American Idol Contestants Who Were Kicked Off The Show

American Idol Contestants Who Were Kicked Off The Show

05/28/2021

Being crowned the winner of “American Idol” and joining the ranks of some of the biggest stars in the world, including Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson, is no doubt a dream for singers all over the country. But sometimes, that dream can turn into a nightmare.

The iconic talent competition show first burst onto our screens in 2002 and became an instant phenomenon, airing 15 seasons on Fox before the broadcaster called time on the series. But “American Idol” couldn’t be kept off the airwaves for long. It was only two years later in 2018 when the show made its triumphant return to screens on ABC where it’s still giving undiscovered talent a step-up to the big time.

With so many seasons and literally thousands of contestants vying for the crown over the years, it’s probably no surprise to learn that “Idol” has had its fair share of controversies. While some “Idol” contestants quit of their own accord, read on to find out what happens when singers find themselves given the boot by producers.

Terrell Brittenum and Derrell Brittenum were 'uninvited' from American Idol after being arrested

Terrell Brittenum and Derrell Brittenum were twins who appeared on Season 5 of “American Idol” in 2006. The two made it past the infamous Hollywood round and into the final 44, but both were disqualified from the competition after they were arrested for identity theft. Per WIS News, Terrell and Derrell were reportedly wanted on “charges of forgery, theft by deception and financial identity fraud” in January 2006 after auditioning for the show in September 2005.

According to the New York Post, their attorney then went on a radio show and said that the brothers had been released on bail. He called their exit “an amicable breakup” and noted his clients “understood why” they were no longer a part of the competition. At the time, Fox had “no comment” about their departure.

WIS News noted that this wasn’t the first time Terrell and Derrell tangled with the law. According to the outlet, “Terrell has an arrest record for traffic violation and a charge of disorderly conduct for which he paid a $50 fine. Court records show Derrell Brittenum was arrested in 1998 for theft of more than $500 and in 2000 for contempt of court and passing bad checks.”

In 2014, the brothers joined a lawsuit against the show and accused “Idol” of making “them out to be liars and [ruining] their career” (per Memphis Rap), though Fox won the case.

Caleb Kennedy made American Idol's top five a top four

Proving that contestant controversies certainly weren’t just teething problems in the early days of “American Idol,” Caleb Kennedy made it clear it was still very much a possibility to get the boot from the singing show almost two decades after it first hit the airwaves. During Season 19 of the reality competition series, Kennedy was booted from the roster — right after he made it all the way to the final five. 

The reason? He showed up in an offensive social media post. As People noted, “Kennedy’s departure comes after a controversial video featuring the South Carolina native surfaced online, in which he can be seen hanging out with a friend wearing a white hood similar to the ones worn by Ku Klux Klan members.” His mother claimed to the Spartanburg Herald-Journal that the Snapchat was misinterpreted. “I hate this has happened and how Caleb is being portrayed by people online,” she said.

Kennedy addressed the controversy in a statement posted to his Instagram. “There was a video that surfaced on the internet and it displayed actions that were not meant to be taken in that way,” he wrote. “I was younger and did not think about the actions, but that’s not an excuse. I wanna say sorry to all my fans and everyone who I have let down.” 

Delano Cagnolatti reportedly lied to American Idol producers about his age

Way back in Season 1 of “American Idol,” contestants were not allowed to be more than 24 years old. Yes, really. 24. We feel old. In 2002, all hopeful songbirds had to be between the ages of 16 and 24, per Deadline, which made for some bad news for contestant Delano Cagnolatti.

Cagnolatti made it to the top 20 in the competition before being disqualified for allegedly lying about his age. The New York Post reported the contestant had told producers he was 23, and it was alleged that he’d even “doctored his driver’s license” in an attempt to shave a few years off his age. A deep dive into his background uncovered that he was actually several years older and was much closer to 30 than 23. His real age at the time? 29. The drama was actually filmed for the show and viewers even saw producers in a meeting with Cagnolatti where they let him know he couldn’t continue with the show. After he left the competition, Delano was replaced by 20-year-old EJay Day.

