2006 – American Idol contestant Derrell Brittenum surrenders to the Georgia police. Along with his twin brother Terrell, Brittenum performed on the hit show while being wanted on theft and forgery charges.
Terrell and Derrell Brittenum caught in new ‘American Idol’ controversy
By Christopher Rocchio, 01/17/2008
One American Idol mini-controversy apparently wasn’t enough for Terrell and Derrell Brittenum, the Memphis twins that were disqualified from the show’s fifth-season Hollywood Round after identity theft charges surfaced.
On Wednesday morning, the brothers’ newly-signed independent record label boldly announced that although American Idol had advanced them to the show’s Hollywood Round after they’d attended Idol’s seventh-season Atlanta auditions this summer, the twins had decided to “decline” the offer and instead release a debut album. The only problem is it wasn’t true.
“We thought long and hard about joining American Idol for season seven. Although it’s a great opportunity, we feel The Brittenum Twins are a group and only one of us can win and if I can’t do it without my brother I don’t think it would be a true win,” Terrell stated in the release. “Also, we have done it before, we know some of the techniques the judges use and don’t want anyone think we have an unfair advantage over the other contestants.”
However during a subsequent Wednesday afternoon interview with Reality TV World, Derrell and Terrell admitted that, despite the boastful announcement, it wasn’t their decision to not participate. Instead, the fact that they had already been 29-years-old at the time of their August audition meant that they were technically ineligible to compete in American Idol’s seventh season. (Idol 7 hopefuls were required to be between 16 and 28 years old as of July 28, 2007 — meaning that all applicants must be born on or between July 29, 1978 and July 28, 1991 in order to be eligible.)
“We auditioned with flying colors… They passed us through to [executive producer Ken Warwick]. Ken Warwick was like, ‘What do you guys think you’re doing? You’re 29-years-old. You know the limit is 28,'” said Terrell. “We were like, ‘We just want a second chance to show the world we’ve been through a lot…’ We just really viewed it as a second chance, and when we sang for Ken, he agreed.”
What did you think about American Idol’s premiere?
Talk about it on Reality TV World’s American Idol message boards.
Following their meeting with Warwick, Derrell and Terrell claim they were sent to audition for Idol judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson, who all agreed the twins “do possess the talent to come back to the show” and thus awarded them a ticket to the season’s Hollywood Round.
“But before we could go to Hollywood Week — one week before we leave for Hollywood Week — they tell us there’s a possibility that we might not be on the show because our age is posing a problem for the legal department,” said Derrell. “So we fly out for Hollywood Week, and they tell us that we cannot do the show.”
When pressed, the brothers also acknowledged that despite their press release comments, they wouldn’t have declined the chance to participate if producers had waived the age requirement.
Terrell and Derrell Brittenum
“We would have been on… It’s a wonderful vehicle,” Terrell admitted.
“I think I would have taken it,” added Derrell. “You just can’t beat the Idol machine.”
When contacted by Reality TV World, a Fox publicist could not immediately confirm or deny any of the twins claims. In addition, the publicist couldn’t state whether Terrell and Derrell will be featured in American Idol’s seventh-season Atlanta auditions broadcast, which is scheduled to air Tuesday, February 5 at 8PM ET/PT.
“I really wonder if they’re going to air the footage… It was funny, it’s hilarious, it’s a story, it’s a message,” said Terrell. “It’s all of that in one. I really think even though [executive producer Nigel Lythgoe] said they’re not going to use it — I believe that that’s not [going to be] the case. I really believe that they’re going to use it this year, even if we’re not going to be on the show for Hollywood… We make good TV. They know that.”
The Brittenum brothers are no strangers to being uninvited from Idol’s Hollywood Round. They attended Idol 5’s Chicago audition in September 2005 and both immediately impressed the judges with their smooth, soulful voices, earning them a ticket to the season’s Hollywood Round.
However shortly after Fox aired their Idol 5 audition in January 2006, it was revealed the twins were being charged with forgery, theft by deception and financial identity fraud for allegedly buying a 2005 Dodge Magnum using another man’s identity.
While they were released from police custody shortly thereafter, their invite to Idol 5’s Hollywood Round was rescinded by the show’s producers, ending their Idol journey before it ever really began.
They then had a tentative deal with rapper Jermaine Dupri’s SoSo Def Records soon after the controversy, but they claim a lawyer representing them “messed the deal up.”
“We’re sort of trying to U-turn the bad decision we made about stealing the car, just trying to get our lives right,” said Terrell before adding they unfortunately found trouble again. “So we get locked up [in jail] again for an address change in July, and Idol was coming back to Atlanta on the fourteenth. We already planned to audition again for Idol at [age] 29.”
“We just thought let’s just give it another go,” added Derrell. “Maybe we can overturn the bad press and sort of make it good. let people know we made stupid decisions in life — but we still are talented… Just because we made bad decision doesn’t mean we have to stay down in the mess that we’re in. We can always pick ourselves back up and start over again.”
Terrell and Derrell’s first single off their “The Come Up” debut album is scheduled to be released in February via TSG Records, an Atlanta-based company that is home to several R&B singers and rappers. In addition, Terrell and Derrell have launched a foundation called U-Turn where they visit high schools to mentor youth.
Regardless of whether they appear in next month’s Atlanta auditions broadcast, the twins say American Idol viewers may still not have seen the last of them.
“They did give us an opportunity to come back to the show as far as guest appearances,” said Derrell. “So we’re thinking if the single does climb the charts, we’ll call American Idol and I’m sure they would love to put us back on the show.”