The MasterChef “Snafu”

Rather than recapping last week’s episode, I’d like to take a few minutes to update you all on what has been going on the past week.

As you may recall, a few weeks ago I prefaced one of my recaps with a short statement about how some of my friends were treated on MasterChef – including 2 assaults, a horrible case of sexual harassment, and 2 people considering suicide upon return.

I wrote that blurb just hours after being told that one of the happiest, sweetest, sunniest people from the cast had seriously considered suicide upon return. I have no words for how angry that made me (Not at the person, at the show). I’d known of the mistreatment most of us went through, and I knew of some of the extreme abuse that some went through, as I mentioned… but the idea that this beautiful ray of light could have been snuffed out over it all? It was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me.

It confirmed to me that I would never be able to write positively about the show, or the people directly involved in creating the incidents I mentioned. That put me in a bit of a dilemma – I’d already promised several people that I would continue recapping til the end of the season, and I’m not one to break promises.

As I have maintained this blog to be positive and upbeat, I felt that the best compromise I could do – and the best honour I could do to my readers as WELL as my friends that had been hurt – would be to post a disclaimer about it.

This past Thursday night I received a news alert that a blog had written a story about my “accusations’, one that was fairly sensationalistic. Then, Jezebel wrote something… And the shit hit the fan.

On Friday night, one of Shine America’s lawyers called me to talk about the articles. I assured him that I had not spoken to any media, and he told me that he was concerned about what I had said in my blog. He said that he hadn’t heard of any of it before, and that they all wanted to make sure that everyone was having a good time on the show – he expressed what sounded like sincere concern for the women I had mentioned. He said he wanted to investigate, and “make things right”.

So I told him everything. I gave him names, full details of the big incidents, overall details about some of the smaller stuff (women being told to flirt with the judges, etc), and which episodes he could find the ON CAMERA EVIDENCE of what I was talking about. (Not aired, but I knew the footage had been filmed of one assault, and the worst sexual harassment incident). I wouldn’t give him the name of those who had considered suicide, but assured him that they seemed to be out of the woods, and with a BIG support system. He was so “concerned” about them, that he called back later that night – well after hours – to discuss them again, and to ask for them to contact the show psychologist. Once again, he told me that he took my concerns seriously, and would investigate.

Imagine my shock the next afternoon – just a few short waking hours later – when the show released the following statement:

“Contestants on MASTERCHEF are treated with the utmost respect and professionalism and we care tremendously about their well being. The recent comments posted about the treatment of contestants are completely without merit.”

… then more news outlets picked up the story. I spent the weekend fielding calls and messages from contestants who were furious with the statement: LOADS of issues with both “utmost respect and professionalism” and “we care”.

For my part, I’m pissed off that I got played like that. I honestly thought that supplying names, incidents, etc to someone who claimed to want to investigate and “make it right” could help – not much could be done about what has already happened, I know… but apologies to those hurt would go a long way to healing some wounds. Also, for them to take it seriously would mean a better time for women in coming seasons. (From what I’ve heard from past contestants, things were bad, getting worse each year, but there wasn’t ANYTHING like what I mentioned – aside from the suicidal thoughts/depression.)

Had the show released a statement that said they were taking the allegations seriously and would investigate it, that would have been fine. Instead, they outright dismissed everything and slapped MANY more people in the face, than I even gave them information about. For every serious case I mentioned, there were many others who had issue with the lack of food and water, or had individual concerns.

Since the story broke, I’ve been called a “retard” by one male contestant, a “bimbo” by some random commenter on my blog, I’ve been lied about to the media by the same show that has me gagged from talking to the media myself. I’ve had my honour questioned many times, I’ve had my weight and appearance ridiculed, and I’ve been called “bitter for not getting an apron”.

Actually, before I move on, let me address that last point.

I think I’ve been pretty clear on previous entries that I am very happy that I did not get an apron. Despite the months of hard work I’d put into training and preparing for the show, the cost that was involved, and the fact that I am THE most competitive person I know… the very first thing I said to my husband on the day of auditions (after a week in LA without him) was “GET ME OUT OF HERE”. I didn’t even want to bake my cake, and I sure as hell didn’t want the apron at that point. One of my fellow contestants says that if she’d gotten an apron, she probably would have hung herself with it – I’m not too far off from that sentiment, and probably would have been RIGHT there with her after another week!

So.

I am EXHAUSTED from all of the drama these past few days. I didn’t ask for this, I was merely trying to provide context to my readers, and to support my friends. Never in a million years did I expect it to blow up this way, and leave me even MORE disappointed with the show. I certainly didn’t expect to be on the receiving end of a ton of abuse for it.

