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‘American Idol’ Disney Week Dashes Dreams of Drag Contestant: ‘If America Is Not Ready to Be Open, That’s Fine’

This week, each of the top ten finalists from “American Idol” donned those iconic Mickey ears for the show’s first ever Disney episode.

Each contender chose a famed track from some of the many classic Disney films to perform during Sunday’s elimination round and were mentored by a Disney queen, Idina Menzel, best known for her role as Elsa in “Frozen.” While judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie gave their input following each performance, voters across America were the ones who determined who would make it to the next round. For the first time in TV history, voters are sending in their ballots in real time during a live taping of the show.

The judges seemed to only have good things to say about the remaining contestants, but America sent Dennis Lorenzo, Michelle Susset and Ada Vox home.

Post elimination, Lorenzo said, “I am feeling very accomplished right now, this is not a thing that we have to look at as a failure. There’s two ways you can look at this, you can say I got kicked off the show or I made it to the top 10. And all of us made it to the top 10 and we should be really excited and proud of ourselves.”

Vox, who performs in drag, echoed the positive tone. “I actually feel great,” he said. “Amongst people that are not biased by the whole drag thing or the gay thing, lots of people considered me a frontrunner. The competition ended where it ended for me and I am not mad about it, if America is not ready to be open to this that’s fine, because all it shows is that we have so much more growing to do, so much more love to spread. I’ve always said if I’m gonna spread anything it’s gonna be positivity. This was the platform that I needed to get my name off the ground so that I can start being a positive role model to people around the world.”

The seven remaining contestants — Catie Turner, Michael J. Woodard, Gabby Barrett, Maddie Poppe, Cade Foehner, Jurnee Siani and Caleb Lee Hutchinson — will go on as America continues to decide who will reach the finale and win this season’s competition.

Southern rocker Cade Foehner put an unexpected twist on “Kiss the Girl” from “The Little Mermaid,” bringing in traditional rock elements but this time opting for an acoustic guitar instead of his typical electric.

“Well, you know, playing rock music and having Disney as your theme, it’s a little daunting,” he said. “So I got with these amazing vocal coaches here, we worked on it and started hashing out ideas and came up with an arrangement, and I could not be more happy with it. I really do feel like it’s my song.”

The show’s host, Ryan Seacrest, pressed Foehner after his performance, asking if the song was about anyone in particular. Just then the camera panned to fellow contestant Gabby Barrett, who was in the lounge backstage.

When asked again who the song may have been about, Foehner said, “Well, I’m not gonna say any names, because I wasn’t really prepared for that, but you know it’s a romantic song and you could have anybody in mind you wanted to have in mind.”

Barrett added, “We’re really good friends, he’s very sweet, but we’re both focused on winning. The ultimate goal is winning ‘American Idol,’ so we’ll see where things go after the show.”

Seacrest also expressed support for Jurnee, whose wife deployed for military duty last week.

“I think I’m still getting through it — all the time I spent here I could have been with my wife, so that’s always a hard struggle,” she said. “But I know that what I’m doing is not just for my future but our future, and I know that she couldn’t live with me not following my dream. I know I’m making her so proud. And just me singing and knowing that wherever she is she’s lighting up being happy knowing that I’m on stage means the world to me.”

Along with Vox, Jurnee is another contestant on this season of Idol who’s unpacking long-held notions of the LGBT community, “It’s one of those things that the first thing people see me for is my tattoos and my skin color, and that’s already controversial enough to many people. Then when they find out that I’m gay it’s like a whole ‘nother thing, especially when most of my community doesn’t know I’m a part of it, because I don’t necessarily fit that stereotype of what people think is built in, when my whole reasoning for doing this is to break those boundaries. Sometimes I have masculine energy sometimes I have feminine energy and that’s [true] for most women, if not all women. We’re all in between or some of us aren’t, but that doesn’t mean that there’s a box. There’s so many different shades, colors, sizes, styles of us, and I think that there needs to be more representation and I’m just another shade coming to the light. I hope there’s more after me.”

While being away from her wife is difficult, Jurnee says she feels vindicated in her return to the show, after being eliminated early on in Season 15.

“I definitely do. I mean you don’t really realize if you’re improving or not because you spend every day with yourself so when I came in I didn’t know if I was better or not, I just knew I kept singing. Getting further than I did before is like, crazy to me every time it happens. It’s insane. I’m still in shock and just blessed that I can be following the passion I have.”

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