Ryan Seacrest Talks the Art of Sending 'Idol' Contestants Home

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Brinson+Banks/The New York Times
Ryan Seacrest photographed in 2015.

Since first being cast as host of American Idol back in 2002 (sharing the gig with Brian Dunkleman during season one), Ryan Seacrest has introduced major pop stars, crowned 14 champions -- and ended the dreams of more than 350 singing hopefuls (on live TV, no less). Fortunately for the rejected, the 41-year-old has made an art form of delivering the grim news with a gentle touch. “I’m always impressed by how poised these young contestants have been over the years,” says Seacrest.

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Look The Hopeful in the Eye
“During the commercial break, before the results are handed down, I make a point of looking each [finalist] in the eye and saying, ‘Good luck.’ Then, ‘Take a deep breath, and here we go!’ ”

Read The Body Language
“If there’s a strategy I use, it’s to try and read the person -- really look at their expression, listen to what they say, read their body language. Some contestants are cool and calm under the pressure and can handle it; others are very emotional. I take those cues sometimes. Other times, I’ll just hug them and say, ‘Good night.’ It depends on the moment. You’ve got to rely on your instinct.”

Stand Up For the Finalist (Sometimes)
"There were times -- certainly during the earlier seasons -- when I felt like the contestants needed somebody to stand up for them. So I would help them understand [the judges' criticism] a little bit more or just go back at Simon when he came down hard on them. Not that it was part of my job, but I enjoyed doing it."


Be A Pal
“I see my role in that elimination moment as a friend, a pal, a supportive buddy. My job is to show them appreciation, whether it’s with a hug or something I say.”

-- Reporting by Shirley Halperin

This story originally appeared in the March 25 issue of Billboard.