Former American Idol judge Mariah Carey recently commented that her time on the show was “abusive,” which has raised some eyebrows of former contestants who had a front row seat witnessing the tension up close.
“I’m honestly shocked she said that, because of all the times we were on the set filming and even when we got to the live shows she was always treated with respect and courtesy from the producers,” said Idol alum Lazaro Arbos. “I think Nigel really admired her talent and always treated her like the queen and the legend that she is.”
To recap Carey’s remarks, the singer was speaking to journalists at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour on Wednesday (Aug. 3), where she was promoting her eight-part upcoming E! docuseries, Mariah’s World. In response to a reporter’s question, the singer threw a major jab at the Fox show — for which she was a judge alongside rapper Nicki Minaj, country star Keith Urban and producer Randy Jackson during season 12 — calling it “an abusive experience” and cracking that talking about it would drive her “to drink.”
Not missing a beat, producer Nigel Lythgoe responded with a thinly veiled reference to Carey’s feud with Minaj.
“I’m looking forward to Mariah’s new series and wondering if Nicki Minaj may guest,” the ex-executive producer told Billboard, alluding to the on-air disaster that was the singers’ infamous verbal spat during auditions in 2011 (covered thoroughly here, here and here) and subsequent bad vibes that lasted all season long.
Arbos believes that Carey was not referring to the producers at all.
“I think that Mariah made those comments of Idol being abusive in regards to her arguments and disagreements with Nicki Minaj, but honestly there was no need for all that,” said Arbos, who is working on new music and looking into launching a cosmetics line. “I don’t get why she felt that way because as far as I’m concerned she never really had to deal with Miss Minaj! She wasn’t even required to talk to her at all, whatsoever!”
Season 12 crooner Devin Velez? — who is working on music for a forthcoming EP and entertains audiences at events in Chicago — said he feels that Carey really did try to do her best while on the show.
“I think Mariah definitely cared about her position as a judge,” he said, adding that the tension between her and Minaj detracted some of the spotlight off of the matter at hand: assessing the contestants.
“I can see why that would be frustrating for Mariah,” he said. “She wanted to do her job and smile for the cameras, but it’s hard to do that when her fellow judges aren’t doing their jobs.”
Arbos said there are worse ways to be abused than judging a talent competition.
“Her only job was to come in, sit down in a panel and give her comments to the singers and go home and get paid 18 million dollars,” he said. “If that’s abusive, then I really want to be abused by Idol!”