Sanjaya Malakar has opened up about his sexuality.
In a new interview on the Adam Sank Show Podcast, the American Idol alum revealed that he is bisexual, and talked about the pressure he felt as a teen contestant on Season 6, as gossipers speculated on his sexual identity.
“I identify as bisexual,” Sanjaya, who now works as a pastry chef and bartender, told the podcast. “At the time [that I was on American Idol], I did not know, which was why it was so weird for me.”
Sanjaya grew up surrounded by women, he explained, and participated in theater. “I had a hard time figuring out how to interact with young boys because my dad’s from India and grew up in a temple, so there was never like, ‘This is how you are a boy,'” Sanjaya said. “And then, my mom is an A-type personality, Italian-American woman, and [so are] her sisters and my sisters and all of that, so growing up I was already the awkward theater kid.”
“Everyone keeps telling me that I am gay, and I’m like, 7”
“I always got along with theater kids. I always got along with gay kids and girls, so I was like, ‘OK, these are my people,'” he added. “But I don’t know. Everyone keeps telling me that I am gay, and I’m like, 7. I don’t even have any attraction to anyone, so why are you telling me this?”
While competing on American Idol in 2007 at 17 years old, he was in a serious relationship with a girlfriend. “I was exploring my life as a child, and then American Idol happened, and everyone was like, ‘Oh, he’s gay.’ 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.'”
He recalled, “At that time, that was a big thing as well, ’cause I grew up in a time when being called a f—-t in school was the worst thing that could ever happen to you. You had to be as hyper-masculine as possible to fit in, and coming up in 2007, it was like, ‘Being gay is OK, but you have to define yourself, and there’s this or that.'”
Publicists from his time competing on Idol instructed him on how to dodge questions about sexuality. “All of my publicists were like, ‘Oh, just tell everyone you’re single. Be ambiguous. No one needs to know anything about anything because you don’t want to lose your fans,'” he told the podcast. “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?'”
Sanjaya has not come out to his family
These days, Sanjaya feels comfortable in his own skin, although he has not come out to his parents yet. “For me, at this point I don’t really care about what people know of my sexuality, and if I got into a serious long-term relationship with a guy I would bring him to my family, and they’d be like, ‘Oh, cool.'”
“My family’s not the kind of people I really need to come out to formally,” he continued, noting that it could be hard for him to bring home a woman after previously bringing home a man. “A couple of my cousins are bi as well and have brought home gay partners and then come and married someone else. It becomes a big deal, and it’s not.”
He continued, “Unless it’s something serious, it’s not really their business. I’m not trying to f— any of them. I’ll come out to people if it’s a situation like this, but if I’m not trying to f— you, it doesn’t matter. You’ll know if I do.”
He’s not in a relationship, but that could change
As far as his relationship status, he told the podcast host that he was dating someone, but then took it back during the on-air interview.
“So, actually, the day of our pre-interview I had just driven back the night before from my best friend’s wedding and reconnected with someone I knew a long time ago that seemed interesting — and then flipped my car two and a half times,” Sanjaya said (he wasn’t injured). “So I’m not sure if that’s a sign to slow down. I don’t know. Yes, I’m single, but it’s complicated all the time.”
The Seattle native auditioned for American Idol with his sister Shyamali, who was eliminated in Hollywood. Sanjaya continued to advance, amid criticisms of his vocal talent. The site Vote For the Worst picked him as their “worst” candidate. Howard Stern joined in and urged his radio show fans to also vote for Sanjaya, who eventually left the competition in 7th place.