Recycled contestants expose shallow talent pool on reality TV

It’s no secret that the creation of superstar UK boy band One Direction on The X-Factor inspired other versions of the show to try and replicate that success. But for some reason, Australia never could.

Despite numerous attempts to form groups on the reality TV show, none of them are still together today. In fact, the current season of The Voice, which was the rival show to The X-Factor before its cancellation in 2016, now features many contestants that were once put into the manufactured groups competing as solo artists.

Jacinta Gulisano was a part of the trio Third Degree in 2013, and made it to the live shows of The Voice this year after the group disbanded. The same goes for Trent Bell, a former member of the Collective in 2012, and Sheldon Hernandez from the group Time and Place in 2016 (and now goes by Sheldon Riley on The Voice).

Last week Ronan Keating, who was a judge on both of the reality TV shows, told the Sunday Telegraph that he was disappointed by the way shows “recycle contestants”.

“They keep regurgitating talent here on these shows,” he told the Sunday Telegraph.

“I saw The Voice last night, and Trent [Bell] was in one of my bands on The X-Factor, and Jacinta Gulisano was in a duo I had as well, so it was like, ‘Jesus Christ … all of these people I’ve seen before’.”

Jacinta took to Twitter to reply to his comments, saying that she was glad to compete on The Voice as a solo artist.

“People are allowed more than one shot at their dream,” she says.

Jacinta Gulisano competing on The Voice this year.

Nada-Leigh Nasser was a contestant on both The X-Factor and The Voice, and had a unique experience as she was put into a group on each show.

She first auditioned for The X-Factor in 2013 in the group ELEM5NT that she had created herself. When they didn’t make it past boot camp, she came back the following year as a solo artist. It was then that she was put into the manufactured girl group called XOX and made it to the live finals.

“XOX didn’t continue after The X-Factor finished because we didn’t have any management or representation, and we weren’t offered anything from the show,” she says.

“We all lived in different parts of Australia, and we were friends of course but we weren’t friends before and we didn’t have a shared dream. We were all so young.”

Nada-Leigh Nasser competing in the group XOX on The X-Factor in 2014.

Over the course of the show, five different manufactured groups that were put together by The X-Factor judges made it to the live shows. There was The Collective in 2012, Third Degree in 2013, Nada-Leigh’s group XOX in 2014, Younger Than Yesterday in 2014 and Time and Place in 2016.

So why haven’t any of these groups made it?

“I think a lot of Aussies are stuck in the Tamworth mentality where they’re still impressed by someone sitting playing ‘Horses’ on the guitar,” says Nada-Leigh.

“I don’t think Australia is cool enough to rock a group. Maybe in the future, but it’s not really a profitable venture for anyone.”

In 2016, Nada-Leigh and her sister Jasmin-Jade both auditioned as solo artists on The Voice, and both joined Jessie J’s team. They sang off against each other in the battle rounds, and then they were put together as a duo.

“It was very obvious that they were going to put us together,” she says.

“I bet Jessie didn’t even want to turn for me, but the producers already had a sister rivalry in mind. I do understand that in television it’s all about the entertainment.”

Nada-Leigh Nasser battling against her sister Jasmin-Jade on The Voice 2016.

When her time on The X-Factor ended in 2014, she started a singing school with her uncle. They slowly grew to around 30 students in total, and she decided to compete on The Voice to promote it to a larger audience.

“I went on with no intention of winning, and I was extremely happy to be kicked off when I was because I had used that opportunity as a platform to promote the school,” she says.

“The school went from 30 students to 85 students by the end of that year. It was an excellent way to turn that media platform into revenue, which I consider more valuable than chasing the dream.”

Nada-Leigh says that she never wanted to pursue a career in the music industry, and her time on both shows was a very “mentally and emotionally draining experience”.

“A lot of people get really depressed after reality TV competitions because it messes with your mind a lot, especially because it’s all a popularity thing,” she says.

“You get a high from the experience, then it’s all taken away.”

When it comes to comparing the two reality TV shows, Nada-Leigh says they are very similar in their process, and they had a lot of the same people working behind the scenes.

“The same stylists, makeup artists, hairdressers, producers. They just change the name of the show and change the game a bit, but it’s all the same shit,” she says.

She says The Voice is more open to industry people, whereas The X-Factor gives everyday people a chance. The Voice also takes better care of the contestants as they do not have to line up outside in the heat waiting to audition, but they can hang out in the studio and ask for food or water when they need it.

Despite giving the reality TV game three tries, Nada-Leigh says that she would never go into that industry again.

“I can’t stand reality TV. I didn’t even watch it when I was on it,” she says.

“So many people are totally unaware of how it all really works, so I hope that I can shed some light.”