How a UD senior wound up on ‘American Idol’. Ryan Secrest met Ryan Seacrest, photo courtesy of Secrest.
Zoë Hill | Print Editor-in-Chief
Ask any senior and they will tell you that the question they get asked the most often is: “What are your plans after graduation?” But for one University of Dayton senior, the question she gets the most is: “Is that actually your real name?”
Ryan Secrest (yes that is actually her real name) studies industrial engineering at UD, but she may have a career in show business after appearing on the season 21 premiere of American Idol.
After bored-scrolling through every other website during a class last fall, Secrest went on her LinkedIn and discovered a message that set off a lot of red flags for her. Someone claiming to work for American Idol was scouting for a skit on the upcoming season of Idol, and they wanted Secrest.
Secrest’s roommates convinced her to ignore the red flags and call the number provided just in case the opportunity was real. To her shock, it was real, and they wanted her to come out to film a skit because she had the same name as the iconic host of the show. American Idol producers also found name twins for the show’s judges, Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionell Richie for the skit, but their Ryan Seacrest backed out at the last minute.
After taking the call, she was offered a paid trip to New Orleans to film her part of the skit, which even she was having trouble believing, let alone convincing her friends and family that it was actually happening.
“It was really hard to convince my parents that I was not being kidnapped,” Secrest said. “I was like, ‘No, I got this message on LinkedIn. They’re gonna fly me to New Orleans to meet Ryan Seacrest and be on American Idol.’”
When she got to New Orleans, she had to blend in with the other contestants as they waited to audition.
“These people are like the best singers I’ve ever heard,” Secrest said. “Most of them were already famous in some sort of way… So, I had to wake up at 5 a.m., and I was in a room with these people all day long.”
She said it was tricky dodging questions like “what song are you going to sing?” and “what’s your Instragam?” Secrest is a self-identified terrible singer, so when the room kept spontaneously breaking out into song, she had to put her acting skills to the test.
After 14 hours, producers told Secrest that the other Seacrest had Covid-19 and wasn’t available to film the skit that day. They invited her to the Nashville auditions later that month to repeat the whole process. She said yes because she was already in this deep.
Finally, at the Nashville auditions, Secrest got to have her full-circle moment: the two Ryan’s met.
“They had me run up and be like ‘Can I have your autograph?’ or something like that and he was like, ‘Yeah, what’s your name?’” Secrest said.
The two Ryans filmed about 10 minutes of their interaction for the show, which ultimately got cut to a 20 second segment. UD’s Secrest said Seacrest kept complimenting her and was incredibly nice.
“He was like, ‘You seem like you have a great personality… Let me know if engineering doesn’t work out for you, like you could work with me,’” Secrest said. “And I go, ‘Oh, all of a sudden engineering isn’t working out.’”
He told Secrest to keep an ear out for the future because this might not be the last time she hears from him.
The clip of Secrest aired Feb. 19, and she finally got to show off the “coolest experience of [her] life.”
“A lot of stuff happened after it aired that I wasn’t really expecting either,” Secrest said. “I kind of was expecting it to air and that would be the end of it.”
Host Seacrest Tweeted about her during the show, and the UD community began to pick up on her appearance on the show. She said as she walked to class the next day, people in the neighborhood were yelling “Ryan Secrest!” Even crazier, Secrest said, was finding out that the clip was shown on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and she was being talked about by Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Jimmy Kimmel.
Secrest said growing up with her name has been both fun and challenging. She got to go on American Idol, so she said she can’t really complain, but she does get constant questions about whether she’s lying about her actual name.
In professional settings or on the first day of class, she said it’s always awkward because she knows people think she’s joking. Putting her name in at a restaurant and going to doctor’s appointments has always been interesting for Secrest to say the least. And being denied at a bar on her 21st birthday because her ID must be a fake, wasn’t fun either, she said. The name has won her a few bets when people call her bluff, though.
Idol premiered June 11, 2002, about 10 months after Secrest was born. At the time, Hollywood’s Seacrest was still trying to make his name, so it was pure coincidence— or fate— that UD’s Secrest ended up being named Ryan, which wasn’t even her mom’s first choice.
“My mom originally was going to name me Victoria,” Secrest said. ‘But then she was like, ‘Well, but then her name would be Victoria Secrest and that it sounds like Victoria’s Secret, and I don’t want her to be embarrassed.”
When American Idol premiered, her parents heard the host’s name and said “It’s fine. This isn’t going to last.”
American Idol— one of the longest-running, most successful and most influential reality television competition shows in history— really made a name for its host. Seacrest now has his own radio show, ‘On Air With Ryan Seacrest,” he just stepped away from hosting daytime talk show “Live with Kelly and Ryan” and he annually hosts “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve;” he is arguably one of the most recognizable hosts in modern television history.
You might want to remember Ryan Secrest’s name because she might just be the next Ryan Seascrest.
You can check out the “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” clip here and the full episode Secrest appears in streaming on Hulu (season six, episode one, 21 minutes in).