The cost of being on 'American Idol'
Once chosen for the live shows, "Idol" contestants are provided room and board, although the accommodations have varied widely from season to season.
"There have been years where they want to show it on the air so they put them up in mansions in the Hollywood Hills; other years, they've put them up in this apartment complex that's not seen on the air," says Rushfield. "It's nothing fancy, but it's not squalor. They have roommates all the way through, and when their roommates get cut, they consolidate them to save on the rooms."
A far bigger expense falls to the contestants' families. "They don't provide travel or expenses for families," he says. "That's the expense that causes the most trouble for Idols and their families."
To ease the pain, an Orange County minister and his wife extended their ministry and their home to the families of Jason Castro, Kristy Lee Cook, Syesha Mercado, Danny Gokey and many others. The ministry itself became an unofficial part of the extended Idol family.
"Danny Gokey had some huge number of brothers and sisters," says Rushfield. "There were like 20 Gokey family members living there."