Former American Idol contestant Sanjaya Malakar says he was encouraged to hide his sexuality.
In a recent interview, he opened up about his journey to realizing his sexuality, and how that journey wasn’t accepted during his time in the spotlight.
According to Decider, Malakar talked about his time on the reality competition series on The Adam Sank Show podcast.
Malakar said he identifies as bisexual, but while he was on the show, he didn't know that, "which is why it was so weird for me."
He said that he was made fun of by viewers and comedians for his looks, particularly his hairstyle at the time, and began questioning his sexuality while he was in a relationship with his then-girlfriend.
“I was exploring my life as a child, then American Idol happened, and everyone was like, ‘Oh, he’s gay.’ And I was like, ‘OK, well now I have to say no, because at this point they’re forcing me to make a decision to define myself.”
He also said his team did not help him navigate the situation properly, saying that they told him to "just tell everyone you're single. Be ambiguous. No one needs to know anything about anything because you don't want to lose your fans."
“And I’m like, ‘OK, but why am I manipulating what I know of myself to figure out what kind of fans I’m going to get because I’m still trying to discover who I am?” he said.
Now, as a pastry chef and bartender, Malakar said that he doesn't care what people know about his sexuality, and that his family is okay with him as well.
“…If I got into a serious long-term relationship with a guy I would bring him to my family, and they’d be like, ‘Oh, cool,'” he said