RJ Helton Walked a Path Few are Brave Enough to Do

Photo Credit: Sony Legacy

When I did a “where are they now” piece on Jim Verraros last month, I received a number of comments asking about RJ Helton, Verraros’ fellow American Idol season 1 contestant who came out after the show. Well, ask and you shall receive, so here’s what the Texas native is up to after the hit singing contest concluded. 

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As with Verraros, RJ Helton didn’t have the easiest time on the show. With powerhouses like Kelly Clarkson and Tamyra Gray fighting for votes, Helton was often lambasted for having vocals that “weren’t up to par” for that point in the competition. While he may not have the pipes of Clarkson and pizazz of Gray, I still found the young singer to have a smooth voice with a calming tone. Plus, he was undeniably charming and good looking.

RJ was originally cut from the running at the Top 30 mark but was brought back as a Wild Card and advanced to the Top 10 after another nationwide vote. At the end of his tenure at Fox, he finished in 5th place overall.

Unbeknownst to most, because the internet was still a baby at the time in 2002, Helton has a strong Christian faith and set out to become a gospel artist. Before Idol, he was a youth worship leader and a member of a short-lived faith-based boyband called Soul Focus. Eventually, he released his debut album, Real Life, in March 2004 and it peaked at #14 on the Billboard Christian Albums Chart. 


In a 2006 interview, Helton came out as gay and talked about his struggles with loving God while most of the Christian community was bashing him for who he chose to love. The parallel between RJ Helton in 2006 and David Archuleta in 2022 is uncanny! 

This didn’t stop RJ from releasing new music, though. In 2012, he was featured on a track titled “Blessing” included on Scott Alan’s live album. Then, in 2014, he and fellow American Idol finalist Vonzell Solomon (from season 4) released a duets album covering Christmas classics. And after a quick Spotify search, I discovered he released two singles – “Even If” and “Tell Me” – in 2020 under Trinitee Urban Records. 

Now, unlike Verraros, Mr. Helton goes for long stretches of time without using his Facebook or Twitter. Not that it’s a bad thing. His mental health is probably so on point without all that noise in his head. As long as RJ, now age 41, is happy with his life and what he accomplished as a performer, that’s all that really matters. 

3 thoughts on “RJ Helton Walked a Path Few are Brave Enough to Do”

  1. I loved him. I own his Christian CD just pulled it out and am listening to it. I remember growing up gay in the Christian community & loving his music. It’s nice to see him being gay & proud. His story seems similar to David Archuleta. Loved him as well.


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