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Former American Idol judge returns for iconic surprise moment – see who it is

The legendary performer was one of the show's inaugural judges


american idol former judge returns
Ahad Sanwari
Ahad Sanwari - New York
Senior WriterNew York
February 27, 2023
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American Idol has had its fair share of shake-ups to the judging panel over its two-decade run, with several iconic performers taking on the mantle.

While the current panel, consisting of Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan have been consistently present for six seasons, they were joined by one of the judges from the inaugural season for a special surprise.

Check out in the video below who returned for the show's 21st season in this shock moment!

WATCH: Former inaugural American Idol judge returns for surprise

The show is already deep into the auditions process, having already traveled through several cities like Las Vegas and Nashville.

Speaking about his role on season 21 of the talent show, host Ryan Seacrest told People: "The season is going to be really great. We found some great contestants, a lot of country singers as one might expect."

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He added: "Every time we go out on the road we think, 'OK, did we tap out on all the great talent?' But what we've seen, honestly, is the contestants who are 7, 8, 9 years old, they practice like an athlete to audition when they can.

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The inaugural judge returned to surprise McKayla Stacey

"They take it very seriously, whereas in the earlier years, they kind of just did it on a whim. These kids rehearse for it, and they treat it like an Olympic sport in a way."

The season is the first Ryan will be hosting ever since he announced that he would be departing Live with Kelly and Ryan after six years alongside Kelly Ripa.

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During an interview on Good Morning America, Lionel opened up about how his bond with his fellow judges has continued to grow. 

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The show is back for its 21st season

"When we first got in, Luke didn't know Katy. I knew Luke but I was wondering whether that little chemistry was going to work," he told Robin Roberts, adding: "Honestly, 15 seconds after they met, they were old friends."

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