Sanjaya Joseph Malakar (born September 10, 1989) is an American singer, who was a finalist on the sixth season of American Idol. He gained national attention on the series, controversially advancing to 7th place with public votes, despite being poorly received by the show’s judges, particularly Simon Cowell.
Malakar was born in Capitol Hill, in downtown Seattle,and later lived in the nearby suburb of Federal Way.His father, a musician, is a Bengali Indian named Vasudeva Malakar, who immigrated to the United States, and his mother is an Italian American named Jillian Recchi Blyth. His parents filed for divorce when he was three years old and had been separated for a year prior to doing so.
On September 19, 2006, Malakar, a shy teen,entered the open audition for American Idol at the Seattle Center in Seattle, with his sister Shyamali. Simon Cowell commented that Sanjaya had a better voice than his sister. Both were advanced to the Hollywood round by the judges. Malakar cited Stevie Wonder as his idol, and sang one of Wonder’s signature songs, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” at his Seattle audition.