An Illawarra entrant on the Nine Network’s talent show The Voice, says she was exploited, left open to vicious cyber-bullying, then discarded “like a used tissue” after her performance aired.
Nicole Martini featured on The Voice’s blind auditions in May. She was unsuccessful in progressing to the next round of the competition, but the greater disappointment came after the show aired, when her picture was posted on The Voice’s Facebook page with the question “bomb or bombshell,” referencing a quote she made in a pre-performance interview.
“The way they phrased it opened it up for people to criticise my body,” Ms Martini said. The former Fairy Meadow resident, now living in Sans Souci, has been followed by depression and bullying for years, and what should have been a proud moment for the aspiring singer turned into embarrassment.
“There were hundreds of comments bashing me for my weight. I tried to be strong, but my mum and fiance were distraught,” Ms Martini said in a blog on her website after the incident.
“I was told I was disgusting, that someone needed to buy a new TV after having seen me…I was told no-one wanted to hear my voice cause they couldn’t take their eyes off my thighs.”
Ms Martini said the show’s producers offered her an opportunity to go on the Today breakfast show to talk about cyber-bullying, but after the initial promise, the offer was forgotten and ignored.
“I wanted to bring light to the issue of bullying. I’ve been depressed but the show actually made it worse by promising then pushing me to the side like a used tissue,” she said.
Ms Martini was further insulted when a contestant who made it to The Voice’s later rounds, Louise Van Veenendaal, was invited on Today to talk about her own cyber-bullying.
“I want shows to know the ethical responsibility to look after their contestants’ mental well-being doesn’t forfeit when that person no longer has commercial use or potential for them,” Ms Martini said.
“I wanted to warn people about cyber-bullying, but now I want to warn people about reality shows. I’ve been exploited by the show.”
Opportunities for comment were extended to The Voice executive producer Julie Ward, and WIN Network publicity staff, but were not returned by press time.
A spokesman from The Voice's production company Shine Australia sent the Mercury the following statement on Saturday in response to Ms Martini's claims.
"Shine Australia does not condone behaviour which is offensive, threatening or bullying," the spokesman said.
"We have a legal policy around all our social media activities that is in place to moderate and if necessary ban or remove posts which are offensive or damaging to individuals. This policy covers our sites on Facebook and the web but on sites that are outside our control, we support our talent in managing their own personal space through direct coaching.
"All artists on The Voice have ongoing access to a clinical psychologist. They also have a talent team dedicated to supporting them through the process. Shine Australia's duty of care to the artists is paramount and we have a continuing care program beyond the program."