'Masked Dancer': Brian McKnight on Getting Out of His 'Comfort Zone'

The Masked Dancer returned Wednesday with all-new clues, fun performances and outlandish guesses from the show’s panel. Fans also got to find out the secret identity of Cricket after a fun night of competition.

Wednesday’s Group A playoffs saw the four dancers we first met in the series premiere hit the stage once again for a chance to earn their spot in the Super Six. Tulip, Cricket, Exotic Bird and Hammerhead all danced their hearts out — but one hopeful still had to hit the bricks.

After all the votes were counted, it was Cricket who ended up getting voted off — and he later revealed himself to be none other than superstar singer Brian McKnight!

McKnight spoke with ET’s Nischelle Turner on Thursday, hours after the episode aired, and he reflected on how it felt to be unmasked after his second performance.

“The [real] win is just being on the show,” McKnight, 51, shared. “But in that moment, your competitiveness says, ‘I just lost and now everybody’s gonna know who I am.'” While I’m dancing, nobody knows, but the moment I take this off, now everyone’s gonna be, ‘Oh man, look at that loser.'”

In reality, the show’s panel of celebrity sleuths — which included Ken Jeong, Ashley Tisdale, Paula Abdul and Brian Austin Green, as well as guest panelist Rob Lowe — were blown away by the reveal, and excited to learn that McKnight had been part of the show.

Jeong even said that producers had been trying to get McKnight to be a part of The Masked Singer for some time, which many fans figured would have been a more logical fit for the 16-time GRAMMY nominee. However, McKnight explained why he had been hesitant to sign up.

“Unless I completely disguised my voice… the minute I start singing people will probably know,” McKnight shared with ET. “I think that’s why it made more sense sort of to do this show.”

The celebrated vocalist revealed that it was actually his wife, Leilani Mendoza, who had encouraged him to join the show, despite him not having much of a dance background.

“My wife was like, ‘You should try this. Get out of your comfort zone. Do something a little different,'” McKnight recalled. “And her wish is my command.”

“She was there at every rehearsal,” he added. “When I was getting frustrated, you know, she held my hand. I’ve never had anybody look out for me the way my wife does and I’m gonna continue to do everything she says. Period.”

During Wednesday episode, Exotic Bird was up first, delivering a lively and energetic performance set to “Latch” by Disclosure, featuring Sam Smith that left the panel stunned, and sure that she’s a star.

Cricket was up next, and the contestant seemed a bit less limber than the insect his costume was modeled after. He presented an understated number set to the usually energetic “This Is How We Do It” by Montell Jordan, that showed his swagger, but not necessarily his dance skills.


Hammerhead was up next, and the charismatic shark tapped into his love for social media with a TikTok challenge-inspired number set to The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” that impressed everyone.

The episode also saved the best for last with Tulip, who hit the stage to grace the audience and panel with an emotional, vulnerable and undeniably talented performance set to “Fields of Gold” by Eva Cassidy that seemed to bring a tear to Lowe’s eye as he watched from the panelists’ desk.

Ultimately, it came time to vote and it wasn’t too surprising when Cricket got the boot.

However, before unmasking, it was up to the panel to make their final guesses. Tisdale suggested it could be Ashton Kutcher, while Jeong thought it was Michael Phelps. Green sided with Jeong’s swimmer guess, but suggested it’s Ryan Lochte, and Lowe agreed. Finally, Abdul posited that it could be McKnight.

The panel was stunned when Abdul was proven right and Cricket revealed himself to be none other than the “Back at One” singer.


“Being anonymous was great because I don’t dance,” McKnight joked about his costumed experience, as the panel showered him with praise.

Check out the video below below to hear more about Fox’s new mystery guessing game.

The Masked Dancer airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.

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