Things have changed a little bit since this furore, though. In Season 5, the age cap for “Idol” contestants was loosened to allow anyone up to the age of 28 to audition. The lower limit was also changed in Season 10 to allow those over the age of 15 to get their shot at the big time.

Jermaine Jones hit back after being booted by American Idol

Jermaine Jones is probably one name “American Idol” producers really don’t want to hear. Jones was disqualified during Season 11 after making it to the top 10 for having “outstanding arrest warrants” against him, according to ABC News, but he didn’t exactly leave the show quietly. Jones actually teamed up with 10 other former contestants on an existing lawsuit against the series.

In a statement to ABC News, Jones said in April 2014, “I wanted to believe that my humiliating public disqualification in March 2012 was just part of the show and an experience that could be internalized and ultimately forgotten. But I realize now, with the support of my family and friends, that Equal Rights under the law (or in this case, under contest rules) is something we must always strive for and never take for granted.” He also accused the show of having “falsely portrayed [him] as a thug or a ‘gangsta.'”

The case accused “American Idol” of showing “a pattern of racial discrimination that stems from using Black male contestants’ arrest history against them” and alleged multiple Black contestants had been let go on accusations “unrelated to their singing talent.” Jones claimed he told producers about his tangles with the law and alleged they had looked into his background before his disqualification came about.

The Hollywood Reporter confirmed in November 2014 that Fox won the case against the former contestants, which included Terrell Brittenum and Derrell Brittenum.

Chris Golightly was also part of the lawsuit filed against American Idol

Chris Golightly was one of the other contestants involved in the failed lawsuit against “American Idol.” Golightly was disqualified in 2010 during Season 9. A source alleged to E! that producers made the decision because Golightly failed to produce documentation he claimed to have that proved he had been released from “a contract with a boy band.” (“Idol” contestants cannot enter the competition if they are under professional contract.)

In a statement issued to Billboard, “American Idol” said it had “been determined that Chris Golightly is ineligible to continue in the competition” and he was replaced by Tim Urban, who went on to make it to seventh place. In ever dramatic “Idol” fashion, Golightly was removed from the competition mere hours before a show was set to air.

Golightly’s legal case suggested his disqualification could have been connected to race, but a judge dismissed the claims. “While the complaint asserts that defendants disqualified Golightly because he was an African-American man with a criminal record, it offers no facts beyond this bare allegation of racism to show that either Golightly’s race or his criminal record motivated his disqualification,” the judge said, per The Hollywood Reporter. “Rather, the complaint provides a clear motive for Golightly’s disqualification that does not turn on racial animus: Golightly’s participation in a preexisting music group.”

A prior friendship got Joanna Pacitti kicked off American Idol

In yet another disqualification in 2009, Joanna Pacitti was let go from “American Idol” during Season 10. According to E!, Pacitti was forced to exit after it came to light that she had a connection to 19 Television, the company that originally produced “Idol” during its initial 2002 to 2016 stint on Fox. It was suggested she was good friends with at least one producer, a big no-no when it comes to the series.

Star Magazine published a since-deleted report that claimed Pacitti was so close to one person associated with the show that she’d previously described them as being her “best friend.” A source alleged to E! at the time that the decision to disqualify her was supposedly “made to avoid any appearance of impropriety.” In a statement, Fox said, “It has been determined that Joanna Pacitti is ineligible to continue in the competition. ‘American Idol’ contestant Felicia Barton has replaced Ms. Pacitti as part of the top 36.”

Frenchie Davis was let go from American Idol over a risque photo shoot

Frenchie Davis was let go from “American Idol” back in 2003 during Season 2 after it was revealed that she’d posed nude when she was 18 years old, according to The Smoking Gun. Davis allegedly told producers about the photos but was let go in February, a month after the initial audition rounds began airing.

