"American Idol" reached a milestone Wednesday night when the show welcomed its first officially openly gay contestant -- M.K. Nobilette -- to the Top 30. And Randy Jackson, who's now moved from being a judge on the show to being its "in-house mentor," says he's happy about that, but is surprised that it's taken this long.
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Certainly, "American Idol" has had gay contestants in the past -- Adam Lambert and Clay Aiken are the two who come to mind -- but both men only came out after the show; during their time on the program they never talked about their sexual orientation on camera. Meanwhile, as Entertainment Weekly points out, "The Voice" has featured any number of openly gay contestants since it debuted, so it's surprising that it's taken "Idol" until 2014 to do the same.
During a phone press conference on Thursday, Jackson told reporters that he's "really proud" and "really happy" for Nobilette, who on Wednesday night was chosen by the judges to join the Top 15 girls after performing Ed Sheeran's "The A Team." At the time, she told them, "I am very obviously gay and there are always going to be people in America and everywhere else that are definitely gonna hate [me]."
"Who would've thought in 2014 that you'd have to do that?" Jackson continued. "I'm just always surprised ... we should've come a lot further a lot faster. But it is what it is."
Jackson, who'll be seen working with the contestants during the "Boot Camp" segment of the show starting next Tuesday, made it clear that it's never been "American Idol" policy that contestants couldn't talk about their sexuality.
"We've never said 'You can't do this, you can't do that,'" he told reporters. "It's never about who you are or what you do or what you choose or where you're from. It's always really about the talent."
Later, he called Nobilette "mad cool" and added, "I'm really happy for her...that she was able to say that."