Oh, Sanjaya. We here at 8 Asians are kind of torn over the 17-year old American Idol contestant. On one hand, he’s the last sole Asian-American contestant remaining in the singing competition, after contestants Paul Kim and AJ Talbado got eliminated. Hell, if you asked someone on the street before this year to name any Asian American person on American Idol, they would say William Hung, the well-intentioned Electrical Engineer that looked like he has mild Downs Syndrome. (What? You were thinking it.)
Now you can add Sanjaya to the list, for better or for worse. I say “for better or for worse,” because for every person that makes fun of Sanjaya on a blog or a message board, there’s a crying 13-year old girl in pigtails sobbing and speed-dialing Sanjaya to remain in the competition. Whether you like it or not, the androgynous half-Indian, half-Italian 17-year old Sanjaya is the reason why American Idol is still relevant after five – FIVE – seasons of American Idol. Does anyone remember who won the fifth season of Survivor? What, who cares? Exactly.
And why is Sanjaya relevant for Asian Americans? Because his ethnicity is irrelevant to his success or lack thereof, that’s why. While there were once rumors that Sanjaya staying on the show due to call-centers in India that have him on speed-dial, all it took was a shot of a crying girl to confirm America’s worst fears – “foreigners” aren’t voting Sanjaya to remain in the competition, but THEIR OWN CHILDREN. (For the record: votes in American Idol are in the millions, so sites like votefortheworst.com probably don’t make a major impact, as much as they would love to.) And millions of 8-13 year olds don’t care about Sanjaya’s ethnicity; they care about his wacky hair and the fact that he’s barely hit puberty. So here’s to you, Sanjaya – you’re standing up for Asian America. Even though I think you’re kind of a “meh” singer.