updated 02/13/2014 AT 2:00 AM ET
•originally published 02/13/2014 AT 7:00 AM ET
After thousands of auditions, hundreds of golden tickets and weeks of performances, there was a first on Wednesday’s American Idol: An openly gay contestant made the Top 30.
M.K. Nobilette, 20, broke that barrier, saying, “I’m very obviously gay, and there are always gonna be people in America who will definitely hate me, but I think that in the last two years there have been a lot of things that have really changed that.”
“The world is changing,” said Jennifer Lopez, “and we think you could be an American Idol.”
Other girls to make the Top 15 girls include:
Emily Piriz, 17, who delivered a breakout solo performance with “Stars.”
Jillian Jensen, 21, who performed an original song in order to show the judges who she was as an artist.
Bria Anai, 16, who nearly knocked down the Dolby Theatre with her memorable performance of “It’s A Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World.”
Nurse Kristen O’Connor, 24, whose soft, lyrical performance of “Unconditionally” was sweet medicine to the judges’ ears.
Malaya Watson, the bespectacled, braces-wearing teen whose first name means “freedom,” was the first tuba player to make the Top 15, moving on despite a rough start to her performance but ultimately nailing “I Believe”.