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Jon Secada Mentoring 'Idol' Cast-Off

4/28/2011 12:20 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF

Jon Secada was so moved when he watched "American Idol" contestant Jovany Barreto perform one of his songs on the show this season ... he agreed to mentor the kid ... TMZ has learned.

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TMZ spoke with Barreto -- a Top 24 finisher -- who tells us he reached out to Secada after performing the Grammy winner's hit song "Angel" ... hoping to get some feedback from his idol. 

Jon told the kid he was impressed -- and offered to take 23-year-old Barreto under his wing ... "kind of like a mentor of sorts."

Jovany immediately moved to Miami to pursue the opportunity -- and Secada tells us there are plans in the works to record something together in the very near future.

Secada adds, "I think he's a very talented singer and can be a great asset to the music industry singing both in English and Spanish."


Steven Tyler -- Music Video Sans Aerosmith

4/24/2011 8:15 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF

Steven Tyler has blown up even bigger because of "American Idol" -- and he's making a big move, telling our photog yesterday he's gonna shoot a music video for a new song ... and no Aerosmith.

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The music video shoot will go down Monday.

By the way ... Tyler has a memoir called "Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?" coming out on May 3.

Aero-who?

J.Lo Stomachs Her Fans

4/20/2011 10:02 AM PDT BY Johnny Lopez

With her taut midriff fully exposed, Jennifer Lopez waved to fans as she left a Best Buy in West Hollywood on Tuesday.

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"American Idol" does the 41-year-old mother of two's body good.

Pia Toscano Will Sing on 'Dancing' ... For Mark

4/19/2011 8:29 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF

He's doing her, and now ... she's doing his show -- TMZ has learned, Pia Toscano will be performing on "Dancing with the Stars" next week ... and get this, her new BF Mark Ballas will dance to her music.

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It's been in the works for a while -- and an hour ago, the deal was sealed.

Pia's performance signifies a borderline incestuous cross-pollination between the two biggest shows on TV ... "American Idol" and "Dancing."

And if that's not enough -- Pia will be back on "Idol" tomorrow for a special cast-off reunion.

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Pia Toscano's Ex Wasn't a Mark Ballas Casualty

4/18/2011 2:00 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF

"American Idol" cast-off Pia Toscano was a single woman two months BEFORE coming to Hollywood in March ...  and long before she started dating Mark Ballas ... TMZ has learned.

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As we previously reported, Pia and Mark went out on a date the NIGHT AFTER she got the boot from "Idol" ... and have since ratcheted up their romance.

There's a report out that Pia unceremoniously dumped her caterer boyfriend Carlos Nunez to trade up to Ballas.

But our "Dancing with the Stars"/"American Idol" spies tell us ... Carlos was history long before Mark entered the picture.

Check out the pics we got of Pia and her ex.  Ah, what could have been.


'Idol' Finalist -- Saved By REAL Judge After Arrest

4/15/2011 10:30 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF

"American Idol" finalist Jacob Lusk threw himself at the mercy of a court back in November -- begging a judge to end his probation from a 2009 arrest so he could compete on "A.I." ... TMZ has learned.

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It all started back in February 2009 -- when cops cited Jacob for riding on an L.A. metro train without buying a ticket. Jacob blew off his court hearing and an arrest warrant was issued.

Fast forward to Nov. 2010 -- a day after Jacob auditioned for "Idol" and got his golden ticket to Hollywood -- Lusk was pulled over for a traffic stop. The cop discovered the warrant and arrested him.

Jacob went to jail and then to court the next day and pled no contest to the train-hopping charge.  He was sentenced to 3 days in jail and 2 years probation.

Jacob served his time and then went back to court, telling the judge "Idol" wouldn't let him on the show if he was on probation.  After his emotional plea, the merciful judge terminated his probation.

Fun Fact -- On night one in the pokey, Jacob sang to 170 inmates, who liked it a lot.  Thing is, the guard wasn't a fan, screaming through the loud speaker, "This isn't a f**king singing contest."

Undaunted, we're told Lusk sang over the next day-and-a-half, preparing for "Idol."  And on his last day, Lusk sang a farewell song, and another guard went on the loud speaker and said it was "bad ass!"

UPDATE: Lusk tweeted this morning, "I've been through a whole lot more than folks would know in this lifetime...BUT GOD has KEPT ME...and I am so thankful! Be blessed!"


'Idol' Rejects' Show Rejects 'Idol' Reject

4/14/2011 9:00 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF

Getting rejected from "American Idol" is bad enough -- but to add insult to injury, TMZ has learned, one ex-contestant also got shut down by OTHER "Idol" rejects ... after asking to join their reunion concert.

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Sources connected with tonight's Minneapolis reunion show tell TMZ, Dr. Chris Kammer -- a giant toothbrush-carrying dentist who was cast off early in the season -- contacted the show organizer and fellow reject Caleb Hawley ... to see if they needed an MC.

Caleb wasn't into the idea -- and responded to Dr. Chris via email, writing, "Though I really appreciate your offer to MC, I think we'll hold this one down on our own."

