Sanjaya Malakar, who was a finalist on the 2007 season of American Idol, has come out as bisexual.
The singer, usually known by the single name Sanjaya, came out on an episode of The Adam Sank Show, an LGBTQ-oriented podcast. The episode was released Monday.
“I identify as bisexual,” he told Sank. He said he had a long-term girlfriend at the time of his Idol appearance, so he declined to define his sexuality then, although he was the subject of rumors that he was gay.
“I grew up in a time when being called ‘faggot’ in school was the worst thing that could ever happen to you,” noted Sanjaya, who’s now 32.
During his time on Idol, he made news with his “ponyhawk” hairstyle and for getting harsh criticism from judge Simon Cowell. He was one of the 10 contestants who made it to the finals in Los Angeles, but he soon lost favor with the judges. For instance, Cowell said Sanjaya’s performance of “Something to Talk About” was “utterly horrendous.”
Sanjaya finished seventh in the season, and he and his fans were satirized on Saturday Night Live. But he did win the 2007 Teen Choice Award for Best Male Reality Star.
He has walked away from show business and now works as a pastry chef in Montana. He has been invited back to Idol, but it always seemed like the goal of the show’s team was to make fun of him, he noted.
When he was invited to a 20th anniversary show this year, he made clear that he no longer was willing to be “the butt of the joke,” he told Insider recently. The invitation was then withdrawn, he said.
He is still occasionally recognized from Idol, but he’s happy with the life he’s made, he said in the Insider interview. His gig on Idol, he said, “feels like a dream sequence.”