'American Idol' Hopeful Claims She Should Have Been Paid
A former American Idol competitor is pursuing a class action against the production company and network behind the show.
In a complaint filed Feb. 3 in California, Normandy Vamos accused FremantleMedia North America and ABC of unjust enrichment and claimed she and others who participated in the show last season are entitled to unpaid overtime compensation and minimum wages as well as unspecified damages.
“Reality TV isn’t always real. There’s a lot that happens behind the scenes,” Vamos, 30, said in a release. “Myself and hundreds of people worked about a week with no pay.”
According to the lawsuit, Vamos was expected to be available “all hours of the day, typically for 15 or more hours per day for up to eight consecutive days.”
After taking part in several auditions, Vamos was invited to perform in front of Idol judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan in Los Angeles in October 2021. She sang Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary” and Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain.”
In a segment that aired on the Season 20 premiere last February, the judges focused on the difference between Vamos’ singing voice and her high-pitched speaking voice as well as her carrot-shaped purse and Crocs.
Lawyers for Vamos said in a release that Idol producers instructed her “in how to appear and sound, creating an audition that grabbed headlines and went viral online” – primarily because the judges “turned her into a laughingstock.”
At one point in the audition that aired, Bryan told Vamos: “We’re not laughing at you. We’re laughing because you’re kinda amazing.”
Vamos earned three votes and received a “golden ticket” to December’s “Hollywood Week” round – but never made it.
“This isn’t me bashing American Idol or anything like that,” she explained in a TikTok video last March. “Late in November, I got a call from Fremantle and they told me that I would not be going to Hollywood Week and this is very, very common because they get hundreds of people that they give yes's to so not everyone can go to Hollywood Week because it’s too many people.”
When someone commented they were “sorry that’s how it turned out,” Vamos replied: “Yea that’s life.” She responded to similar comments with “That’s show business.”
Vamos also acknowledged in her replies to comments on TikTok that “when we get a yes they explain [the] process” and “in the contract it says the producers can remove us from being a contestant anytime with no explanation.”
When someone suggested Idol used her “for ratings,” she replied: “At least I got some free exposure and publicity.” In response to a similar comment, Vamos wrote: “I got free publicity and [exposure] which was nice! It would [have cost] me hundreds of thousands of dollars!”
In her court filing, Vamos claimed she was required to “agree, in writing, to terms and conditions which are expressly prohibited by California law,” including agreeing to “submit to unlawful medical examinations, psychological examinations, and background checks.”
Chantal Payton, who is representing Vamos, said in a release: “American Idol’s producers seem to feel they can break labour 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 and other performers who create content for American Idol have rights as employees, but the producers have chosen to ignore those rights. They treated them as so-called volunteers, when in reality they are employees who should be paid.”
Neither FremantleMedia or ABC have responded to the lawsuit or commented publicly on the allegations, none of which have been tested in a court.