While American Idol crowned Samantha “Just Sam” Diaz the season’s winner during the show’s live remote finale Sunday night, it was Idol host Ryan Seacrest who found himself sharing some of the spotlight.
Towards the end of the show, which had seen Seacrest, 45, nimbly juggling on-air hosting duties as contestants appeared remotely from their homes, the star briefly appeared off: his words seemed slightly slurred and his right eye appeared larger than his left. The moment prompted a flurry of Twitter comments from fans concerned Seacrest was not well, or had suffered some kind of neurological episode.
Not to worry, says a rep for Seacrest, who was also absent from Live with Kelly and Ryan on Monday morning.
“Ryan did not have any kind of stroke last night,” the rep tells PEOPLE in an exclusive statement. “Like many people right now, Ryan is adjusting to the new normal and finding work-home balance, with the added stress of having to put on live shows from home.”
“Between Live with Kelly and Ryan, American Idol, On Air with Ryan Seacrest, and the Disney Family Singalong specials, he has been juggling three-four on-air jobs over the last few weeks and he’s in need of rest,” adds the rep. “So today he took a well-deserved day off.”
Long known as one of the busiest stars in show business with an unparalleled work ethic, Seacrest himself shared with PEOPLE earlier this month how challenging it has been to broadcast remotely amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We put the show together earlier in the week because there are so many factors to it," Seacrest told PEOPLE of the tricky part-live, part-taped hybrid approach. "Every once in a while we have to be careful not to step on each other while we're talking because there’s that delay that we’ve all experienced talking to our families at home on different Zooms and things like that."
Indeed, even during the finale, Seacrest had to navigate seemingly awkward pauses and live-stream imperfections that comes with the uncharted territory.
By the time he crowned Just Sam the winner on Sunday night, Seacrest had pulled things together and relished in the moment as the soulful Harlem native enjoyed the win.
“My grandmother has been saying that she doesn’t believe that people like us can have their dreams come true,” Just Sam, also known as Samantha Diaz, previously said on Idol. “This is proof to her!”
“I kept on pushing, kept on singing and look where it’s brought me,” the former subway singer, 20, said. “I hope to inspire all the little girls who believe their dreams can’t come true. Anyone can do it.”
Seacrest is expected back on Live with Kelly and Ryan this week.
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