The new season of American Idol has only been marginally different from its original showbut the most noticeable difference has been how openly queer it’s been.
Last night, the judges narrowed down the contestants from the Top 50 to the Top 24, and though many a-gay have been lost on the trail to the Top 24, two queer contestants remain. The ABC reboot starring Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan has followed the same format as the original, which Fox cancelled in 2016.
Though we’ve seen queer contestants in the past, not many have been out, and but the show has never featured their storieslike Clay Aiken, who competed on the show in 2003, but didn’t come out until 2008. Some were even outed, like Adam Lambert or Season 7’s David Hernandez, both of whom were outed via a series of photos during the competition. On Season 13, M.K. Nobilette came out as gay on the show, and that same season, a contestant who tried to compete as openly gay by singing “Same Love,” was cut that very round.
This season is different, and is extremely inclusive of LGBTQ narratives. The stories of out, queer contestants have been told and centered since their very first audition scenes. And the best part is, their stories aren’t necessarily being told as sappy coming out anecdotes. Their spots in the Top 24 are about them and their voicesnot just their sexualities.
Here are the two remaining out contestants we’re rooting for this season.
This 18-year old from Denver, Colorado is out, gay, and married. Her wife is a soldier in the army and is about to deploy. Jurnee claims she started singing when she was two years-old, and started singing when she was sevenand it shows. She has one of the best, clearest, and strongest voices in the Top 24. Everything she sings, she sings with ease, with vocal runs dripping off her tongue like butter.
When we first met Jurnee at her audition, she said she struggled with her sexuality so much that she stopped performing, because she couldn’t figure out who she was.
“It hurt,” she said. “At times I would be dating guys just to test and make sure I wasn’t missing out on anything. It wasn’t until my freshman year that I knew for sure that guys were not for me. They’re not my cup of tea. So I came out to my family, who was extremely accepting, and it’s just been rainbowspun intendedever since.”
She met her wife Ashley at a party, and Ashley proposed to her under a waterfall. The 18-year-old vocalist claims she’s inspired by her wife’s strength and bravery, and she FaceTimes her after every performance on the show.
Ada Vox AKA Adam Sanders
Look out, RuPaul, because American Idol has landed itself a drag queen all their own. 24-year old Adam Sanders from San Antonio, Texas auditioned for the show on Season 12, but got cut during Hollywood week. This year, he decided to audition as his drag alter-ego, Ada Vox. Ada’s candor and showgirl excitement gave the performer an edge, but Adam’s powerhouse vocals gave him the substance that wowed Katy, Lionel and Luke in his Los Angeles audition.
“After American Idol, I started getting messages on social media every day,” Adam said before his first audition. “People would attack my weight, my sexuality, telling me that I was horrible, that I sucked, that I don’t deserve to be here, that I shouldn’t be who I am. I let it get to me in the wrong way. It killed me inside almost as much as people were telling me I should kill myself.”
He continued, “I just kind of disappeared from the world for awhile, and in doing that, I kind of hurt myself even moreBut through all of the negativity, I have managed to build myself up as a new person, a stronger person. I have recreated myself in ways that I could not have imagined.”
This season, Ada made it through Hollywood week and the first showcase with a full band, but when she entered the room for her final judgment, the three judges saw Adam for the very first time. “I’ve kind of relied on Ada thus far as kind of a safety blanket. That’s why she was made,” Adam said on Monday night’s episode. “I think it’s time for the judges to see what’s under all the makeup, what’s under all the hair. I think it’s time to show the judges me.”
When judge Katy Perry asked if he believed he was good enough to compete going forward as Adam, the Texas native replied, “I believe 100 percent that my talent speaks for myself.”
Both Katy and Lionel applauded the singer for his bravery and courage, and Perry praised him as “so beautiful inside and out.” Throughout Adam and Ada’s time on the show, a nasty comment, sneer, or even leer has ever been passed between the judgessomething that would never have happened in years past.
American Idol returns next week, where Adam and Jurnee will compete in the Top 24, which will be cut down to 14. The reboot airs Sunday and Monday nights on ABC.
Images via ABC