By Lia Haberman
Given the shady nature of Fox's reality series' contestants, the net might want to consider casting its shows directly from the state penitentiary.
Fox's latest jailbird is 22-year-old American Idol finalist Trenyce (aka Lashundra Cobbins), who managed to avoid the chopping block this week with a rendition of "I Need You." Following in the Fox tradition of scandal-plagued contestants (Sarah Kozer, Frenchie Davis, Jaered Andrews, Taheed and Ytossie...) the unemployed singer from Memphis has a prior rap sheet, according to a report published on the Smoking Gun Website.
Along with her powerful set of pipes, Trenyce apparently has 10 sticky fingers, which got her busted in October 1999 for a felony theft charge.
Now living it up in Hollywood luxury, Trenyce was forced by a Shelby County, Tennessee, criminal court judge to spend a year in a pretrial diversion program. The wannabe diva's record was later wiped clean for good behavior.
According to her show bio, when asked about her most embarrassing moment, Trenyce responded: "I don't have one that I can think of." Maybe if she gets a look at the sullen mug shot from the files of the Memphis Police Department, published online by the Smoking Gun, she might reconsider.
The producers, who at the very least should start wearing bullet-proof vests and leaving their valuables at home, released a statement today: "It was a minor matter that Trenyce was honest about from the beginning. After looking into it, we felt it warranted no concern regarding her participation in the show," said Idol's coexecutive producer Nigel Lythgoe.
The statement stands in sharp contrast to the swift dismissal of former Idol contestant Frenchie Davis, who was booted from the show when news broke that she posed topless for an adult Website that peddles kiddie porn. (Davis says she was of consenting age when she did the photo shoot.)
However, judging by Frenchie's success since her dismissal, it would appear a little scandal can't hurt a reality TV contestant's chances. Along with the support she received from viewers, Frenchie was signed to a management deal with Idol producers' 19 Entertainment, she became the source of a Saturday Night Live (news - Y! TV) parody starring Queen Latifah, she served as a Grammy correspondent for Entertainment Tonight, and she's currently meeting with record and movie execs.
Of course, there's scandal, and then there's murder. The latter is the problem plaguing disgraced contestant Jaered Andrews, who was kicked off the show in January.
Instead of meeting with music execs, Andrews is getting intimately acquainted with the Mercer County court system after being arrested earlier this month for a bar brawl that ended in the death of a fellow patron.
Andrews was celebrating his Idol nomination with friends last November, when a fight broke out with one Thomas Blakeley. Andrews allegedly knocked Blakeley to the ground, where he hit his head on the sidewalk and died.
Andrews, who remains free on $5,000 bail, had a preliminary hearing March 14, and is likely to be arraigned in the next few months. He faces up to a year in prison if convicted on the assault charge.
Meanwhile, Idol marches on. Trenyce is one of nine finalists remaining after Julia DeMato got voted off Wednesday night. Also among the final nine is singing soldier Josh Gracin. On Thursday, both Fox and the Marine Corps. reiterated that the lance corporal is not receiving preferential treatment from the Marines to compete on the show and that he could be called for duty in Iraq (news - web sites) at any moment.