‘American Idol’ elimination of ‘90 Day Fiance’ star a harsh reality-TV lesson

  • Evelyn Cormier, a former star of “90 Day Fiance,” auditions on “American Idol.” MUST CREDIT: Nicole Rivelli/ABC

The Washington Post
Published: 4/16/2019 11:00:41 AM

These days, it’s common to see aspiring reality stars jump from one show to another: Bachelor contestants head to Marriage Boot Camp, or Big Brother competitors go on The Amazing Race. But contestants often learn that the reputation from your first show typically carries over to the next — sometimes with unfortunate consequences.

This situation cropped up recently on American Idol, which is enjoying its second season on ABC after being canceled by Fox. Evelyn Cormier, 20, a teacher from Claremont, was immediately recognizable when she appeared on the first round of auditions in March; her first reality TV gig was in fall 2017, as one of the stars of TLC’s hit 90 Day Fiance.

Cormier’s storyline on 90 Day Fiance, which involved lots of bickering with her husband-to-be, was not well-received by many viewers and appeared to contribute to harsh online criticism during Idol. While certain fans loved her and the judges praised her vocals (Katy Perry deemed Cormier “one of my favorite voices I’ve ever heard in my life”), as soon as she made the Top 14 round this week, viewers finally had the chance to vote. And on Monday night, they eliminated her from the competition.

Granted, some people just didn’t enjoy her self-proclaimed “odd” voice, or her Sunday performance of Jimmy Eat World’s The Middle. But even a brief scroll through Twitter, Facebook comments or Idol forums showed viewers who connected her 90 Day Fiance stint to her current show, declaring they weren’t fans then and they’re weren’t fans now.

It didn’t matter that Cormier’s portrayal on Idol as the sweet, quirky singer was the polar opposite of her edit on 90 Day Fiance as the controlling, self-centered bride. It’s a harsh lesson of starring on a reality show: First impressions, especially negative ones, tend to stick.

Cormier’s past reality show experience didn’t come up at all in her first audition, at least in the edited-for-TV version — even though the judges asked about her wedding ring and were shocked when she told them she got married at 18. In her pre-taped introduction, Cormier talked about her husband, David, and said “the biggest issue was that he was from Spain. David and I did long-distance for a while, and then he was finally able to come to the United States.”

Of course, that’s the entire premise of 90 Day Fiance: The show follows couples in which one person is an American citizen, and the other is from another country. As soon as they arrive in America, the clock starts ticking on their K-1 visa, which gives them 90 days to decide whether they want to get married.

On Cormier and her husband’s season, the two were shown arguing almost constantly leading up to their nuptials. While every reality show needs drama, their scenes became uncomfortable: Memorable moments included a conversation about the American dream in which Cormier told David, “There’s no such thing as a European dream.” David made Cormier’s best friend cry when he said, “You sound like someone who’s not dating anyone.” During one fight about how much money to spend on the wedding, and a discussion of the culture clash, Cormier replied bluntly, “You’re in America now.”

They eventually married in October 2017 and, unlike some couples on the show, are still together.

90 Day Fiance also served as a promotional vehicle for Cormier’s singing career, as she performed in a family band. It worked: Cormier told In Touch Weekly that an American Idol producer noticed her and recruited her to try out this season.

On Sunday night’s episode, before her performance of The Middle, Cormier finally brought up her first brush with fame in her introductory video.

“This isn’t actually my first time on television. I was on a reality show called 90 Day Fiance, ” Cormier told the camera. “But ultimately, I’d rather be recognized for my music.”

Cormier didn’t make the cut on Monday — she landed in the bottom seven fan-voted finalists. And although the judges didn’t save her (they were allowed to save three contestants to make up the Top 10, who will perform next week), they all offered encouragement.

“This is probably the beginning of your long career,” Lionel Richie told her.

“You’re graceful, you’re beautiful, I’m a huge fan of you, and I think you’re on your way to becoming a spectacular artist,” Perry said.

Bryan encouraged her to ignore her haters: “Don’t take this ‘America’s vote’ and let it start changing what you are.”

On Twitter on Monday night, Cormier posted praise for those who made the Top 10.

“It has been an incredible journey on @AmericanIdol. I am sad that it is ending for me, but I’m so proud of all of my fellow contestants who made the top 10. They deserve all the success in the world. Thank you for all the love, and don’t worry! I’ll never quit on my dreams!”

On Facebook, she let fans know that despite not making the Top 10, she will continue to pursue music.

“I have several musical projects that have been put on a shelf while on the show — I am in the middle of recording an album — now I can finish it,” Cormier wrote. “I have many exciting opportunities ahead that is going to keep me very busy.”

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