American Idol’s twelfth season kicks off next week with three new judges at the table after Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler called it quits this past summer.
Joining Randy Jackson at the table this year will be Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, and Keith Urban. Despite last year’s finale being down 32 percent from the 2011 finale, it still attracted 22 million people, making it one of the most watched shows of the year. Only time will tell whether the new judges will infuse new life into the aging show.
In advance of the premier on Wednesday, Jan. 16 on FOX, SFGN wanted to take a look back at the biggest gay controversies over the past 12 seasons. Few Idol fans can forget — and even non-fans of the show remember — the controversy surrounding Adam Lambert’s sexuality in Season 8. Lambert kept the world guessing by refusing to discuss his sexual orientation while still on the show. He finally revealed himself to be gay in a Rolling Stone’s cover story shortly after the show wrapped up.
Below are 5 other gay controversies over the years that you may or may not remember.
1. David Hernandez.
This season 7 finalist set the Internet ablaze when it was revealed that he was a former male stripper for three years at Dick’s Cabaret in Phoenix, Arizona where he was reportedly known as “Caden.” FOX did not disqualify him once the revelations came out, but America quickly gave him the boot the first week of the finals after he sang "I Saw Her Standing There.”
This season five finalist earned the ire of the gay community when The Advocate reported that she listed author and evangelist Beth Moore as one of her personal “Idols.” Moore is the founder of Living Proof Ministries and has written that homosexuality is a “fraudulent attachment” and supports ex-gay ministries. Mandisa was booted in week four after singing Shania Twain’s “Any Man of Mine.” Some people speculated her early ouster was because of her anti-gay affiliations. When The Advocate gave her a chance to defend herself she told them she’s not anti-gay but would not be comfortable performing at a gay pride event and said this: "Based on what I believe, I'm not an advocate for (being gay), so it's nothing I would take part in."
3. Carrie Underwood.
This season four winner faced immediate backlash from her country music fans after voicing support for gay marriage to a British newspaper. "As a married person myself, I don't know what it's like to be told I can't marry somebody I love, and want to marry," Underwood told The Independent in 2012. "I can't imagine how that must feel. I definitely think we should all have the right to love, and love publicly, the people that we want to love." After controversy ensued, she told the Associated Press: “I was asked a difficult question in the last five minutes of an interview and I answered it the best way I knew how…I generally try to stay out of any kind of controversy. The role-model word is really scary to me, because no matter what happens in your life, something you do, wear, say, sing, whatever — somebody somewhere is probably not going to like it too well. I just really try hard to do what I do and try to be nice to people and make great music and if people think they can look up to that, that's wonderful. If not, that's OK too."
4. Mario Vasquez.
This early favorite in Season 4 shocked Idol fans when he suddenly dropped out of the competition after making it to the finals. Initially the contestant cited a "personal family thing" as the reason. But his “reasons” continued to evolve over time. In his first interview after quitting, Vasquez went on the air and denied a rumored feud with Idol producers, instead praising them. He later said he wanted more artistic control of his music and felt the show would have restricted him. That same year he signed a record deal with J Records/Arista Records. The Vasquez story, as well as his career, quickly faded away. But the controversy resurfaced two years later with a decidedly gay twist: A lawsuit was filed against Vasquez, FOX Entertainment, and Fremantle Media alleging Vasquez “sexually harassed” a male employee, which included him attempting to masturbate in front of the employee in a bathroom on the set of the show.
5. Clay Aiken.
In 2006, the loveable season 2 runner-up was thrust into the middle of a gay sex scandal when a former Green Beret turned porn star, John Paulus, claimed to have unprotected sex with the singer in a North Carolina hotel. Paulus told his story to the National Enquirer and later went on the Howard Stern show to give a graphic account of the encounter. Months later, Paulus apologized for telling his story to the Enquirer. But then the story took another twist in 2007 when Reality Blurred reported on a alleged blog post on Paulus’ website where he recanted his entire affair with Aiken. The posting in question, though, was quickly removed. The Miami Herald contacted Paulus about the recant. He emailed them saying, “It's unfortunate that in their desperation, Clay Aiken fans would take a sarcastic retort that I made in response to their ludicrous assertion and construe it as a statement of fact. Again, there was never a legitimate recant made by me nor will there be. I stand by the story as reported by the National Enquirer and as told by me on the Howard Stern Show.” It wouldn’t be until 2008 before Aiken (finally) came out of the closet.