Kyle Tanguay stepped out of his comfort zone when he auditioned for the Philadelphia Eagles’ cheerleading squad last year. Tanguay, who is openly gay, became the first male Eagles cheerleader in 40 years. When you take a risk like that, trying out for “American Idol” seems like nothing, right?
Not quite. Tanguay, like many children of the mid-aughts, grew up obsessing over the culturally iconic singing competition. At its peak, “American Idol” was the most-watched show on television, staying atop the ratings for seven years. The program propelled unknowns such as Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and Jennifer Hudson to superstardom, while making the brusque Simon Cowell a culture sensation — along with his tight-fitting black and white t-shirts.
Though “American Idol’s” original run ended in 2016, the show was revived two years later on ABC. While Ryan Seacrest is back as host, there is an entirely new set of judges. Nowadays, “Idol” hopefuls sing in front of Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie.
“I stepped out of my comfort zone to make (the Eagles) and be part of this organization,” Tanguay told Outsports. “I thought, ‘I’ll do it again.’ I’m not afraid of hearing the word, ‘No.’”
Tanguay made his “Idol” debut Sunday when the show traveled to Washington D.C. for tryouts. Last summer, while attempting to nail down his choreography for an upcoming performance with New Kids On The Block, Tanguay overheard some of their conversation about the upcoming season of “American Idol.” Despite never previously singing solo — or singing much at all, frankly — Tanguay decided to email the show’s producers. Next thing he knew, they provided him with details about their auditions in the nation’s capital.
In October, Tanguay stepped into the “American Idol” audition room, and it was exactly like he had always imagined.
“I remember when we were kids, my sister and I would play ‘American Idol,’ and I would try to sing, and my sister would sit there and be like, ‘Sorry, not today,’” he said. “It’s the thing we always dreamed of. When you think back to 2006, 2007, 2008, ‘American Idol’ was the show everybody watched. People knew more about American Idol than they did sometimes for the election. I remember watching with my family and then going into school, we would talk about the contestants, and who had done great, and who was in the running to be the next superstar. So to have this opportunity to be on a huge like that and have a platform like that, and I’m so grateful American Idol and the Eagles have allowed me to show this side of me.”
Though Tanguay cannot reveal what happens next, he promises he “wouldn’t change anything for the world” and says the judges are “the best people.” His teammates accompanied him to the audition, making the experience even more memorable.
As Tanguay points out, his teammates have other careers and ambitions. Some are nurses, while others are biochemists. But they all took time out of their demanding schedules to support him. It shows the strength of their bond.
“The Eagles cheerleaders, we always have this mentality to go for it and fight for it and being the underdog,” Tanguay said. “It’s such a Philly motif, being on American Idol and my story. I’m so excited I’ve been able to follow this dream and do something I’m so passionate about.”
While Tanguay hopes to spend his spring chasing his “American Idol” dreams, he intends to try out for the Eagles again (there are no cushy guaranteed contracts in NFL cheerleading). As it turns out, Eagles fans had no problem with the male dancer who crashed their all-female cheerleading party.
Tanguay says he feels like he’s part of an extended family.
“The fans were just incredible,” he told Outsports. “Even if you look on Twitter, for example, yesterday American Idol posted a little snippet of the article the Eagles wrote with a little picture of us, and just go through those comments. The fans are just like, ‘All of Philly is behind him and has got his back!’ There are people who just blow me away. You never know how people are going to receive you, especially being in this position as a male cheerleader in the NFL. The audience of the NFL is very different than the audience of people I would see at a dance show. And they are the best people, they’re my favorite fanbase.
“Quite frankly, they really made this year special for me.”