Sanjaya Malakar: Dancing To The Music In My Head: Memoirs Of The People’s Idol
January 16, 2012 by staff
Sanjaya Malakar: Dancing To The Music In My Head: Memoirs Of The People’s Idol, Sanjaya Joseph Malakar (born September 10, 1989) is an American singer of Indian origin, who was a finalist on the sixth season of American Idol. He gained national attention on the series, controversially advancing to 7th place with public votes, despite being poorly received by the show’s judges, particularly Simon Cowell.
After Idol, Malakar made many television guest appearances and has been commonly parodied in popular culture. He got to 5th place in season two of the reality television show I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!
Malakar was born in the large suburb of Federal Way, which is in the Seattle metropolitan area. His father, a musician, is a Bengali Indian named Vasudeva Malakar, who immigrated to the United States, and his mother is an Italian American named Jillian Recchi Blyth.
His parents filed for divorce when he was three years old and had been separated for a year prior to doing so. When the divorce was filed, the family had almost no money coming in. His mother and the children were living in a Seattle apartment, and her only income was from welfare. His mother remarried, but his stepfather died soon afterwards. Although Malakar spent the majority of his formative years in the Seattle area, he has also lived in both California and Kauai, Hawaii, where he performed with the Hawaii Children’s Theater group. While in Seattle, he spent three years with the Total Experience Gospel Choir.
Malakar attended Martha Lake Elementary School in Lynnwood, Washington for elementary school, and the Seattle Waldorf School and Northshore Junior High School for middle school in Bothell, Washington. He attended Shorecrest High School in Shoreline, Washington during freshman year, and Todd Beamer High School in Federal Way, Washington during sophomore year. After his sophomore year, Malakar passed the General Educational Development test, in order to leave high school early and focus on a music career and on his participation in American Idol.
After making the top 10, Malakar performed on the American Idol Tour with fellow Idol alums, including Melinda Doolittle.
On September 19, 2006, Malakar, a shy teen, entered the open audition for American Idol at the Seattle Center in Seattle, with his sister Shyamali. Simon Cowell commented that Sanjaya had a better voice than his sister. Both were advanced to the Hollywood round by the judges. Malakar cited Stevie Wonder as his idol, and sang one of Wonder’s signature songs, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” at his Seattle audition.
For his next performance, in Hollywood, Malakar sang “Some Kind of Wonderful”. He was shown tearfully embracing his sister when she was cut, though he progressed to the Top 40. Next, Malakar sang “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”. The judges were largely critical of his performance, though Simon Cowell admitted that Malakar is popular with the voters while Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul gave a more positive appraisal of his “You Really Got Me” performance in the Top 11. A 13-year-old girl named Ashley Ferl was highlighted repeatedly during Malakar’s performance in the Top 11 episode, crying tears of joy, although Ferl also cried for Melinda Doolittle, Jordin Sparks, and many other contestants.
On March 27, 2007, Malakar sang No Doubt’s “Bathwater” wearing a fauxhawk made from multiple ponytails. The style was called the “ponyhawk” by host Ryan Seacrest. While singing, Malakar hesitated with some of the words to the song. Simon Cowell remarked, “Sanjaya, I don’t think it matters anymore what we say … I think you are in your own universe and if people like you, good luck.” The following night, host Seacrest walked out on stage wearing a wig with the same hairstyle, parodying Malakar.
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