Inside Adam Lambert’s relationship with Simon Cowell

In 2009, Adam Lambert took American Idol by firestorm, bringing his once-in-a-generation voice and classic-rock edge to the show’s eighth season. Though Lambert came in second place to the charming, but more conventional Kris Allen, he’s certainly been a winner in the music industry since. The star — who tours with Queen, put out multiple successful albums, and even opened the 2019 Oscars — was declared Idol‘s highest-earning alum in 2015, bringing home $10 million pre-tax, per Forbes

Lambert, who is openly gay, came out publicly in June 2009, a month after his Idol season wrapped, per Rolling Stone. “‘Come out’ is so funny to me because I’ve never been in,” he told ABC News at the time. He’s since paved the way for other openly gay artists in the music biz, like Troy Sivan. Though Cowell isn’t one to mince words with contestants, he seemed to give the talented Lambert a tough go. “I think your voice is a little theatrical,” Cowell told the singer at his first audition; feel free to connect those dots. Since then, things have changed, and in 2018, the two posed together as Cowell received a Hollywood Walk of Fame star. 

“Thank you for your honesty and for helping kickstart my career in the music industry!!” Lambert wrote on Twitter at the time. It seems Lambert looks back at the judge’s guidance fondly — or does he? Here’s a closer peek at Simon Cowell and Adam Lambert’s relationship.

Adam Lambert said Simon Cowell gave him a 'real hard time' on 'American Idol'

Adam Lambert and Simon Cowell’s relationship has always been… iffy. In a June 2018 interview with NME, Lambert said he felt mistreated by Simon on Idol because of his identity. And he wasn’t the only one. “Up until my season, anytime someone came on the show that was perceived to be gay or it was obvious enough that they were gay, they were a joke; They were made fun of,” Lambert said. “Simon would make fun of them.”

Lambert singled out another singer: Danny Noriega, who competed in the seventh season and placed in the semi-finals, per Yahoo! Entertainment. During the show Cowell called one of his performances “grotesque.” “The first time he called me grotesque I started crying, I was bawling,” Noriega said on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in March 2008, per World of Wonder. Noriega kept singing, becoming famous drag queen Adore Delano with 2.1 million Instagram followers. “You know Adore Delano?” Lambert told NME, “He competed as [Danny] on American Idol years before he was on [RuPaul’s] Drag Race and he’s a good singer.”

Since then, times have changed and Lambert and Cowell are on better terms now. “I did the finale the year before last, and it was the first time I had seen him in 10 years. He was sweet. He said, ‘Good to see you – good job,'” Lambert told NME, adding, “He sort of wised up on that angle and he realized quickly that is not acceptable anymore.”

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