Accusations of weight discrimination on "American Idol" are nothing new. Plus-sized contestant Mandisa had it with out with Simon Cowell in Season 5 after he cruelly criticized her appearance, and one Milwaukee auditioner this season argued that her weight was the real reason she didn't get a golden ticket. But the case of 19-year-old Ashley Kauffman is the first time, to my knowledge, that an "Idol" audience member has complained about this type of prejudice.
According to Radar Online, the 5-foot-2, 150-pound Ashley was forbidden to sit in the front row with her five friends at a recent "Idol" taping because, she claims, she was overweight. "One of us was not in a great outfit and [a woman working on the set] said, 'Oh, I don't want shorts in front.' Then she looks at me and goes, 'Oh no, you're just too big, too heavy, to be in front!'"
Ashley adds: "I was kind of taken aback. I'm not that big, but I understand I was bigger than the girls I was with. But I was like, 'Wow, way to hit a low blow.'"
Ashley also claims that two of her friends were deemed "not suitable" and seated in back of the theater. "My three other friends were right in the front row by the seated area near the judges. And we're thinking we'd be behind them. Well, the guy grabs my ticket and looks at it and goes, 'This makes sense why you're not with the skinny girls. You're in the last row.'
"I felt so belittled as a person because of my weight. They ended up putting two girls who were super-skinny and wearing little dresses in the front row where we would have been sitting. The only people that weren't really skinny were the families in that section."
However, an "Idol" rep denies Ashley's story, according to TMZ. Manfred Westphal, who runs communications for "Idol" production company Fremantle, tells TMZ that the reason for splitting up Ashley's group of gal pals was simply a lack of seating.
"Our audience coordinator explained they had six great seats on the floor; however, the seats were in two groups of three," Manfred says--claiming that Ashley's possee agreed to be split up, and that Ashley and two of her friends were seated only four rows behind the rest of their party, "directly in camera shot, in some of the best seats in the house."
Manfred stresses: "At 'American Idol,' we always strive to assure that every audience member has the best experience possible, and these allegations are simply untrue."
Who do you think is telling the truth here?
[photo courtesy of TMZ]