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This Is What It's Actually Like To Be A Contestant On A Singing Competition Show

Updated October 3, 2019 21.6k views12 items

The allure of American Idol came in part from its sense of possibility. Could the next Carrie Underwood or Kelly Clarkson be standing in line, waiting for their chance to wow the judges? Could you, talented viewer, be the next American Idol star? Well, making it on a top TV talent show isn't exactly simple. Even if you get to the front of that mass of hopefuls, you won’t be coming face-to-face with any famous singers or music producers. It’s going to be a long, long time before that happens.

What's it like to be on American Idol? Judging by the stories from American Idol contestants and would-be contestants, it's no picnic. Getting on reality competition series like Idol, The X Factor, or The Voice takes a very long time. But if you've got the music in you, these reality television experiences will let you know what to expect as you strive to get in front of the cameras.

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  • You Might Be Banned From Having Sex

    Photo: Fox

    Sometimes the rules contestants have to follow get a little intense. During one UK X Factor season, the finalists were banned from having "intimate physical relationships." On top of that, they were forbidden to go outside without a member of the show’s team, answer the front door, or smoke cigarettes anywhere apart from the backyard.

    These rules were supposedly put in place to keep the house quieter and more secure than in rowdy past seasons.

  • You Might Live With All The Other Contestants

    Photo: ITV

    Most singing competition shows have their final group of contestants all live together in a huge house. Adam Lambert, a Season 8 American Idol finalist, remembers the producers wanting to get some Big Brother-style, behind-the-scenes footage of the pad - which all the contestants vehemently opposed.

    The X Factor also groups all its live show singers into one living space. But they're not exactly cramped: the show's swanky, gigantic house is worth $4.6 million.

  • The Show Will Become Your Whole Life

    Photo: NBC

    These singing competition shows are an all-consuming experience. If you make it to the live show stages, you’ll be eating, sleeping, and breathing American Idol/The Voice/X Factor. That invested time has its downsides. Jessie Poland, a contestant on The Voice, said she couldn’t make a lot of money while she was on the show, as she had no time to do her pre-fame job. She also had to put her New York apartment up for sublet while filming in Los Angeles.

    The Voice finalist Vicci Martinez had to end a relationship while she was on the show and ended up selling a house she had bought in her hometown.

  • You Don't Have To Be Talented To Progress

    Video: YouTube

    Sure, American Idol and other singing competitions have produced some enduring musical talent, but at least half of the reason people tune into the show are to watch the absolute trainwreck auditions. And the producers are just as eager to find those untapped goldmines of tone-deafness as they are to find the musically gifted.

    Idol auditionee Whitney Henry told of witnessing several of the "crazies" get their golden ticket to the next stage while competent singers were sent home.