The top 12 contestants from Season 21 of “American Idol” have spent this week in Hollywood, preparing for the season finale airing live on May 21, 2023. Many have posted fun social media videos and photos from their time together, sharing glimpses of their rehearsals and hangouts for the new fans they’ve gained while appearing on the show.
But along with enthusiastic fans, they’ve all been targeted by plenty of naysayers and online trolls, too, which can be especially hard for artists who are just starting out and not fully prepared for the spotlight. From social media to online chatrooms, some “Idol” viewers are quick to put down singers they don’t like, nitpicking everything from their voices to their appearance.
On May 18, 21-year-old Megan Danielle, one of the Top 3 contestants who will compete in Sunday’s finale, posted a somber video to remind fans that the contestants see everything they write — and that some of those words are hurtful and hard to digest.
Megan Danielle Asks ‘American Idol’ Fans to ‘Try to Be Kind’
After returning to Los Angeles following her hometown visit to Douglasville, Georgia, which “Idol” will share footage of during the finale, Danielle posted a selfie video in her Instagram Stories, quietly addressing her followers as she rested in her hotel room. She first thanked her supporters but then began to address those who have been quick to judge her and her fellow contestants.
“I just wanted to come on here and tell everybody thank you so much for your love and support,” the raspy-voiced country singer began. “And I just wanted to tell you all this, our journey, has been absolutely incredible. I’ve met some of the best people.”
But Danielle made it clear she’s also come across people at their worst, too.
She continued, “And really this is me just reminding y’all that all of us contestants, you know, we see everything on social media. We see all of the good posts, bad posts, the bad comments, the good comments. You know, sometimes it is overwhelming because, you know, we’re out here, we’re all here for so long, away from friends and family, away from home, and we’re out here to make our lives better and change our lives, and you know, it’s hard to see stuff that people post that are just so mean.”
Though Danielle has received glowing reviews from the “Idol” judges each week and enough viewer votes to advance to the finale, she’s also had plenty of detractors — from Forbes declaring “she just doesn’t measure up to the competition” to social media users posting harsh reactions to posts about her, like one person who responded to an “American Idol” tweet by writing, “Booooo she sucks.”
Danielle ended her video plea by quietly saying, “So really, it’s just a reminder to always try to be kind. Yeah, I just wanted to tell you thank you and let y’all know that.”
This isn’t the first TV competition Danielle has been on. In early 2020, when she was 17, she appeared on NBC’s “The Voice” and placed in the Top 9, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The small-town waitress recently told the paper that during her experience on “The Voice,” she didn’t have a clear idea of where she wanted her music career to go and that the show was restrictive about which songs she could perform.
But the producers at “American Idol,” she said, “let you be exactly who you are. That’s what’s amazing.” Nevertheless, she struggled with confidence for much of the “Idol” journey, frequently being told by the judges to believe in herself and her talent.
Danielle addressed that while in her hometown on Tuesday, when local radio station 94.9 The Bull‘s morning show hosts asked her what the most stressful part of the “Idol” experience has been.
“Believing in myself is really what’s been the hardest part,” she replied. “But I keep in my head that God can use one person to change the world, so I just want to be that.”
Other ‘Idol’ Contestants Have Responded to Online Hate, Too
In her video, Danielle reminded fans that all of the contestants read social media comments about themselves — good and bad — and that the harshest ones can sting. Certain singers in the Top 12 seem to have received more pushback from viewers than others, including 28-year-old Lucy Love.
As Love advanced through the competition, social media users increasingly complained about her having an “attitude” and being “too aggressive,” especially after covering Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive” and playing up the powerful energy of the song by staring down the camera. The criticism online only increased when the judges saved her from elimination and placed her in the Top 12.
Love saw and addressed some of the comments on social media. In the comment section of the show’s YouTube video of her “Radioactive” performance, she wrote, “I’m so grateful to the judges for saving me ! I’ve taken all of your comments into consideration and will continue to make improvements ️ I’m learning to smile more and not have such a poker face . I hear you guys & love you all”
After Love didn’t receive enough votes to advance the following week, she wrote on Instagram, “I’d like to thank ALL of you who loved and supported me throughout my journey. America ,we still have work to do in the ‘Love’ department.”
Sarina-Joi Crowe, who made it to the Top 12 on Season 14 of the show, replied, “‘America’ has been showing their true colors for years both in just who they tend to support on this show and the nasty comments they leave with no real ability to understand the hard work and confidence it takes to compete on this show in particular and others. Luckily, they aren’t really deciding how successful you’ll become.”
Another contestant who’s been well aware of pushback and insults from social media users during his “Idol” journey is Top 8 contestant Oliver Steele, who became extremely close with finalist Iam Tongi throughout their journey on the show.
After Steele was eliminated, he wrote on Instagram, “To be honest, I entered this competition never expecting to win. Shoot, I didn’t expect to get far at all. I came to represent me. And I’ve been getting caught up in what people think I should be.”
But Steele did try to counter the negativity with humor, like when someone slammed him in the comments of a post on Heavy’s “American Idol” Facebook page. The person wrote, “Hope he goes home. Should not have been chosen to stay last week,” and Steele sarcastically replied, “thanks for the love and support! “