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Rejection hurts, especially when it’s televised to an audience of millions. But a former contestant on the singing competition show The X Factor claims in a new lawsuit her failed audition particularly stung because she didn’t deserve it.
In a complaint filed Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Sally Hessnice, who auditioned for the show in front of a live audience in May 2013, says the producers of the series manipulated the recording of her performance to depict her poorly. She’s suing the production companies Fremantle, Syco and Blue Orbit, but not the networks ITV (in Britain) or Fox, which aired her audition in the U.S. in September 2013.
States her complaint, “The Audition had been altered in the following ways: a.) Plaintiff’s voice (i.e., pitch, reverb and vocal legato) was altered to sound ‘screechy’ and unprofessional; b.) the positive audience reaction was replaced with footage of a disinterested audience; and c.) the judges’ original comments and reactions to Plaintiff were re-filmed (without Plaintiff present) to show a negative response to Plaintiff.
“In addition, the stage manager prompted the Plaintiff to walk around the entire stage. During the Audition, Plaintiff noticed the surface of the stage was inconsistent, with ‘pillowy‘ surfaces scattered throughout. This was an intentional effort by Defendants to disrupt her performance and pre-arrange the outcome of the Audition,” it continues.
Why does it matter to Hessnice enough to file a lawsuit? Not just because Simon Cowell hurt her feelings. She’s a professional singer, and she claims her “reputation as a professional singer has been irreparably tarnished.”
She additionally claims the audition violated a federal law that prohibits “engag[ing] in any artifice or scheme for the purpose of prearranging or predetermining in whole or in part the outcome of a purportedly bona fide contest of intellectual knowledge, intellectual skill, or chance.”
She’s suing for an intriguing series of claims: intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, false light invasion of privacy, and gross negligence. She wants $2 million in damages, rescission of her contract with the producers and an injunction against the defendants’ use of her audition footage.
Steven Lowe filed the complaint on Hessnice’s behalf. The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to Fremantle and Syco for comment.
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