The Masked Singer: Strict Rules Contestants Must Follow
The Masked Singer has become a real TV hit throughout 3 seasons of the talent show. And it's no wonder: in addition to spectacular performances, the audience gets to solve the mystery of who's behind the mask! Let's find out what strict rules do The Masked Singer participants, staff and even the audience have to follow to keep up the mystery of the show from unraveling!
FIRST THINGS FIRST: HOW DOES IT ALL WORK?
Based on the South-Korean show King of Mask Singer, The Masked Singer has come along to give us all the chance to be Sherlock Holmes! The basic premise of the show is to have a masked singer do their performance, and the audience needs to find out who is the person behind the mask. Quite straight forward, right? Well, no!
In fact, the American producers (with the help of former team members from Dancing With The Stars) took it a step further and made the contestants wear a full-body oversized costume, which really doesn’t help the audiences do their private investigator job properly. And this is where the fun begins, for the audience at least!
KEEPING THE MYSTERY GOING IS NOT EASY: THE BEHIND THE SCENES RULES
Now, with any television contest show, it is important to not only keep the audience engaged, but also make them have fun, so usually, there aren’t a lot of rules that need following. When it comes to a show where keeping the identity of the participants hidden for as long as possible is the main goal, things get tricky.
Because of that, the show producers have taken the responsibility of making sure that both participants, backstage workers, and even the audience have strict rules to follow. Keeping the mystery alive is not easy, and honestly, you will probably not be expecting all the things that are in place at “The Masked Singer” backstage. So, what rules are these?
1. ONBOARDING RULES
What is the very first thing each and every celeb does when they agree to take part in the competition? Obviously, they have to sign a very strict and comprehensive Non-Disclosure Agreement or NDA. Secrecy is crucial for the show, after all, so the performers are not allowed to share the news with anybody.
As the producers revealed “It was written into their contracts that they couldn't tell anyone, even their families, what was going on. In the end, they were as worried about their secret getting out as we were.” But the main question is: for how long they can actually keep that secret?
HOW DO THE CELEBRITIES DEAL WITH RULE #1?
Considering their status, each celebrity is allowed to have one person accompany them. So of course, this person must follow the show’s strict rules as well. Anyway, when the NDA is signed, contestants get their personal codenames as even the slightest hint of their identity may ruin everything.
You’d think that the easiest way to label the celebs would probably be by their costumes, but the show’s creators go above and beyond. They make sure that all the codenames are abstract and neutral, to avoid even the slightest suspicion. For example, Patsy Palmer’s codename was “Square”, but she was not the only one!
WHAT OTHER THINGS DO THEY NEED TO DO?
Code names sure are something needed! Alan Johnson was referred to as “Stamp” and Justin Hawkins went by the nickname “Light”. However, this is not the only thing they need to do to follow the secrecy rule. While on set, the masked singers themselves are not allowed to interact with anyone but an exclusive core team.
The core team uses a secret signal shared with the singer to identify themselves. We can only imagine if there are people making up secret signs to pretend to be part of the team. Well, we can’t tell you any more details about this, but we can say that the signal changes every season to prevent anyone from cracking the code.
2. THE COSTUME STRUGGLES
So how do the contestants choose a costume? When a celeb joins the show, they have a selection of 20 designs drafted by Marina Toybina. Each of the 12 participants chooses the one they most identify with, but they can also add bespoke touches at their own discretion so that the outfits better reflect their personalities.
Wondering where the designer gets her inspiration for all the crazy looks she creates? Well, some of the designs have been influenced by movies. Take that Rabbit costume from the first season, for example, which was clearly inspired by “Edward Scissorhands” and “Donnie Darko”, while the Lion and the Unicorn were influenced by “The Chronicles of Narnia”.
WONDERING HOW THEY KEEP THE SECRECY FOR THE COSTUME FITTINGS?
Such is their dedication to secrecy that to keep the stars’ identities under wraps, the show team uses body doubles for all the costume fittings. Some outfits are easier to create and wear than others, while some are quite challenging for both the designer and the singer.
The Unicorn and the Raven demanded a lot of work to make the costume look perfect but when the designer’s suffering ends, it’s the performer’s turn. The Raven’s outfit included 9-feet wide wings... which proved to be extremely heavy. And those multi-layered masks aren’t exactly breathable, so celebs often confess about being more and hot and sweaty than they’d prefer.
HOW DO THEY KEEP COOL UNDER THOSE BIG COSTUMES?