A Fox spokesperson told Entertainment Weekly that Davis “had not violated the show’s eligibility requirements” but pointed out that the “rules allow the producers to remove contestants at their discretion.” A spokesperson also told USA Today (via EW) that 19 Entertainment, which co-produced “American Idol,” would “endeavor to do all in its power to help [Davis] further her music career.” Davis’ disqualification was met with some backlash, as she was one of the big frontrunners on Season 2. E! reported that dedicated fans even set up a petition to have her back after hearing of her departure, but she didn’t return to the show. 

The experience didn’t put Davis off appearing on TV talent shows though. In 2011, she was a contestant on the very first season of “The Voice” and made it all the way to the top eight under the guidance of former coach Christina Aguilera (via People).

Corey Clark's scandal was one of the biggest in American Idol history

Who could forget the infamous scandal Corey Clark brought to the doorstep of “American Idol” in 2003? Clark was reportedly removed from the show in Season 2 for — what else? — a past run-in with the law. MTV News reported that producers allegedly “learned of misdemeanor charges of battery and resisting arrest on his record,” and so, he was taken out of the competition after making it all the way through to the top nine. Fox claimed in a statement that Clark “withheld information about a prior arrest, which had it been known, might have affected his participation in the show” and added, “the producers and network feel that [Clark’s] behavior warrants his disqualification.” But he certainly didn’t leave the “American Idol” spotlight quietly.

Clark went on to allege that he had a supposed affair with Paula Abdul, who was one of the original judges alongside Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson, during his time on the show (per the Daily Mail) and went public with his supposed encounter with the star in detail. However, in 2005, Fox’s “independent counsel” cleared Abdul of any wrongdoing, per MTV News .

Donnie Williams was pulled over after celebrating his American Idol success

In an unfortunately ironic twist, “American Idol” Season 3 contestant Donnie Williams was let go from the show in 2001 for celebrating his success in the competition. Williams found himself disqualified after he was pulled over by police on suspicion of DUI after leaving a party (per E!).

The talent show hopeful was due to compete for a spot in the top 12 and was celebrating making it so far in the competition. He drove home himself, which is when police reportedly determined his blood alcohol level was “above the legal limit.” E! claimed that Fox was “weary of yet another legal hassle with a contestant,” and decided disqualification would be the best option. In a statement, the network “wish[ed] [Williams] the best,” but concluded, “While understanding that Donnie has not been convicted of a crime, the producers and network feel that the nature of the charges against him warrant his disqualification.”

Easy Bay Times caught up with Williams five years later, at a time of another celebration for the release of his album “Just Like Magic.” Of his “Idol” downfall, Williams said, “For a day or two (after the incident), I just wanted to ball up and sit in the corner. But I can’t beat myself down. I have to believe that everything happens for a reason. I can be an example to somebody who is going through the same thing.” 

Jaered Andrews was kicked off American Idol during Season 2

Another mishap in the early days of the competition, a cloud of controversy hovered over “American Idol” Season 2 contestant when Jaered Andrews was promptly let go from the show after he reached the top 32. In March 2003, The Smoking Gun reported Andrews was “charged with assault in connection with a bar fight that ended in the death of a 39-year-old partygoer.” According to Reality TV World, he “apparently fully disclosed the incident” when he tried out, but apparently, that wasn’t enough to cover the bases.  

After he advanced in the competition and his legal issues hit the headlines, “American Idol” made the decision to let him go from the competition because producers were allegedly worried about “the bad publicity that could result from the disclosure of this case,” according to Reality TV World. Andrews was replaced in the competition by George Trice. 

As for Fox’s explanation for his sudden and unceremonious departure? It had nothing to do with the allegations against Andrews. As USA Today reported (via Reality TV World), the network claimed that because he was part of the hip-hop group Ordinary Peoples before the show, he was no longer eligible. In November 2003, the AP (via Reality TV World) reported Andrews was acquitted of the charges.

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