‘American Idol’ judges face criticism after sending home transgender singer Ace Stiles: ‘What a huge mistake’

American Idol” fans want a do-over. Just minutes after Cuban-American performer Yurisbel received a golden ticket to Hollywood based solely on his personality, not his voice — something Katy Perry suggested they may later “regret” — the judges decided to send home gifted singer-songwriter Ace Stiles.

Ace, one of the long-running reality TV show’s first-ever transgender contestants, sang his original song “Addicted,” which is “not about drugs because I’m only 16 and that’s illegal” (watch above). Katy and Luke Bryan told the “introverted” high school student that he wasn’t quite ready for Hollywood, while Lionel Richie threw him a pity vote to let him know they still “believe” in him. Tears in his eyes, Ace left the stage and wrapped his arms around his supportive mother.

Since the episode aired on Sunday night, the judges have been receiving criticism online from confused fans, many of them wondering why Ace was cut while others went through to the next round. “How many contestants sang and then Katy coached them up, sang again and got through (*cough* Claudia)?” wondered Caitlin Mahan on Twitter. “Ace was so good, so unique, inspiring and refreshing. What a huge mistake.” This viewer was referring to Claudia Conway, the daughter of controversial political figures Kellyanne Conway and George Conway, who squeaked by with a golden ticket in the season premiere.

“The judges’ patronizing of this amazing artist as ‘quirky’ was about one of the most repulsive things I’ve seen on TV,” wrote TrueBlueAmerican, who then compared Ace’s elimination to Yurisbel’s success. “If only Ace had worn a big gold chain, huge sunglasses, and had grind his hips maybe they would’ve put him through. Massive fail #AmericanIdol.”

Other fans, such as Jenny Kenne, pleaded for the judges to change their minds. “If it’s at all possible, could you please bring back Ace? Mesmerizingly beautiful,” she replied on a post in which Katy called Ace “gospel.” Unfortunately, there is no such wild card slot on “American Idol” and so Ace will have to wait until next year if he wants to try auditioning again.

SEE ‘American Idol’ Winners List (Seasons 1 – 18)

The judges were succinct in their critiques of Ace’s performance, with the consensus being that he just didn’t “command” the performance, as Lionel stated. “The curiosity of your voice is there … so that’s where my dilemma is.”

Katy called his voice “interesting” and “vintagey” before adding, “I think that you’ve got something worth investing in. It’s gonna get better in all the ways the longer that you have more experience of life, of playing out, getting out of your comfort zone … you’re a quirky artist, but we want it long term, we don’t want a short situation for you.”

And Luke chimed in, “I feel like you’re far smarter than your years, but the only thing that I’m dealing with is the introverted, the quietness of your voice. I think as you grow older you’ll be able to write songs in that realm and I would totally anticipate that out of you. But I think it’s just not quite ready for ‘American Idol’ yet.”

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