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American Idol star Sanjaya Malakar comes out as bisexual

Malakar says that his publicists told him to be deliberately “ambiguous” about his sexuality to avoid losing fans.

By Emily Maskell

Words: Emily Maskell; Image: Tsuni / USA / Alamy Stock Photo

American Idol alum Sanjaya Malakar has come out as bisexual in a new interview in which he recalled feeling pressured to hide his sexuality as his fame on the show grew.

Malakar, 32, appeared on the podcast The Adam Sank Show on Monday (22 August), where he reflected on his time on the show back in 2007, what he’s done since, and how he’s become comfortable with his sexuality.

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A post shared by Jaya Malakar (@sjmalakar)

“I identify as bisexual,” Malakar said in the interview. “At the time, I did not know, which is why it was so weird to me.”

Malakar was 16 and a self-described “awkward theatre kid” when he entered the sixth season of American Idol 15 years ago, and the former reality star has opened up about the pressure of being under the spotlight at that young age when he was still learning about himself and his identity.

Reflecting on his experience appearing on American Idol, where he finished in seventh place, Malakar said the speculation about his sexuality was tricky to navigate: “At that time, that was a big thing as well, ’cause I grew up in a time when being called a f***** in school was the worst thing that could ever happen to you.”

“I was exploring my life as a child, and then American Idol happened, and everyone was like, ‘Oh, he’s gay,’” Malakar continued. “And I was like, ‘OK, well now I have to say no, because at this point they’re forcing me to make a decision and define myself.’”

Tsuni / USA / Alamy Stock Photo

Malakar was subject to harsh criticism from famously mean judge Simon Cowell and the singer became a contentious contender who then appeared on I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here in 2019 where rumours about his sexuality ran rampant. However, at the time, Malakar denied being queer.

After his time on American Idol, Malakar states that his team and publicists encouraged him to be “ambiguous” about his sexuality during and after his run on the show.

“All of my publicists were like, ‘Oh, just tell everyone you’re single … no one needs to know anything about anything because you don’t want to lose your fans,’” Malakar said. “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?’”

Fifteen years on from his American Idol appearance, Malakar is “not really” involved in the contemporary music business and currently works as a bartender and pastry chef in Montana.

“At this point, I don’t care what people know of my sexuality,” he said, living life as an out and proud bisexual man. 

The Attitude September/October issue is out now.