‘American Idol’ Alum Sanjaya Malakar Fires Back at Simon Cowell’s Harsh Critiques

by Chris Piner

While many celebrities often find juggling fame and the constant horde of criticism difficult, imagine being thrust into the spotlight at only 17 years old. Given the history of Hollywood, there are numerous child stars who took a terrible turn after the light started to fade. For former American Idol contestant Sanjaya Malakar, he learned firsthand the burden of fans and the sting of being in the line of fire of Simon Cowell. Although landed a finalist position on American Idol, the singer decided to choose a much simpler life and focus on himself. 

Gaining stardom during season 6 of American Idol, Sanjaya Malakar recently discussed his time on the show on The Adam Sank Show. During his American Idol run, the contestant became the target of online jokes about his sexuality. While in a serious relationship at the time, he noted the constant jokes made it hard to stay focused. Although many questioned his sexuality, the singer declared, “I identify as bisexual.”

Sanjaya Malakar Talks About Meeting Simon Cowell At An After Party

Now 32 years old, Sanjaya Malakar explained how the team surrounding him on American Idol often encouraged him to hide his true self. “They’re like, ‘Tell everyone you’re single, be ambiguous, no one needs to know anything about anything because you don’t want to lose your fans.’ I’m like, okay, why am I manipulating what I know about myself to figure out what kind of fans I’m going to get, because I’m still trying to figure out who I am?”

As for the teasing, it sadly wasn’t anything new for Sanjaya Malakar as he dealt with it since 7 years old. “I’m like, 7 [years old]. I don’t even have any attraction to anyone, so why are you telling me this? At the time of American Idol, I had a serious, long-term girlfriend. I was exploring my life as a child. American Idol happens and it’s like, ‘Oh, he’s gay,’ and now I have to say no, because they’re forcing me to make a decision and define myself.” 

Although Simon Cowell never spoke about his sexuality, the judge continuously criticized Sanjaya Malakar’s singing. After the season ended, apparently, Cowell spoke with the former contestant at an after-party. He commended Malakar for taking the criticism so well. Malaker recalled, “For me it was like, it’s really sad that this is what you have to do to be somebody. But you’ve chosen this path in your life, so that’s fine, f— you, I have plenty that I could say to you, but in this moment my job is to stand here and listen and be the sweet little boy.”

After his time on the show, Sanjaya Malakar made numerous appearances on different shows, but now, he enjoys his time as a pastry chef in Montana.