rarely honest about it, pretending instead that it is an egalitarian contest and all you have to do is show up at a cattle call and sing well. (That’s one of The Voice‘s many improvements: unapologetically casting talented people.) And it obviously makes sense for him to apply and/or say yes to an opportunity to audition, because there’s more to be gained from exposure on Idol than on The Glee Project, regardless of whether he makes it far or not.

In his introduction, Matheus said, “For a while I thought I didn’t have much of a chance” because of his height, 4’9″. And in case there was any doubt that he’s short, Ryan Seacrest towered over him, assisted by a camera angle. Matheus joked to the judges by asking if there was a height requirement.

“Society can be crazy and harsh, but we don’t put up with any of that around here,” Randy Jackson lied. The judges gave him a unanimous pass to Hollywood, with Mariah Carey telling us she was holding back tears, because having any kind of reaction is apparently not what she was hired to do.

“I feel like everything that went wrong before, all the nos, all added up to something great right here,” Matheus said. Take that, Ryan Murphy. Watch Matheus audition:

And here’s Papa Peachez’s audition, during which Nicki Minaj argues that he should be sent to the Hollywood round because “he’s the most special person we’ve had today” and “his voice was unique and different, and it was good.”

The Quest ends its journey stronger than it began

Verlox from The Quest

A review of the finale of summer's best reality series, which wasn't always perfect but was thoroughly entertaining right down to the finish, which included phenomenal challenges and special effects. Will ABC give it a second season?

Plus: an interview with the actor who played Verlox and the ogre.


Shark Tank is getting a spin-off

Shark Tank

Companies that get deals on the show will be followed for this new spin-off.

Also: Before the show began, Shark Barbara Corcoran was cast and then replaced--but then she sent this amazing e-mail and won the job.

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.