UPDATE [4/13/11]: According to FremantleMedia, the company that produces the American Idol, Ms. Kauffman’s claims are untrue. “Kauffman’s party agreed to be split up, and contrary to her allegations, she did not sit alone or in the back of the house,” they said in a statement released to CNN. “In fact, she and her remaining party were seated just four rows behind their friends, directly in camera shot, in some of the best seats in the house.”
Although American Idol is based on singing ability and talent, contestants “looks” definitely play a role. Simon may not be a judge on the show this year, but in seasons pasts he’d repeatedly say that certain contestants had a very marketable look (read: attractive on TV), while others, despite having singing talent, didn’t, and therefore weren’t able to make the cut. But riddle me this- what do audience members have to do with it?
According to a recent report on RadarOnline.com, one 19-year-old fan was moved from her front-row spot in the audience with her friends to a back seat away from cameras during the live taping of an American Idol episode because of her size. She told the website, “I was kind of taken aback. I’m not that big, but I understand I was bigger than the girls I was with. But I was like, ‘Wow, way to hit a low blow.'” So far, American Idol has not responded to the claims.
Granted, a number of contestants, and winners, of American Idol have been heavy, overweight or didn’t have looks worthy of model, so, obviously you don’t have to be pretty and at a certain size to be on the show. But if this report is true and American Idol is limiting its audience members according to size, that’s not going to go over well. With obesity at new levels, discriminating against fans based on size could hurt this show’s popularity and reputation. Not to mention that in many ways it goes against so much of what the show is about — giving the everyday, average person an opportunity. Whether that’s on the stage or in the audience, the show should stay true to that mission and equal access for all.