‘American Idol’ Finalists Slam Competition as ‘Grueling’ and ’Stressful’

by Leanne Stahulak

“American Idol” fans see plenty of happy and sad tears on the show. But they rarely see the moments that push singers to their breaking points.

Especially when those moments occur after the season has ended. Earlier this year, before the 20th anniversary of “American Idol,” Insider sat down with former contestants to talk about the things they struggled with before, during, and after the singing competition.

Caleb Johnson took home the title for Season 13. But he felt that he received “absolutely no support behind the record” he produced after the show.

“Because the label wouldn’t release the single, there was no single that came out after the record was done,” Johnson told Insider. “There was no music video. There was nothing.”

Johnson had to spend his own money to create a music video and single. He also called promoting the album while completing the “American Idol” post-show tour “rough” and “grueling.”

During Season 13, Johnson competed against Jena Irene Asciutto in the finale. Both of them emphasized how “stressful” that week was for the two of them.

“By the end of the finale, I think Caleb and I had just sang in six or seven different performances that week,” Asciutto said. “So we were burnt the f**k out.”

Johnson blew his voice out, leading the showrunners to do “this kind of unorthodox thing where they took a needle of adrenaline and would spray my vocal cords to basically make it come back,” he told Insider. 

In addition to the physical stress, many contestants struggled mentally and emotionally as well.

‘American Idol’ Contestants Reveal Struggles With Fame, Criticism, and Moving Forward After the Show

Once you win “American Idol,” the name tends to stick with you for a while. Caleb Johnson revealed that he knows that’s what he’ll primarily be known for from here on out, even if he doesn’t want to be.

“Do I always love being labeled as ‘American Idol’-winner Caleb Johnson? Not really. But is that what I am? Yeah,” he said. “You seal the deal when you do that show.”

Melinda Doolittle learned that the hard way when she was forced to hire security for six months after her Season 6 win.

“The show was so big, especially at that point, like you could not walk more than 10 feet without getting stopped or people wanting pictures and wanting to talk to you,” she told Insider. 

On the opposite side of overexcited fans are those who hate on other contestants. Season-11 runner-up Jessica Sanchez talked to Insider about having to deal with online hate from malicious fans.

“I’m this little 16-year-old girl. And that’s why I said I had to learn how to have thick skin at a really young age. And just really learn that ‘OK, whatever they’re saying doesn’t matter,'” she said.

As for the show itself, Season 16 winner Maddie Poppe gave an inside look at how “American Idol” treats contestants. During Hollywood Week especially.

“I think they purposefully try to push you to your limits emotionally and physically and mentally just to see how you react,” Poppe said.