Caleb offered to put Dr. Chris on the guest list for the show -- which also features Chris Medina and Carson Higgins --  but that wasn't good enough ... because we're told, Dr. Chris plans to protest in front of the venue before the performance.


'Idol' Fan: They DID Say I Was 'Too Big' for Front Row!

4/13/2011 6:15 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF

"American Idol" fan Ashley Kauffman is sticking by her weight discrimination story -- saying she was told flat-out by an "Idol" employee that she was "too big and too heavy" to sit in the front row during last week's show.

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Kauffman appeared on "Good Morning America" this AM, where she explained how the whole ordeal allegedly went down ... and also took the time to correct a few parts of her story that are circling around that AREN'T true.

Kaufman admitted she WASN'T forced to sit all the way in the back of the studio -- more like six rows back from the stage -- and that she DIDN'T have to sit alone without her friends.

As we first reported, "Idol" honchos are calling BS on Kauffman, saying, "We always strive to assure that every audience member has the best experience possible, and these allegations are simply untrue."

Pia Toscano -- Here I Come, Mark Ballas!!!

4/12/2011 8:30 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF

"American Idol" cast-off Pia Toscano just boarded a plane at JFK airport in New York City -- she's coming back to L.A. for another date with Mark Ballas.

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Pia says she thinks we gave her good advice when she was in our office last week -- stand next to someone famous to fuel the rumor mill.

Pia and Mark hit it off so well during their date in L.A. on Friday, that Mark invited Pia back to the West Coast for another round of tonsil hockey ... and TO MEET HIS MOTHER.

No pressure.

'American Idol' -- We Don't Discriminate!

4/12/2011 5:58 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF

The honchos at "American Idol" are scoffing at the claim of an audience member who says she was banished to the back of the studio because she was "just too big, too heavy to be in front."

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Manfred Westphal, who heads up communications for Fremantle (which produces "Idol"), tells TMZ, 19-year-old Ashley Kauffman and her party of 6 were some of the first audience members to arrive for the April 7, 2011 show.  Westphal says, "Our audience coordinator explained they had 6 great seats on the floor; however, the seats were in 2 groups of 3."

Westphal says Kauffman and her party agreed to be split up.  And, Westphal says, contrary to Kauffman's allegation, she was not sent alone to the back of the studio.  Westphal says Kauffman and 2 others in her party were seated 4 rows behind their friends, "directly in camera shot, in some of the best seats in the house."

Westphal says, "At 'American Idol,' we always strive to assure that every audience member has the best experience possible, and these allegations are simply untrue."


Pia Never Stood A Chance of Winning 'American Idol'

4/12/2011 10:00 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF

Pia Toscano never had a chance of winning "American Idol" -- this according to well-placed sources connected with the production.

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We're told before Pia was booted, America's votes put her in the murky middle -- she was never near the top of the heap.  As one "A.I." spy put it, "It was only a matter of time before Pia was kicked off.  She was never going to win."

And, our spies say, there are 5 remaining contestants who are "fairly consistently placing in the top 4."  Our sources would not reveal who they are, but we have an educated guess as to 3 of them -- Scotty McCreery, Lauren Alaina, and James Durbin.  As for the remaining 2, we're guessing Jacob Lusk and Casey Abrams.

As for Pia, don't feel bad.  We're told the rumored record deal she has with Interscope Records is more than a rumor.  We're told it's a "certainty" Pia will sign.  And something else -- Jimmy Iovine will ignore the judges, who wanted Pia to sing some up-tempo songs.  Jimmy, we're told, will go strictly for ballads.


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Mark Ballas to Pia: Come to L.A., Meet My Mama!

4/12/2011 9:00 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF

Pia Toscano is coming back to L.A. today for another round with Mark Ballas, and it's already serious enough for Pia to meet the mom.

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Our spies say Pia is flying in from New York later in the day and will have several dates with Mark during her stay.  And they've already scheduled an evening where Mark's mother, Shirley, will break bread with the "American Idol" castoff.

TMZ broke the story ... Pia and Mark had a hot date last Friday and sucked some serious face.  Pia was angling to meet Mark for awhile, and slipped Mark her phone number using "Dancing with the Stars" contestant Chris Jericho as a go-between.

Mark, we're told, is "totally into Pia and thinks she's amazing."

As one spy told TMZ, "They're totally smitten."


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"Idol" Fans -- Get Rid of Stefano, Bring Back Pia!

4/11/2011 9:00 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF

"American Idol" fans are bombarding the show and FOX ... demanding they bring Pia Toscano back ... and give Stefano Langone the boot.

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Our "Idol" spies tell us hundreds of fans have been begging FOX to recognize the injustice of kicking Pia off the show, and bend the rules.  It appears these fans are organized, because they come with a singular message -- Stefano has no chance of winning and therefore he should be removed now as a sacrificial lamb so Pia can come back.

We're told the fans have even reached out to Stefano ... pleading with him to remove himself from the competition.

Certainly nothing like what the fans are asking for has ever happened on "Idol" -- but hey, it never hurts to try.

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