Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic Sanjaya Malakar
In a new interview on The Adam Sank Show podcast, Malakar shared life updates, reflected on his experience competing on American Idol and spoke about the pressure surrounding his sexual identity.
The 32-year-old Seattle native performer auditioned for American Idol in 2006 alongside his sister Shyamali, who was eliminated during Hollywood Week — while Malakar advanced to the season's top 40 contestants. Despite fans voting him into the top 10, then-17-year-old Malakar's vocal performances were notably criticized as "utterly horrendous" by judge Simon Cowell.
Between his vocal abilities, the harsh critiques and unique ponytail-mohawk hybrid hairstyle he sported on the show, Malakar became the subject of jokes from many viewers and comedians at the time. Additionally, the contestant's sexuality became a topic of debate amongst viewers, many of whom assumed Malakar was gay and hiding his identity.
Speaking to host Adam Sank, Malakar set the record straight. "I identify as bisexual," said the former musician, who now works as a pastry chef and bartender. "At the time [that I was on American Idol], I did not know, which was why it was so weird for me."
He explained that growing up, he was "raised by women" and participated in theater. "I had a hard time figuring out how to interact with young boys because my dad's from India and grew up in a temple, so there was never like, 'This is how you are a boy,'" said Malakar on the DNR Studios podcast. "And then, my mom is an A-type personality, Italian-American woman, and [so are] her sisters and my sisters and all of that, so growing up I was already the awkward theater kid."
"I always got along with theater kids. I always got along with gay kids and girls, so I was like, 'OK, these are my people,'" he added. "But I don't know. Everyone keeps telling me that I am gay, and I'm like, 7. I don't even have any attraction to anyone, so why are you telling me this?"
Steve Granitz/WireImage Sanjaya Malakar
While competing on American Idol, Malakar said he was in a serious relationship with a long-term girlfriend: "I was exploring my life as a child, and then American Idol happened, and everyone was like, 'Oh, he's gay.' And I was like, 'OK, well now I have to say no, because at this point they're forcing me to make a decision and define myself.'"
He recalled, "At that time, that was a big thing as well, 'cause I grew up in a time when being called a f----t in school was the worst thing that could ever happen to you. You had to be as hyper-masculine as possible to fit in, and coming up in 2007, it was like, 'Being gay is OK, but you have to define yourself, and there's this or that.'"
The team surrounding Malakar during his American Idol stint didn't help the process of figuring out his sexuality. "All of my publicists were like, 'Oh, just tell everyone you're single. Be ambiguous. No one needs to know anything about anything because you don't want to lose your fans,'" he said on the podcast. "And I'm like, 'OK, but why am I manipulating what I know of myself to figure out what kind of fans I'm going to get because I'm still trying to discover who I am?'"
Malakar feels comfortable and confident in his sexuality today, though he hasn't come out to his parents. "For me, at this point I don't really care about what people know of my sexuality, and if I got into a serious long-term relationship with a guy I would bring him to my family, and they'd be like, 'Oh, cool.'"
"My family's not the kind of people I really need to come out to formally," he continued, noting that it could be difficult to bring home a woman after expressing he also likes men. "A couple of my cousins are bi as well and have brought home gay partners and then come and married someone else. It becomes a big deal, and it's not."
He continued, "Unless it's something serious, it's not really their business. I'm not trying to f— any of them. I'll come out to people if it's a situation like this, but if I'm not trying to f— you, it doesn't matter. You'll know if I do."
On the topic of his current relationship status, Malakar recalled telling Sank during their pre-interview that he was seeing someone — but on the show, he rescinded the statement.
"So, actually, the day of our pre-interview I had just driven back the night before from my best friend's wedding and reconnected with someone I knew a long time ago that seemed interesting — and then flipped my car two and a half times," said Malakar, who wasn't injured in the accident. "So I'm not sure if that's a sign to slow down. I don't know. Yes, I'm single, but it's complicated all the time."
Malakar also said his highly publicized time on American Idol hasn't exactly helped his success in the bedroom.
"It's a detriment because I enjoy the thrill of a chase, and I don't like feeling like someone's f—ing me because [of American Idol]. I'm also a bartender, so I don't like f—ing someone who wants to f— me because I'm a bartender," he revealed. "I have a lot of self-esteem issues, and I really like to be sure that someone's interested."