The thing is, I stand by what I said. I will always stand by what I said, as it is the truth. Not only could I NOT make this stuff up, but I have absolutely no motivation to. I wasn’t sexually harassed, I wasn’t personally assaulted. While I was subjected to poor treatment, it wasn’t anything that I couldn’t more or less shake off by now. By and large, these were ills committed against OTHER PEOPLE.

… but I know about it. These are people who I care about, who didn’t deserve it. I want to be able to look myself in the mirror at the end of the day… and for me, that means acknowledging what happened. It means standing up for people who have less of a voice than I do. In my view, for me to continue recapping the show and pretending that those things didn’t happen would be dishonourable.

I may not have gone looking for a fight, but it seems that one has been dropped on my doorstep.

While I really wish that Shine America had been sincere about investigating and making it right – and while I REALLY wish they hadn’t minimized what everyone went through by using terms like “utmost respect”, I wouldn’t have done anything differently. The show now has all of the details of the incidents I mentioned, and that’s a weight off my chest. I can’t control what they do – or DON’T do – with the information, but they can no longer claim ignorance in any honest way.

Something key about me – I don’t suffer bullies. I won’t tolerate anyone bullying my friends, and I’m not easily bullied myself. All of this hate about my looks, weight, or supposed bitterness… the comments like “retard” and “bimbo” – they don’t change anything. I won’t be bullied into submission, and I won’t be reading comments on those articles – so, hate away if you feel the need to.

Going in to MasterChef, I was pretty solid in my belief that reality tv was the bane of society, and a contributing factor in so many of today’s problems. (Entitlement mentality, lack of responsibility for one’s actions, fame by any means necessary, etc). I’d wrongly summarized the main problem as “reality TV is dumbing society down”… in so many ways.

While I still believe that now, after coming back from MasterChef I’ve evolved my view a bit. The dumbing down of society isn’t the most dangerous and horrifying side effect of the reality TV culture… it’s what it’s training people to be like. Reality TV actively trains society to lack empathy for each other. It encourages dehumanization and “othering” of people, and really detaches the viewer from seeing actual people as being worthy of any sort of respect or common courtesy.

I’m so incredibly sick of being surrounded by hatred everywhere – racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia…. I see a lot of that as being at least influenced – if not rooted – in how people are being trained to lack empathy for their fellow humans.

There are so many instances of wrongs being committed against people for the entertainment of others. In the case of reality TV, some sign up for it (Fear Factor?)… but the contestants on MasterChef signed up for a cooking competition. Regardless of the fact that the show devolved into smutty reality TV doesn’t change the intentions or views of those who signed up, and it doesn’t excuse what we went through.

Enough is enough.

I’ve always had a problem with how self centered society is becoming, and the lack of empathy people have for their fellow person. I would be remiss if I were to take the easy way out, delete everything, and pretend it never happened. I have more honour than that.

I will be standing my ground, and continuing to support my friends in their silent (contracts!) ordeal. While I would love it if more people came forward, I understand why doing so would be scary and too much drama – I think we’ve all had our fill of drama.

21 thoughts on “The MasterChef “Snafu”

  1. GOOD FOR YOU! Stick with it. The descriptions you’ve provided are HORRIBLE. I will not watch any reality TV any time soon (not that I watch TV now anyway) without thinking about what the real people on the screen are going through. Let me know if there are ways I can help.

  2. So sorry they played you like that, but good for you sticking up for folks. Bimbo? Really? Did the person using that term know what it meant? Sheesh. We live in a lowest common denominator world…

  3. Interesting blog. I appreciate you writing about your experiences and giving us the opportunity to hear what goes on behind the scenes. I’m concerned however, that based on the fact that they issued a statement the next day, you’ve concluded that the production company did not do any investigating after speaking with you. The two shouldn’t be mutually exclusive and I doubt they are. You state that this “… confirmed to me that I would never be able to write positively about the show, or the people directly involved in creating the incidents…” and it seems that it’s also not allowing you to be objective.

    I’m truly sorry that you had this experience and that others have also. It’s outrageous that these things are happening! I hope that your story will stop any future contestants on any reality show from experiencing any similar situations. In the mean time, though remember that any accusations you make and good that might come of them may not be taken seriously if they’re overshadowed by inaccurate assumptions and slander on your part.

    Keep up the good fight. Keep baking and being creative. (Luv your hair, btw!)

    1. Hey Lexxi,

      Whoops, great point. I should also have mentioned that I called the lawyer on Monday morning to ask WTF was up with that statement, and he confirmed to me that he had “investigated”, and was fully aware of / in agreement with the statement.

      I’d actually tried all day Saturday/Sunday to convince myself that the statement was just damage control from a different section of the company – I know VERY well how bad they are at communication and logistics – and wanted to believe that it was just a matter of the right hand not knowing what the left was doing. I gave him the benefit of the doubt until Monday’s call.

