While Frenchie Davis was booted from the second season of “American Idol” when racy pictures of the buxom singer surfaced online, this season’s lightning rod, Antonella Barba, is still competing.
Davis isn’t levying charges of racism or weightism against the show because of her ouster (Rosie O’Donnell already did that for her on Tuesday’s episode of “The View”), but she does understand the allegations. “I didn’t say the words ‘It’s not fair.’ That didn’t come out of my mouth,” Davis told MTV News. “But I can certainly understand why it would raise some eyebrows.”
When Davis posed for an adult Web site, she was 19 years old and looking for money to help pay for her books and tuition at Washington, D.C.’s Howard University. “At the time, I was homeless,” Davis said. “It’s not something I’m proud of, but I don’t regret it either, because it contributed to who I am today.”
Barba, who at 20 years old is around the same age Davis was when she took her photos, was presumably looking for thrills, not cash, when she posed for her shots, which were never meant for publication. MTV News was unable to reach Barba for comment because contestants are not allowed to speak to the press during the early run of the show.
Davis said she told producers about the shots before being kicked off in 2003 and they were fine with her modeling — until the media got wind of it. “I was surprised if for no other reason than I had been upfront about my past and allowed to compete,” Davis said. “All Fox reality-show contestants are required to submit background check information. I filled out numerous forms … asking me, ‘Have you ever been arrested?’ ‘Have you ever modeled?’ ‘Have you ever modeled nude?’ And before I was in the top 30 we spoke about it in detail, and they thanked me for being honest.”
Approximately two months after her disclosure, Davis got a phone call from a friend at Teen People who told her that her editor had been told the singer was about to be kicked off the show. “It leaked to the media before I was even told,” Davis said.
That’s why Davis was a bit shocked when she learned that “Idol” was not kicking Barba off but actually supporting her — as were more than a few “Idol” watchers (see “Sexy Pictures Won’t Get Barba Booted From ‘Idol’ — But Wednesday Night’s Song Could” ). “It’s insane,” said Davis, who currently performs in “Rent” on Broadway. “I was like, ‘Wow.’ A little taken aback.”
Frenchie fans even staged a protest on Tuesday in front of the Los Angeles’ Kodak Theatre, where “Idol” is taped. While some “Idol” watchers guessed that keeping Barba on the show had to do with her photos being private and not professional, there were many skeptics. O’Donnell said outright, “I think it’s because she’s black. I think it’s weightist and racist.”
Davis won’t say it’s a double standard, but she appreciates that O’Donnell came to her defense. “She’s fantastic,” the singer said. “I love it.”
“Idol” co-executive producer Nigel Lythgoe issued a statement refuting the charge, which he called “absurd and ridiculous.” “Ms. O’Donnell has … spoken without thought or knowledge,” Lythgoe said. “Viewers need only look at the show tonight to realize that ‘American Idol’ constantly confirms to America that talent has nothing to do with weight or color.”
“I don’t necessarily want Antonella to be kicked off the show,” Davis said. “This has nothing to do with her. This has to do with there being a clear understanding of what the rules are, and if they apply to one contestant, they should apply to all of them.”Get your “Idol” fix on MTV News’ “American Idol” page, where you’ll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions.