An Open Letter to American Idol Judges Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick, Jr.


Dear Ms. Lopez and Mr. Connick Jr.,

Last night, I watched an episode of American Idol, during which contestant Keith London came up to sing in front of you. The song he chose was “If I Were a Boy,” by Beyoncé. Ms. Lopez, you looked immediately annoyed, turned to Mr. Connick Jr. and said “He’s singing if I were a boy. Do you hear that?” Mr. Connick Jr. whispered “It’s bizarre,” and you both nodded in agreement.

You then proceeded to complain about the song choice and question if London was trying to be “cute.” Ms. Lopez, you looked particularly disgusted. After rudely talking through London’s entire performance, you criticized his song choice and asked him why he selected it.

He looked stunned, and replied that he had a very good reason for singing the song. He also looked as if he were on the verge of tears before you asked him to sing something else. He then sang a few bars of “Same Love.”

Ms. Lopez and Mr. Connick Jr., I am still reeling over your reaction to London’s song choice. Did it ever occur to you that maybe Mr. London  a.) Is part of the transgender community, b.) Has a loved one within the transgender community, c.) Is struggling with his own gender identity and/or sexuality or d.) Has some other compelling reason to sing that particular song?

People’s internal gender identities do not always match their outward appearance, and I would have thought you both would know that by now. I thought you would be sensitive to the possibilities listed above.

I have no idea which letter is true, nor does it matter. What matters is the fact that your reaction was akin to a strange walk backwards in time. In the modern era, gender identity is not something set in stone for many people. In fact it was never set in stone at all for some, but in current times, people feel more comfortable expressing their questions or concrete feelings about their internal identities, and they feel more comfortable speaking out in support of their loved ones who have been through gender identity struggles or transitions.

The fact that London chose to sing “Same Love” after your, quite frankly, rude outburst, tells me that he may have some connection to the LGBT community; a community currently facing massive challenges as the people within it struggle for equal rights and the ability to express their authentic selves whether that expression happens in private moments, walking down the street or an American Idol stage.

Even if London has no connection to the LGBT community at all; what right do you have to say his song choice was wrong simply because the lyrics didn’t happen to match his outward appearance? What rule says that the lyrics to each song must match each contestant’s outward appearance, exactly?

I am disappointed in your close-mindedness, your strict adherence to antiquated gender rules and your unkind attitude toward London. I have no idea if anyone besides me picked up on the moment, but it was a moment that spoke volumes about how far LGBT people still have to go, and that’s sad.

I expected better from you, Ms. Lopez and Mr. Connick Jr. You’re in a position where sometimes, people show you who they really are, and you need to believe them.


Rebecca Savastio