ABC has been slammed over 16-year-old Claudia Conway’s American Idol audition with some critics calling it the ‘worst sort of exploitation of a minor’ on reality television.
Claudia, whose parents are former Trump aide Kellyanne Conway and Lincoln Project co-founder George Conway, made it through to Hollywood following her singing debut on American Idol on Sunday night.
Her audition, which was filmed last fall and was heavily promoted by the network in the days leading up to the episode airing, ended up being stretched out over two segments.
It featured a surprise video message from her mother, as well as snippets of Claudia describing her relationship with Kellyanne as ‘iffy’ and the teen TikTok star saying she wanted to get away ‘from the drama’ surrounding her home life.
At one point, judge Katy Perry asked Claudia – whose father accompanied her to the audition – if she was okay and if her mother still hugs her.
Claudia, whose parents are former Trump aide Kellyanne Conway and Lincoln Project co-founder George Conway, made it through to Hollywood following her singing debut on American Idol on Sunday night
Immediately after Claudia’s audition aired, critics lashed out and accused ABC and network executives of taking advantage of the teenager.
Claudia shot to fame on TikTok last year due to her vocal stance against Trump and heated exchanges with her mother who she accused of abuse on numerous occasions.
Some of her videos have sparked concerns about the teen’s safety, as well as calls and emails to authorities.
Just last month, police in her hometown of New Jersey launched an investigation after Claudia accused her mother of posting a topless photo of her on Twitter before she later backtracked and said Kellyanne wasn’t to blame.
Variety TV critic Daniel D’Addario devoted an entire column to Claudia’s audition soon after it aired, with the title: How ‘American Idol’ Used Claudia Conway.
‘Claudia Conway’s appearance on ‘American Idol’ – the worst sort of exploitation of a minor that reality TV has done in memory – ought to prompt real soul-searching among ABC executives,’ D’Addario tweeted alongside a link to his column.
Others also chimed in on Twitter, saying: ‘That Claudia Conway thing was cringe-worthy. ABC taking advantage of her in that manner. Guess we are not better in 2021. Bless her.’
Her audition, which was filmed last fall and was heavily promoted by the network in the days leading up to the episode airing, ended up being stretched out over two segments. She is pictured above with her father George Conway
Her audition featured a surprise video message from her mother, as well as snippets of Claudia describing her relationship with Kellyanne as ‘iffy’ and the teen TikTok star saying she wanted to get away ‘from the drama’ surrounding her home life
Another said: ‘It seems like being in a high pressure media spotlight on a show contrived to exploit emotional drama for ratings is the last thing Claudia Conway needs right now.’
‘American idol is so gross for this. Claudia Conway is a child. Period. The same ppl screaming about #freebritney are engaging with this. It’s so weird,’ one person tweeted.
During the audition, Claudia addressed her relationship with her mother.
‘I’m Claudia Conway. I’m 16. My mother is Kellyanne Conway. She worked for Donald Trump. And my dad is George Conway. He’s a lawyer he worked against Donald Trump,’ she said.
‘I had to move to DC when I was 12 and I hated it. When your mom is working for the President of the United States who you very much disagree with, it’s hard.’
Perry immediately asked her: ‘Are you okay?’
‘No,’ Claudia replied. ‘No but yes.’
Claudia said it was ‘hard’ growing up with her mother working for Trump and that she believed her ‘feelings had been suppressed’ before she joined social media and started posting about her own views.
‘Most of my life, my feelings had been suppressed so then I got social media and I was like, ‘Well, yeah. Now my voice is being heard,’ she said.
Variety TV critic Daniel D’Addario devoted an entire column to Claudia’s audition soon after it aired, with the title: How ‘American Idol’ Used Claudia Conway
Perry then asked Claudia if her mother ‘still hugs’ her after all their public drama.
Claudia replied: ‘Yes but our relationship is iffy. She loves me. I love her. I feel like our relationship’s a little iffy.’
She went on to say she wants to bury the ‘controversy’ and focus on her singing.
‘The internet can be a very, very dark place,’ she said. ‘But when life is all going downhill, I have my music. Now, I kinda want to get out of the controversy, get out of the drama and let people know that I am a singer and this is what I want to do.’
Claudia began her audition with a rendition of Rihanna’s Love on the Brain but was interrupted by Perry after a rocky start.
‘OK, that song, you lost it,’ the judge said, before urging Conway to take off her sparkly high heels, which the teen said were tripping her up.
Claudia was then handed the chance to redeem herself, opting to perform Adele’s When We Were Young instead.
Before she started again, Perry gave a rousing pep talk.
‘When you sing this next song, think about when you were young, and go back to that time,’ Perry said. ‘There’s a sadness there. It’s like, you lost your youth, because you weren’t able to experience it on your own, without all of this noise.
‘Your dad’s your dad. Your mom’s your mom. Who is Claudia? You have to calm the storm that is around you, ’cause if you sing like you want to read the social media comments afterwards, you’re only ever gonna be a TikTok star. We want an American Idol.’
The 16-year-old was voted through to the next round by judges Katy Perry and Lionel Richie, but failed to convince Luke Bryan with her rendition of Adele ‘s When We Were Young, who told her he believed she had ‘limited’ range
At one point, judge Katy Perry asked Claudia – whose father accompanied her to the audition – if she was okay and if her mother still hugs her
Claudia gathered her thoughts for a few moments as he father listened on from outside.
‘I couldn’t imagine anything that would make her happier than to do this,’ George said, wiping tears from his eyes.
Back in the audition room, Luke Bryan said that Claudia had ‘been through a lot as a young girl’.
The country star credited her for ‘selling the emotions’ of the song but said he believed she was limited in her vocal range and voted against sending her to Hollywood.
Perry, however, said she was willing to invest in Claudia, leaving the deciding vote down to Richie.
‘I think what you’re doing right now is stepping forward and announcing who you are,’ he said. ‘You chose music. I’m gonna give you a shot at music. It’s a yes for me.’
The teen shared the news of her golden ticket with Kellyanne via a video call.
Kellyanne screamed with joy and starting dancing around, telling her daughter: ‘I love you so much, I’m very proud with you.’
The pair also shared a moment before Claudia’s performance, in which Kellyanne told her: ‘This is your time to shine’.
Kellyanne had told Claudia she ‘should be nervous’, adding that ‘winners are people who are willing to lose’.