It was only last month that Kelly Ramsay – a contestant on this year’s series of My Kitchen Rules – spoke out about how she felt manipulated by the show’s producers and had been hospitalised for physical exhaustion after the series.
Then, only a few weeks later, Tully Smyth who appeared on the last season of Big Brother revealed that a “lack of psychological support” on the show left her feeling emotionally fragile and utterly alone following her eviction.
Now, Jules Allen from MasterChef has opened up about her bittersweet foray into reality TV — and what it was like to crash back down to reality following her elimination.
Her comments provide a fascinating insight into how the reality television phenomenon and how something that is so often classified as light entertainment by viewers, can take a heavy toll on its participants.
Allen, a 39-year-old social worker from NSW, said on ABC’s Australian Story last night that while contestants “think it’s just going to be this amazing mind blowing journey, and some of it is (but) it also knocks you around.”
“On all of them, the end result is it’s a ritual humiliation on national television and the worst thing is, we signed up for it. Try reconciling that in yourself.”
Allen, who made the top 12 on the Channel 10 series, said contestants also fear the way they will appear to audience after a heavy editing process.
“There’s however many cameras filming for however many hours a day and then that has to be edited into a one-hour program,” she said.
“Things are portrayed in a way to appeal to the audience and it may not necessarily be the way they played out,” she said.
While specifically editing footage to create drama may seem unfair, Fairfax entertainment writer Michael Lallo said the practice is generally legal under the contracts participants are required to sign.
“These contestants have no leverage,” he said.
“If they don’t like these terms and conditions and they don’t want to sign these contracts there are a thousand other contestants who will,” he said on the ABC show.
Allen said she never questioned signing the bulky contract, as it was a prerequisite for entry onto the show.
“It was quite a lengthy contract, which of course none of us were not going to sign, because if you don’t sign it, you don’t get in. So, I don’t I don’t actually remember reading my contract just thinking, ‘Righto, sign away!’,” she said.
But fear of skewed editing is not the only pressure faced by contestants, Allen makes clear. She said the competitive environment and relative isolation from normal social interactions creates a unique, pressure-cooker environment that is hard to bear.