  4. p.s. every doctor was pretty harsh to their companions, even the 9th was quite rough with rose.. what doesn’t kill you makes you live in an alternate dimension or 80 years in the past…

  5. p.p.s. i love how a playboy model would take a sarcastic comment about what she does for a living and try and make that into harassment.. oh, america the beautiful, home of the frivolous law suit.. it is little wonder than that russell t davies and steven moffat show us a future without a yankee accent..

    1. Jeff….HELLO! This is Carrie Stevens…I did Playboy 15 years ago. I am a mother…..and I own a catering company. I don’t recall filing a sexual harrassment suit. Never said I had any intention. Why don’t you take your little head, and tell it to think with your big one. You really should open your mind, and stop judging people. And I NEVER told the press that…and I was NEVER even on the show. So, please leave me out of your snide comments. And if you are going to speak, learn to the correct terminology. A Playboy Model is not a Playmate….There are only 12 Playmates a year…for instance I was Miss June. Playboy Models never made it as Playmates…..you seem to be really stuck on that, which is very sexist and small minded. And little odd I am such subject matter, considering I was NOT even aired on MasterChef, yet, you, and the media seem to have found out all about me. I made my own deal with MasterChef to get edited off the show, particularly because I did not want to deal with small minded people like you, taking pot shots at me. I am an easy target and good for sensationalism. But it’s none of anyone’s business why I wanted off the show. That is why I don’t do interveiws or blog. I don’t want the attention. And I dont want to deal with trolls. I value my peaceful life and I don’t have your thick skin dealing with the hateful commenters like, Jeff. Peace out. I love you Marie…but I won’t be back to your blog. I’ve moved on and I don’t want to relive the drama…and I definately don’t need new haters, The world is beautiful….without me knowing the exsist. I am going to go spend some quality time with my son now. Ciao.

  6. The assertion that contestants are treated with respect and professionalism is patently false. The contestants who cooked at Booger (which name passes spell-check a lot easier than the name Ramsay chose) were not treated with respect or professionalism; they were subjected to the same kind of narcissistic Ramsay tantrum-based bullying as the chefs on “Hell’s Kitchen.” I have no doubt at all that such treatment was completely by design; it’s what the producers think America wants to see. And it pains me to say that they’re probably correct.

  7. The thing I’m curious about is what goes on between episodes. When contestants are leaving, they always state that their cooking skills have grown and that they learned a great deal from being on the show. But as far as I can tell, there’s no form of instruction (other than when Lidia Bastianich showed most of the contestants how she makes agnolotti), so exactly what are the contestants learning about cooking, and when are they learning it? The episode which aired on June 26 has me particularly curious: Macarons? Really? What home cook has a macaron recipe memorized just in case it’s needed? Were they really sent in blind, or did they get at least a hint that they’d need to know how to make them?

  8. Hi Marie. You have my deepest respect. I can’t express properly how impressed I am by your actions, taking the legal (and especially, emotional) risks of publicizing this whole awful situation. While I don’t know the circumstances behind the scenes first-hand, I can clearly see the asshole-dom that is played out on the tv, and have no difficulty believing the truth in your narrative about the show and its contestants.

    Also, your statements about empathy – or the erosion of it, I suppose – really struck a chord with me. I hadn’t thought of the issue in the context of reality television before, but I think about the issue of empathy a lot in general, and your assessment rings very true to me. (And I wish it didn’t – I have a 3 year old daughter, and the deterioration of empathy in this world is the thing I fret about most).

    Anyway, I just wanted to express my support. (And to say I wish you lived on the west coast… My husband and I have a little wine bar that needs a new chef at the moment!! :))

    Best wishes with this whole mess, and to your friends as well.

    Cheers!

  9. Bob,

    From what I have been able to gather from my research on MC, as well as Ben Starr’s blog; the Masterchef contestants do receive some culinary training. Of course unlike other country’s versions, the producers edit that out. When I was looking at auditing for Masterchef you had to be able to commit to upwards of four months to be on the show, that leads me to believe that this is not a “film everything in 2 weeks, yet make it look like 2 months” type of show.

  10. Hi Marie! First I think you are AWESOME and by the way, my hubby is an ASPIE too and it was I that discovered it and he is now a happier person. And I am too!

    I was thinking about auditioning for the show but I truly
    believe everything you said. In the past I have been just a member of the audience (of two past talk)
    shows and both times were lied to and treated quite rude by the people involved in the show.
    I guess I wanted to believe that things had changed and that maybe the chefs were honest
    and decent people who really cared about people who LOVE to cook. Thanks for sharing! Rosy

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