The winner of American Idol won more than a record deal. On the season finale of the ABC singing competition, 19-year-old Iowa native Maddie Poppe was crowned the winner. But minutes before that big news was announced, Maddie and runner-up Caleb Lee Hutchinson revealed they have been secretly dating for months.
Ahead of the announcement that Maddie Poppe was the American Idol Season 16 winner, host Ryan Seacrest noted that the country had fallen in love with the Top 2 contestants. Before Maddie and Caleb sang a finale night song together — a duet of Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” — Seacrest asked Hutchinson: “I’m just wondering, is there a special significance to the song when you sing it with Maddie?”
“She’s my best pal. I’ve known her since Hollywood Week, and she actually happens to be my girlfriend,” Caleb told the audience.
Even American Idol judges Judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan appeared to be shocked by the behind-the-scenes dating scoop, according to E! News. An animated Perry even spun around in her chair multiple times when she heard the news that Maddie and Caleb were a couple.
The American Idol lovebirds proceeded to perform a sweet rendition of “Over the Rainbow” as they held hands. After their sweet performance, Maddie Poppe and Caleb Lee Hutchinson were surprised with a free trip to Disney’s Aulani resort in Hawaii.
And there were no hard feelings when Maddie was announced as the winner of American Idol over her boyfriend. Caleb Lee Hutchinson later took to Twitter to celebrate his girlfriend’s big win.
“MY GIRLFRIEND WON AMERICAN IDOL!!!” Hutchinson tweeted. “No one deserved it more than you babe. I am honored to know you and even more honored to call you mine. Don’t forget about me. I love you.”
After the American Idol finale aired, Caleb Lee Hutchinson told Entertainment Tonight his romance with Maddie Poppe started on Jan. 21, the day they met during Hollywood Week.
“It was the first day of Hollywood Week and we haven’t really spent any time apart since then,” the American Idol runner-up told ET. “It was one of those things where I didn’t want it to affect anything, and I didn’t want to exploit my feelings for her ’cause they’re very, very real. Once voting was over, I was like, ‘Shoot, I want the world to know.'”
Caleb added that he knew ” very quickly” that Maddie was the one for him.
As for “losing” to his girlfriend in the American Idol finale, Hutchinson told ET the following.
“It wasn’t as challenging as you might think. When I looked over at Maddie, I was like, I win either way. I really do. I don’t feel any type of bitter loss at all. I’m just so happy for her.”
American Idol returns to ABC next year for Season 17.