Idol shock as humiliated fan dies of overdose

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A Paula Abdul fan, who was publicly humiliated during an audition for American Idol, has been found dead outside the talent show judge’s home.

Paula Goodspeed, who was mocked for wearing braces on her teeth on the hit TV programme, died of a suspected drug overdose on Tuesday evening, in a car parked next to Ms Abdul’s gated mansion in Sherman Oaks.

A picture of the 1980s pop star was hanging from the rear view mirror, and police reported that a large quantity of prescription drugs was found on the back seat of the vehicle, which had the personalised number-plate: "ABL LV."

Ms Goodspeed’s death gives the makers of Idol, America’s most popular TV show, serious pause for thought regarding the treatment of the thousands of unsuccessful contestants kicked off the programme each year.

The 30-year-old had appeared on the show back in January 2006, after travelling from Los Angeles to Austin in Texas for an audition. Viewers saw her dressed in a garish pink tracksuit and performing the Tina Turner ballad Proud Mary. In a pre-audition interview with the show’s host, Ryan Seacrest, Ms Goodspeed admitted to being a "really big fan" of Abdul, and said she spent her free time creating life-size drawings of the star.

Unfortunately, her singing failed to impress the judges. Abdul declared herself "speechless," after Goodspeed's performance, adding: "that’s not a good thing." Fellow pundits Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson mocked her appearance.

"I don’t think any artist on Earth could sing with that much metal in their mouth anyway," said Cowell. "You have so much metal in your mouth, it’s like a bridge!... How did she get through the metal detector? It must have gone crazy."

A month after the audition was aired, Ms Goodspeed used her MySpace page to talk about the criticism she'd received, complaining that she had found it hard to deal with the “awful things” said about her. She also claimed to be hugely upset by criticisms aired by bloggers who had watched the show, but added that she still had a “secret crush” on Abdul, whom she called “beautiful.”

The tragedy has come at an inconvenient time for American Idol, which is based on a format created in the UK and is watched by almost 30 million viewers. The show is due to return to the network channel Fox for its eighth season in January.

Critics have long accused TV talent contests of dealing with unsuccessful contestants in an unnecessarily cruel manner. They will now say it was only a matter of time before one of the hugely-profitable shows unleashed such a disaster.

Mindful of the potential controversy, neither Fox nor the show’s producer, Fremantle Media North America would comment yesterday.

Ms Abdul released a statement through her publicist saying: "I am deeply shocked and saddened at what transpired yesterday. My heart and prayers go out to her family."