‘American Idol’ Accused of ‘Exploiting’ Transgender Singer to Boost Ratings

Los Angeles, CA

Former American Idol contestant Ryan Cassata, who identifies as a transgender man, is accusing the show of attempting to exploit transgender people for ratings in the wake of Bruce Jenner’s gender transition.

Cassata told Billboard Tuesday American Idol contacted and invited her to try out last fall in San Francisco, CA, but booted her early for not being “contemporary enough.”

Per Cassata, Idol brass was so interested in featuring a transgender contestant; they skipped three rounds of auditions. While Cassata was cut, the 21-year-old alleges the show’s producers reached out to her again in June, following Jenner’s appearance on the cover of Vanity Fair, and offered another audition.

“This year, I see what American Idol is all about, another pre-casted show, that’s looking for ‘singers’ to boost their ratings, and now they just need that TOKEN TRANS person for America to gossip about, to hype up the show,” the singer wrote on Facebook July 30.

Cassata added:

“This year you picked me because you WANT SOMEONE THAT’S TRANSGENDER and you don’t want someone “that people might make fun of, or [someone] who looks too much like they are men who transitioned to women, or [that] look FAKE or GIMMICKY.” You said you don’t want a transgender person “WHO STICKS OUT LIKE A SORE THUMB.” You also referred to trans people as “MEN IN DRESSES” and “TRANSGENDERS.” That is very ignorant, and transphobic.

You told me that American Idol wants “sexual BLONDE GIRLS who are DUMB” and “BLACK GIRLS who are DRAMATIC.” That is sexist and racist.”

Cassata said Idol only wished to exploit transgender issues for the purposes of TV ratings and profit, and going on the show would not be “the right thing to do for my community.”

The singer also posted this video:

American Idol released the following statement to Billboard in response to Cassata’s claims:

“American Idol searches far and wide to ensure that talent in any part of the country has a chance to audition. There are various ways for individuals to audition including our open calls, posting their auditions online, our east and west coast bus tours, through partner apps, etc.

Our audition team has often reached out to former participants to audition again,” the statement continued. “Many find that their voice improves over a year and they have greater success in their second or third attempt. American Idol is about finding great talent and the show welcomes diversity in its participants. We will look into the veracity of the statements in Ryan Cassata’s open letter.”

The upcoming season of American Idol will be the show’s 15th and final season.