First-season American Idol
finalist Jim Verraros
stands out in two major ways. He happens to be the sole openly gay Idol thus far. And far from fading into obscurity like most of his fellow pop-star wannabes, Verraros has commenced a respectable showbiz career since getting voted off the show. His catchy song "You Turn It On" — from his risque new album Rollercoaster
— recently hit No. 21 on Billboard
's Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart. He's also undergone quite an image change from geek to chic. In this Q&A, Verraros verifies for TVGuide.com that there is
life after AI
.TVGuide.com: You look so different since we first saw you. Where are the glasses? Did you do a lost episode of Extreme Makeover to repackage yourself for pop stardom?
Jim Verraros: American Idol
was three years ago. I was 19 on the show; I'm 22 now. Change just naturally happens. This is as much the real me as the kid with the glasses was back then.
TVGuide.com: Loving the new straightened coif. Sorry to be so superficial, but we're all about hair talk at TVGuide.com.
Totally! The flat iron has become my best friend lately — my hair would be really curly if I didn't use it. I just wanted to edge up my look. Most of the contestants who come off Idol
tend to be a bit safe, so I wanted to push the limits a little. This look fits well with my music, which is sexy, edgy and in your face.
TVGuide.com: A few of your tunes on the Rollercoaster disc are quite suggestive.
] Which song doesn't
have suggestive lyrics? There's one called "So Deep" that goes "I wanna go so deep and hurt so good and I wanna be so bad." People have been e-mailing me about that song because they're like, "I didn't realize you were that sexual!"
TVGuide.com: It's very different from the sort of thing you'd see on Idol.
There's a time and a place for it. You have to be b---sy enough to show it, and not a lot of Idols do that. Some people [criticize me] like, "You came from a family show." I say my fans who watched me on Idol
three years older now, so they can handle this material. Everyone grows and changes.
TVGuide.com: Do you have any official support from American Idol these days?
Nope. I'm on my own. As far as support from them, I get nothing. They crank 'em out [every season]. While you're on the show, you're treated well. Afterward, it's, "See ya." It's too bad, but it'll make my success taste all the sweeter because I didn't need their help. Although I am grateful for the start they gave me three years ago.
TVGuide.com: Have you kept in touch with any of your fellow contestants?
It's tough to hang out with or talk to old friends of mine who were on the show. It's such a battle for all of us. It's such a roller coaster. A lot of people hit rock bottom and it feels bad. You were once so
hot on the show, and now you're struggling. People from my season are broke and have moved back in with their families.
TVGuide.com: You weren't the only gay person to appear on Idol, right?
Right. I am the only openly
gay one. I don't expect another Idol to come out anytime soon. I hope they do. You just take a look at a few of 'em and it's like ding ding ding
! But honestly, coming out and being true to myself is one of the easiest things I've done in my career.
TVGuide.com: It's great that you're so fearless about it. Maybe some folks out there will respect you for your honesty and be supportive...
And some won't be. Those are the people I don't want buying my record anyway! I can only do my part and hope that I can help pave the way for other gay artists to follow.
TVGuide.com: So what else are you up to?
I did the movie Eating Out
with Ryan Carnes
who's [Justin] on Desperate Housewives
. It's out on DVD on July 26. I play a gay musician — go figure, right? — and I have a crush on my straight friend who doesn't give me the time of day. [Laughs
] Being shunned by guys is something I can definitely
relate to because I was overweight for the majority of my life. I was 235 lbs. two months before I auditioned for Idol
and I dropped 80 before the show. I became a vegetarian and did a lot of cardio.