‘American Idol’ Runner-up Broke Rule While Competing, Needed Money

  • “American Idol” finalist Crystal Bowersox almost lost her “sole source of income” after auditions.
  • She said she started playing local gigs under an alias in order to earn money to support her family.
  • Other “Idol” finalists also had to sacrifice jobs and school for their shot on the show.

Season-nine “American Idol” finalist Crystal Bowersox said the show told her to stop performing local gigs for several months — but she broke the rules because she was experiencing “borderline homelessness.”

Speaking to Insider ahead of the Fox-ABC show’s 20th anniversary, the runner-up said she was told not to take outside performing jobs between auditions in summer 2009 and Hollywood Week in January 2010 in order to keep her spot on the show a secret.

“Telling me that I couldn’t perform? That was my sole source of income,” she said.

As a 24-year-old mother to a newborn, she relied on local gigs to bring in cash, so she “went into hiding under another name” to continue performing for money.

Bowersox told Insider she “had zero experience in the music industry or in the legal legalities of it,” making the experience more frustrating.

“They tell you you’re not supposed to perform or tell anyone. Your family has to sign contracts, nondisclosure agreements,” she said.

Even though news of her undercover gigs “ended up getting around anyway,” Bowersox said, she avoided getting disqualified.

Bowersox was hesitant to audition for the show in the first place, but she won over judges and viewers

Bowersox told Insider she “resisted” trying out for the show because the idea of ​​”pitting people against each other” in a music competition always struck her as “strange.”

But, eventually, the singer said her “pride had to be swallowed” so she could provide for her family.

“I was camping out at my dad’s house on the living-room floor, and playing the $50 bar gigs was not going to cut it while caring for my child,” she said.

Bowersox made the five-hour drive from Illinois to Ohio with her son in tow to audition for season nine.

She charmed the judges with a rendition of Erma Franklin’s “Piece of My Heart,” earned a ticket to Hollywood, and eventually placed second behind Lee DeWyze.

Other ‘Idol’ contestants also made sacrifices to be on the show

Getty Images David Cook american idol

David Cook won season seven of “American Idol.”

Getty Images


Season-seven “American Idol” winner David Cook said that he was also placed in a difficult situation before Hollywood Week.

He received a job offer he’d been waiting for, and even though he wanted to take the position, he had to choose between the show and the job.

He chose “Idol” and hoped for the best because he said he had “to see this through.”

Season-16 winner Maddie Poppe had to take a few days off her first semester of college to audition. But she said it became much harder to keep up with her school work once Hollywood Week began.

“I was just like, I got to take the leap of faith and believe in myself,” Poppe told Insider. “So I dropped out.”

Representatives for “American Idol” did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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