Leah Marlene shocked aspiring “American Idol” contestants on Aug. 8, popping up during their online auditions for Season 21 of the show. In an Instagram Story featuring a photo of her with wide eyes while covering her mouth, Season 20’s third-place singer wrote, “Just crashed the @americanidol Idol Across America zoom auditions and it brought back all the feels.”
The pop-ins were actually planned surprises by “Idol” producers, who have invited fan favorites from past seasons to stick their heads in — at least virtually — to offer encouragement and advice to aspiring singers during their online auditions.
But it’s an interesting twist for Marlene, who’s been very vocal lately about how hard it’s been to gain any traction in the music industry after the grand finale, with no help from series producers or cast.
Marlene Recently Said ‘Idol’ Journey Was Not a Dream Come True
On July 26, the typically upbeat musician wrote on Instagram, “I have been working my ass off nonstop to make something happen out of this and I feel like I’m going in never ending circles. I feel very misunderstood by the industry and it has made me question everything about who I am and what I want.”
Marlene seemed to hit the ground running after the May 2022 finale, signing with a booking agent, moving to Los Angeles, and doing an overseas tour for the US Navy. But she ended the lengthy post by writing, “I just can’t not be transparent about this current season not being the dream come true that so many people that follow me here think it is.”
But Marlene has clearly had a change of heart, since she is now encouraging others to try out for the show. On her Aug. 8 Instagram Story about crashing auditions, she wrote, “sending everybody auditioning all the love and bravery today!! just have fun! you got this! i may or may not be hopping on a few more audition days in the next several weeks…sign up yo!!”
“American Idol’s” Instagram account shared excerpts of Marlene’s surprise appearance in their Stories, including the 21-year-old reminding hopefuls that everyone — including judge Katy Perry — wants them to do well.
“Katy is the bomb,” she said. “Just know, whether it’s the producers or the judges or the audience, it’s like everybody is always rooting for you to succeed. She’s always rooting for you to succeed. You’re not going in there with people wanting you to fail. Like, everybody there wants to see you succeed.”
Ruben Studdard & Others Plan To Crash ‘Idol’ Auditions, Too
Surprise guests are adding to the allure of the Season 21 auditions, as aspiring singers across the U.S. sign up for online appointments to try out for casting producers online. Those who advance will move onto auditions with higher-up producers and, potentially, the celebrity judges this fall.
Season 2 winner Ruben Studdard, who hails from Alabama, is set to pop in on auditions Aug. 15, a date on which singers from that area are scheduled to audition.
Meanwhile, singer Christian Guardino, who reached the top 7 on the latest season of “Idol,” will appear virtually on Aug. 12, during Zoom auditions for New Yorkers.
A press release from “American Idol” said the crooners will join hopefuls in the virtual waiting room for questions and offer their own audition tips.
During a recent episode of ”Live With Kelly & Ryan,” Ryan Seacrest, who also hosts “American Idol,” talked with “Idol” judge Luke Bryan about the new digital format, born out of the need for online versus in-person interactions during the pandemic. He said continuing to do initial tryouts online makes auditions more accessible for everyone, including people who don’t have the resources to travel.
Auditions will continue on specific dates throughout the month of August. Aspiring singers can reserve a spot online or send in an audition video on the show’s website.