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American Idol Season 1 OG Jim Verraros Is Ready to Take His Bow

American Idol Season 1 OG Jim Verraros Is Ready to Take His Bow

Jim Verraros
Christian Blake

The out gay singer speaks to Out about his post-American Idol journey, the hiatus he took from the music industry, and why he’s chosen to come back with a new single titled “Take My Bow.”

The first-ever season of American Idol aired between June and September of 2002. Among the top 10 finalists of the season were eventual winner Kelly Clarkson, Justin Guarini, Tamyra Gray, as well as Jim Verraros, who was hiding at the time that he happened to be gay.

Subsequent seasons of this long-running series would later introduce us to other LGBTQ+ contestants like Clay Aiken, Adam Lambert, David Archuleta, and Adore Delano, who became superstars over time. But all of those contestants had to hide who they really were in order to stand a chance in the competition.

In fact, it took years for Aiken to navigate his way between music and politics, for Lambert to become accepted in the mainstream, for Archuleta to come out as being a part of the LGBTQ+ community, and for Delano to disclose that she’s actually a trans woman. Needless to say, the stakes were even higher for an Idol contestant to stay in the closet back when Verraros became a finalist in season one.

“I was on the first season of American Idol, so we’re going back 21 years ago,” Verraros tells Out. “When I decided to pursue a record deal, we didn’t really have a lot of representation out there. While I was pursuing music and taking meetings with agents and managers, a lot of them really didn’t know how to put the framework together for an openly gay singer. I came up publicly when I was 19, so it was right before my career really had a chance to take off.”

Jim Verraros

Christian Blake

When asked if American Idol producers issued any instructions, directives, or suggestions that he should hide his sexuality, Verraros explains that the climate surrounding the show ended up shaping his experiences more than anything that was happening on set.

“I had kept a LiveJournal when I was in college. We didn’t have social media back then, so I was going to school and I had a LiveJournal [that I used] just like a diary. Fox instructed me to take it down, and I didn’t really understand why. I was very open about men, dating men, finding men attractive… it wasn’t like it was a secret.”

He adds, “[But] you start reading the message boards and seeing the feedback. I realized, ‘Okay, maybe I need to pull my voice back and bring it down a little bit lower and start to masculinize myself.’ I came off feminine as a contestant, which was looked at as negative, and that was the feedback. I was very insecure, and it’s hard to navigate, particularly in a time when queer representation was so small.”

Jim Verraros

Christian Blake

Despite hitting a wall with agents, mangers, producers, and record labels, Verraros released two studio albums after his time on the show: 2005’s Rollercoaster and 2011’s Do Not Disturb. Since then, however, the singer didn’t release any new music, culminating in a hiatus that lasted 12 years. “I think that when you pound the pavement really, really hard for years and you realize that the timing just doesn’t align, you need to take a breather and remember that music was a passion that I had,” he says. “Sometimes you might just need to take a moment and come back to it later.”

As a result, Verraros focused his creative efforts on acting instead, playing Kyle in 2004’s Eating Out and 2006’s Eating Out 2: Sloppy Seconds, as well as a singing priest in 2008’s Another Gay Sequel: Gays Gone Wild!.

In recent years, Verraros started to get inspired by the ongoing LGBTQ+ representation in music from artists like Hayley Kiyoko, Troye Sivan, Kim Petras, Sam Smith, and his fellow American Idol alumni Lambert, Archuleta, and Delano. Upon turning 40 years old in February of 2023, Verraros felt like the time was right to release “Take My Bow,” a song that acknowledges that this gay singer has put in a lot of hard rock over the years and is now ready for showtime.

“Politically, I think the time right now is just ugly and hard. I feel like we are constantly fighting, and the Republicans are constantly saying, ‘Look over here, look over here.’ It’s a constant distraction. So when I decided to do this song, I thought, ‘Is this a time where you want to be political, make a statement, and say something?’ Then I thought, ‘What if I just wanted to have some fun? Let’s put something out that makes people dance and feel good.’”

He concludes, “That’s really where we got to. The song is about me saying, ‘I wasn’t ready for you then, but I’m ready for you now.’ I’ve come a long way, I’ve gone through a lot, and had my career started just 10 years later, I could’ve had, I think, a better shot.”

Watch Out’s full interview with Jim Verraros below.

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