Normandy Vamos, the carrot purse carrying, squeaky voiced girl who sang with a deep voice is suing American Idol producers, alleging that she was underpaid. She’s also complaining that the show set her up to be mocked.
According to a lawsuit filed on Friday by Vamos, according to Business Insider, she and other contestants were treated as employees but not paid, working 15 hour days with little to no breaks. Vamos alleged that her final audition was partially set up for viral fame in a class action lawsuit that includes up to 400 former participants.
In the lawsuit, Vamos said that she spent Hollywood Week round in a hotel, but was not paid fairly. At that point, Vamos’ attorneys allege, the show should have classified the participants as employees and not volunteers under California law, as the episodes had the potential to be re-aired.
Made to standby 15 hours a day for up to 8 days on end
The contestants allegedly remained in the Los Angeles hotel for 15 hours a day on stand-by, for up to 8 days on end, waiting to be called for auditions without any pay, according to the lawsuit. The wage theft lawsuit also alleges that contestants were made to sign “work-for-hire” contracts that signed away their copyrights and license rights to performances (this is standard on all talent shows).
“American Idol’s producers seem to feel they can break labor laws and exploit ambitious young performers simply because they may be eager for a shot at becoming the next Jennifer Hudson or Carrie Underwood,” Vamos’s attorney, Chantal Payton, principal managing partner of Payton Employment Law, PC, said in a press release. “They treated them as so-called volunteers, when in reality they are employees who should be paid.”
The lawsuit accuses Idol of treating Vamos like a “laughingstock”
Also in the follow-up press release sent out by Vamos and her lawyer, they claim the judges–Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan–made a “laughingstock” of her audition.
Her lawyers claimed that Vamos was instructed to retrieve a carrot-shaped purse she owned in order to help create a viral moment. Judges leaned into her high-pitched speaking voice for an audition, the attorneys said in the statement.
Watch the season 20 audition below. The judges don’t mock her. They marvel at the difference between her speaking and singing voices, compliment her talent, give her advice on how to improve, and then send her off to Hollywood. She walked into the audition with a shtick of being the “quirky” girl. She had to understand she was there at least partially for comic relief.
“Reality TV isn’t always real”
Now, as far as California labor laws and how reality shows take advantage of the talent financially, that’s a whole ‘nother thing. Reality shows are NOTORIOUS for skirting union laws not only regarding the talent, but writers as well. Contestants aren’t paid a decent wage until they go deep into the competition. These are thorny issues that have yet to be resolved. If a lawsuit comes along that forces shows to pay their talent fairly, that’s a good thing.
But as far as what happens on the show? Go on a reality show, and producers reserve the right to edit a person any way they want. Talent signs contracts that contain that verbiage. In any case, Normandy got a pretty positive edit. Maybe she’s upset that she spent Hollywood week hanging around, but never got on camera. Also, she’s 30 and has aged out of auditioning again.
“Reality TV isn’t always real. There’s a lot that happens behind the scenes,” Vamos said in a press release. “Myself and hundreds of people worked about a week with no pay.”