LOS ANGELES, CALIF. — For 11 seasons, “American Idol” reigned supreme on television but they have not been without their missteps – the Corey Clarke/Paula Abdul debacle, Ellen DeGeneres’ odd one season stint, Kara DioGuardi’s ouster from the show, allegations of phone line hacking and power voting.
However, nothing has quite rattled the show like the addition of judge Nicki Minaj for Season 12.
What started as an innocent PR move (likely released by someone within the “Idol” camp) to get some publicity for the aging show, the Mariah Carey/Nicki fight tape released during the auditions has instead turned into a nightmare for “Idol.” This misfire affected the entire season of the show, not because it was wrong to release it, but because the two women involved could never move past their anger toward one another.
The fact is, if Nicki and Mariah had kissed and made up, the whole thing would have blown over and the desired effect of the added publicity would have most likely made people interested in the show. Instead of moving on and having a great foursome, the tension between the two ladies drove a wedge between the entire judging panel and set up a season of uncomfortable, cringe-worthy moments.
Despite the fact that most of the time Nicki actually does give good critiques, the show didn’t’ need Nicki. Randy Jackson on the left side. Mariah in the middle. Keith Urban on the right side. That’s a panel that would have worked. Randy and Mariah have a long standing relationship and Keith is so kind-hearted, there would have been a good chemistry set up between the three. If “The Voice” has taught us anything, it’s that reality competition shows have evolved. Cutting people down isn’t what audiences are connecting to anymore. Nicki’s special brand of snark may no longer fit in the world of reality TV mentors.
Ever since Executive Producer Nigel Lythgoe commented that the ratings decline certainly had to do with the lack of chemistry with the judges, the situation took a turn for the worse. Up until that point, the ladies simply ignored each other or rolled their eyes when they disagreed while the other talked. It was clear after Nigel’s comments came out, someone told the panel they needed to interact more. Another misfire.
Nicki and Mariah’s not-so-charming banter has included Nicki calling Mariah “sir” two weeks ago after a spat and Wednesday night referring to her as “Honey Boo Boo” as a final slam. For the record, Mariah never heard Nicki’s “sir” comment until after the show aired. When asked about it backstage, she wanted to respond but her publicist smartly told her not too. You see, Mariah is a professional who understands her reputation is everything. She has class. Nicki is another story.
In my 20 years in entertainment news, I have interviewed close to 5,000 celebrities — people who have bigger bragging rights than Nicki. Men and women who have Oscars , Grammys and Emmys. Yet, by far, she is the most ungracious of anyone I have met.
Each week, she comes backstage for interviews and we are told “two questions only” while her people hover over you and even, at times, have their hand on your arm as you end your interview to make you stop. Waiver from the two-question rule and Nicki herself will walk away. She makes zero eye contact and has no connection to whomever is interviewing her. If she likes your question, she may give you a proper answer. If she doesn’t, she may give you a dirty look and walk off. After she posted mean comments about Mariah on Twitter yesterday calling her “bitter” and “insecure,” I wanted to give her the opportunity to redeem herself or perhaps apologize. I phrased my question that her comments had caused quite a stir online and asked if she had anything to say about it. She looked at me and told me my question made no sense and when I tried to explain it further she just said “goodnight” and walked off in a huff.
In my 12 years covering “Idol,” I have never seen someone with such a disconnect to the media.
Mariah may have her quirks, but she is always very gracious in her answers and perfectly willing to poke fun at herself. Simon Cowell sure knows how to sling a good insult on stage, but backstage during his tenure with the show, he was always funny and charming. Randy is a master deflector when it comes to questions about any strife within the show but he will always give you an answer with a smile and a laugh. Even Paula Abdul — who had her share of controversial moments during her time on “Idol” — knew how to face the tough questions. Jennifer Lopez went through a divorce during her time on the show and started dating a much younger man, Casper Smart, yet managed to smartly massage her answers about her personal life so she answered them, but not really. That’s the mark of a true professional. In the world of celebrity, especially right now, this is part of the job. Poor Reese Witherspoon knows this all too well right now.
Nicki’s comments yesterday on Twitter show who she really is – a mean girl, a cyber-bully who is just perpetuating the problems of social media. When will society finally take a stand and say ‘Enough!’ with all of the hateful, spiteful things people say about each other? We are more connected than ever online but more willing to hide behind our anonymous avatars and be nasty to people we barely know. As a celebrity, I would hope that Nicki would understand her fans look to her as a role model and she should choose her words more wisely. From what I have seen of her behavior since “Idol” began, I’m not sure she is capable of this. She’s a female rapper who should be proud of her accomplishments as a woman not cutting other women down.
The truth is that 20 years from now, Mariah Carey will still be known as one of the best female vocalists of all time. Nicki Minaj – well, I will let you decide that.
— Laura Saltman