American Idol Alum Accuses Show of Gay Bashing, Manipulation

Jacob Lusk Gabriels

American Idol standout Jacob Lusk has opened up about his “harrowing” experience on the show.

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He competed on season 10 in 2011. That year, Scotty McCreery took the crown, with Lauren Alaina as the runner-up. Jacob finished the show in 5th place behind 2nd runner-up Haley Reinhart and 4th place finisher, James Durbin.

But while the aforementioned alums have nothing but positive things to say about their experiences competing in front of judges Jennifer Lopez, Randy Jackson and Steven Tyler, Jacob calls his American Idol experience “harrowing.”

“There was a lot of gay bashing that happened behind the scenes”

“It was a lot of manipulation,” he told the BBC in a recent interview on the heels of releasing his new EP with the much buzzed about trio, Gabriels. “There was a lot of, like, gay-bashing that happened behind the scenes. Oh, it was treacherous.”

As a young singer, his uncertainty “about who I was” at the time, clashed with the producers’ need to create a character. “I wasn’t gay enough, I wasn’t straight enough, I wasn’t man enough, I wasn’t black enough,” he said. “For some people, that was confusing.”

After he was eliminated, “I couldn’t even watch the American Idol videos,” he added. “Like, I literally thought I couldn’t sing. It was harrowing.”

After his elimination, Jacob struggled for a time and considered dropping out of music altogether. It’s a good thing he didn’t, because these days, he is riding high as the lead singer of the critically acclaimed R&B/Gospel group, Gabriels.

Jacob is out promoting the Los Angeles trio’s new EP Angels & Queens Part 1, which came out on Friday. Listen to it below, and understand why critics can’t stop talking about them. Sir Elton John called their 2020 debut EP Love and Hate in a Different Time “one of the most seminal records I’ve heard in the last 10 years.”

Gabriels – Angels & Queens Part 1 

After American Idol, various deals and managers fell through, the BBC reports. Eventually, he became a choir director working with artists like Diana Ross and Gladys Knight. He met his Gabriels collaborators after composer Ari Balouzian and video director Ryan Hope hired Jacob’s choir to work on a commercial.

Impressed by his work, they persuaded him to record with them, things clicked and the trio began slowly developing the project, which helped him heal from his American Idol scars.

“It allowed me to love music again,” Jacob told the BBC. “Like, remember that? Remember when we used to listen to music and write songs for fun? Being with Ari and Ryan literally changed my life.”

Gabriels performed at Glastonbury, the storied British music festival. Watch their electric performance of “Love and Hate in a Different Time.” The song garnered a ton of acclaim from critics.

Angels & Queens Part 2 is set to come out next year.

About mj santilli 33688 Articles
Founder and editor of, home of the awesomest fan community on the net. I love cheesy singing shows of all kinds, whether reality or scripted. I adore American Idol, but also love The Voice, Glee, X Factor and more!


  1. Thanks for this. I’ve always wondered about how Idol was for him. He didn’t really have a strong “storyline” for them to use, and some of the judges comments were very weird. Like when he sang “Man in a Mirror” and the line was that he was saying he was better than others. It was odd.

    He was my favourite after the auditions. So glad he’s finally being heard. So gifted!

    Also, Gabriels recently opened for Harry Styles on six dates in the US.

    This is a video he and Idol pal Casey Abrams did.

  2. If i remember correctly , it came out when he was on that he was arrested for not paying a train ticket and not showing up to court ? Maybe that’s why he had issues.. I remember Carrington wrote on here once on how nice the producers were apparently to Adam Lambert and he chose not to talk about being gay . Of course by the later seasons of Fox Idol , there was MK Nobielette who was very open on being LGBT and probably some others I’m forgetting about (this was after The Voice came on which has been super accepting since the minute it first aired ) . Then on reboot Idol, they had a literal drag queen S1( Ada Vox ) then Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon S2( who’s story was about being gay in a conservative household ) and Uche. Just Sam was out on social media but didn’t have a peep on it on the show . I do think her/their departure from 19 was suspicious though …and of course Jeremiah’s elimination as he was on top of everybody besides Alejandro the whole time but remember what happened to Jhud …

  3. Really proud of the success he’s starting to get and opening for Harry Styles is a HUGE deal. Spotify numbers look decent and growing as well. Didn’t really see it for him back then but he has a phenomenal voice and glad he found his sound.

  4. Producers were supportive and respectful to Adam when pictures surfaced of him kissing a former boyfriend and it created a media firestorm. He said Idol let him decide how HE wanted to handle it. Adam had been out since the age of 18 (he came on Idol at 26) so his sexuality was not hidden. But he did not feel the need to come on the Idol stage to “confess” that he was gay, lol. Tho some supporters of other Idols and a major news personality had a campaign going on to stop the gay guy from winning, so it was no secret to anyone. But like his straight counterparts, he wanted to compete with his talent and hope it would take him some place. Idol allowed him to do that and it took him far. Adam knew who he was before he came on the show. It sounds like Jacob was not there yet so he had a different experience. The LGBT contestants are all individuals and different. They are not all going to feel or handle things the SAME way. Some LGBT artists, like some straight artists, would not allow Idol to exploit their orientation or lives for entertainment. Their choice. Some said thanks but no thanks. I guess Jacob was one who said no thanks. Sorry that he had a difficult time but it was probably better for him to not let them use his story as some selling point. Glad he is in a good place now and doing well.

  5. The producers may have treated Adam well because he created a lot of buzz all around the world. (Thus, getting an international contract.) He was very talented and also charmed and treated everyone with respect. Word is everyone behind the scenes knew he was gay. As Adam always said right after the show, “You didn’t know I was gay?” He said that grinning and sarcastically. He’d say look at how I was dressed and the song choices.

    I don’t know why it was different for Jacob.

  6. Adam’s most important song choices were Whole Lotta Love and Bohemian Rhapsody cause they made Queen take notice and the rest is history. Haha. Of course every one still talks about Mad Word but I think Ring or Fire had an attention getting impact too.

    Maybe Jacob is not talking only about the producers but the way he was treated in general by some and the internet class. The producers liked Adam. But It was not all easy for him with homophobic threats and insults on the internet (especially when he did Ring or Fire). And behind the scene when he was getting sh** from Gokey and Sarver. But Adam being Adam, he was not going to be intimidated or take any crap from either of them and pushed back, lol. But Jacob has his own experiences and things that were upsetting to him during his season. I don’t think it so simple to compare the way one artist was treated against another, gay or straight. What is unnerving to one may be just another day at the office for another and more easily brushed off. Jacob was talented but I don’t think he was ever a favorite of TPTB so there may have been less consideration for him. And Lythgoe was in charge on Jacob’s season and I thank the universe that he was not there during Adam’s run, lol. Likely a different environment.

  7. I would guess, for starters, a very different personality. Secondly, a very different upbringing. (He is from Compton). Thirdly, a very different skin colour.

  8. I had/have so many favourites from that season, but I always thought Jacob was the one with the most powerful voice. Well, along with James. :)

  9. I would guess, for starters, a very different personality. Secondly, a very different upbringing. (He is from Compton). Thirdly, a very different skin colour.

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