For the first time in “American Idol” history, the show has an openly gay contestant. The singing competition on Wednesday named “obviously gay” 20-year-old MK Nobilette one of season 13's top 30 singers and granted her a berth in the semifinals.
Not that Nobilette is “Idol’s” first gay contestant. Plenty of finalists have come out in the past, starting with Jim Verraros in season one. But while singers such as Clay Aiken and Adam Lambert have gone far on the show, they’ve either publicly come out as gay or bisexual after the show, or kept it hidden or in the background during the competition.
Adam Levine of “The Voice” has publicly criticized 'Idol's' treatment of gay performers in comparison with his own competition. In a 2011 interview with Out magazine, the Maroon 5 frontman said, "What’s always pissed me off about 'Idol' is wanting to mask that, for that to go unspoken. C’mon. You can’t be publicly gay? At this point? On a singing competition? Give me a break. You can’t hide basic components of these people’s lives."
But that's now a thing of the past with "Idol."
Fans had just seen clips of Nobilette singing Ed Sheeran's “The A Team” and heard the judges whispering about how much they liked it, so her fate wasn’t much in doubt. But in contrast to how the issue has been treated in the past, it was the judges who brought the subject up as soon as Nobilette walked into the judgment room.
“I think with you it was kind of difficult because we fell in love with your voice and your style, but you’re not the typical American Idol,” Jennifer Lopez said.
“No, I’m not,” Nobilette agreed.
“We wonder: Is that a good thing, is that a bad thing? ... What will America think? ... How will you fit in? Do you not fit in?” Harry Connick Jr. said.
Nobilette said she had her own thoughts.
“I’m very obviously gay, and there are always going to be people in American and everywhere else who are definitely going to hate me,” she said. “But I think that in the last two years there been a lot of things that have really changed that, and really made that a positive thing,”
“Thank goodness,” said Connick, who had a recurring role on “Will and Grace” and has first-hand experience in how TV shows can display sexuality without causing the world to explode.
The judges then paused dramatically. History-making event or not, Nobilette had to suffer the same torture as everyone else waiting for her verdict.
“The world is changing, I think — we think that you could be an American Idol,” Lopez said.
“The world is changing,” Keith Urban agreed as Nobilette walked out the door.
Not just the world — “American Idol” showed it’s clearly changing as well, and fans were happy to finally see it happen.