Two reality singing shows — NBC's The Voice and Fox's The X Factor — turned the competition over to America this week, with viewer votes determining which contestants would be safe and which ones would have to sing to stay on the show.
On The X Factor, the singer who eventually got sent home was Jason Brock, an openly gay performer (he never said so explicitly, but made a show of pinching host Mario Lopez's rear end during the first live show and dedicated his final performance to "the gays and Japan") whose repertoire on the show included Jennifer Lopez's "Dance Again" and Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart." The Voice sent home three contestants, including De'Borah Garner — a lesbian who reveled in her androgyny. (In this case, it was De'Borah's coach, Christina Aguilera, who gave her the ax — but it was the audience vote that put her on the chopping block.)
De'Borah was, hands down, one of the best competitors on The Voice, consistently winning over the coaches and the crowd with her soulful takes on snogs like Train's "Hey, Soul Sister" and The Fray's "You Found Me." And while Brock certainly wasn't the best contestant on The X Factor, he was far from the worst. In the same week when three states — Maine, Maryland and Washington — approved same-sex marriage by popular vote, we have to ask: Why were Brock and De'Borah among the first to go?
For Brock, the answer is easy. "I think that the gay thing could have had some influence on the voting," Brock said on a conference call Friday. "There's a good portion of America that still thinks being gay is wrong. ... But, you know, I was prepared for that and I don't regret at all being me."
De'Borah, however, disagrees. "Of course not," she tells TVGuide.com, when asked if she thinks her sexual orientation had anything to do with her low number of votes. "America loves me. I know this. I know this, from the crowd's reaction all the way to how my inbox is right now on Twitter and Facebook. ... I doubt it. I highly doubt it."
Both said that they were grateful to the shows for allowing them to be themselves. According to Brock, even after the goosing incident, no one from the network or the show told him to take it down a notch. "I really appreciate X Factor for never asking me to do that," Brock said. "The show itself was always encouraging of me being myself. ... No one ever said I was too gay or needed to tone it down, thank goodness."
And from her blind audition, De'Borah has spoken openly about struggling to find acceptance within her church and community. (Though her parents are 100 percent supportive, they are also both preachers.) Nevertheless, she decided to get the question on everyone's minds out of the way during her first appearance on the show, when she said memorably and matter-of-factly, "Boom, I'm gay."
"Coming to The Voice was like turning a new leaf," she tells TVGuide.com. "I wanted to be myself, without restrictions. Sometimes I kind of felt like I had to blend in, but when I came to The Voice, they accepted me for who I was, so there was no reason to hesitate or have restrictions or restraints to who I was."
Of their overall experiences, both Brock and De'Borah say they were overwhelmingly positive. (For the record, Brock said he now views teen Carly Rose Sonenclar as The X Factor's frontrunner, while De'Borah said she's backing Bryan Keith.) "The Voice was the biggest platform I ever had in my life and I'm super-thankful," according to De'Borah. "And with all the fans gained, and all the love and support and exposure, I'm headed to the Grammys. I'm just going to continue to work to get there. It was a hell of a stop. I'm so appreciative." As for Brock? "This has been fabulous," he said. "I would have never had the opportunity to grab Mario's a-- like that, and I am so glad I did."
So, what do you think? Did "the gay thing," in Brock's words, play a role in his and De'Borah's ousters this week? Or was the audience just not feeling their singing styles? Sound off below!