You probably don’t expect this, but most of the costumes have hidden fans to keep the singer cool. However, these aren’t always on as they make a lot of noise which obviously isn’t exactly compatible with singing and talking on the mic.
Another challenge for the performers to deal with is poor visibility from inside of the outfit. As the show’s executive producer Izzie Patrick Ibarra shared, “They really cannot see very much. And that's the most disarming thing for them is getting on stage.” In fact, Queen Bee reportedly suffered “crippling claustrophobia” in her costume.
BUT, WHAT MADE THE PERFORMERS CHOOSE THEIR COSTUME?
When contestants agree on a certain design, they’re clueless about the level of effort and struggle involved in transforming into their masked alter-egos, which is why some of them are more than happy to quit the series. And if you think that the celebs always have the costumes at their full disposal, you’re wrong!
Derek McLean, the show’s executive producer revealed that they borrowed a strict rule from the Disney corporation in order to avoid stars in costumes going berserk and spoiling the brand. “The stars were only allowed in their costumes for 20 minutes… That's how long Minnie and Mickey Mouse can be in their costumes before going doolally,” he said.
3. THE MASKING PRECAUTIONS
Obviously, it takes more than the on-set suits and code names to shield celebs’ identities backstage. The rules of the show demand that participants wear a helmet and visor, complete with oversized clothes that proclaim “Do not talk to me” whenever they arrive anywhere even slightly related to the show.
Some of the contestants even go a little bit overboard, wearing clothes that conceal their identity every time they leave the house! Patsy Palmer’s overprotective nature made even the show’s staff laugh. “She couldn’t believe it when we told her afterward that she could have just put it on in the car,” they shared.
HOW SERIOUSLY ARE THE CELEBRITIES TAKING THIS RULE?
Well, actually pretty seriously, according to the show’s staff. “We were all laughing at the image of her [Patsy Palmer] in her helmet at the buffet. But that’s how seriously the celebs were taking it,” shared executive producer Daniel Nettleton.
But the masked singers aren't the only ones who have to go undercover while participating in the show: their agents, friends, and family members are required to wear masks too whenever they accompany the stars on set. Which kind of makes sense, since they could all easily give the game away.
BUT, HOW DO THE SINGERS REHEARSE IN PRIVACY?
This kind of privacy is obviously a necessary measure: with all their social media activities, a celebs’ entourage could easily be recognized in real life and thus spoil the reveal. Reportedly, the contestants also rehearse at different locations and arrive on set at different times throughout filming so as to make sure that fans can’t crack their schedule.
4. THE PERFORMANCE AND REVELATION ROUTINES
Although it might seem like the show is broadcast live, nothing is actually happening in real-time. In fact, all episodes are pre-recorded in front of a live studio audience. But all the performances and vocals are performed live at the time and are the result of profound preparation by all the separate teams working with each star.
And it isn’t just the performer and their teams that have to follow regulations. The audience attending the live performances also have a handful of strict rules to follow. No electronic devices are allowed in the studio and every person signs a special contract binding them to secrecy. In fact, smartphones are not allowed for anyone, including the celebrities!
WAIT, THE AUDIENCE TOO? YES, THE AUDIENCE TOO
In order to help protect the contestants’ identities, the audience is not allowed to interact with each other or with the judges except on-stage. And this rule still applies even when a celeb takes off their mask. But can the judges, directors, and writers truly be completely in the dark about the people behind the masks?
Well, the show creators reassure us that this really is how the project works. So whenever a judge makes a really bad guess about the masked singer, don’t laugh! They really are doing their best to solve the puzzle under pressure! The show’s producers Derek McLean and Daniel Nettleton get a lot of inspiration from the panelists’ guesses!
HOW SO, YOU ASK?
“We obviously know who is under the masks but we still often think, 'Oh, that's a really good guess', which is hilarious." They also add that "some of the guesses have also made us think, 'They would be a great person to have on board [in the future]', so you never know, some of those guesses might become reality.”
Every panelist has their own approach to their work. Robin Thicke is said to take the show "extremely seriously". He tries to listen to the voice with his eyes closed and then read the performers’ body language. And if you think that someone’s elimination is followed by immediate identity reveal, you’re wrong again.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN?
It's essentially impossible to look half-decent under those stuffy and sweaty masks so the stars need a chance to refresh their makeup and hair before their onscreen reveal. But guess what? Even when one of the stars leaves the show and reveals themself in front of the audience, judges, and show staff, some people are left in the dark!
Their fellow contestants are not allowed to know the masked singer’s identity. In fact, the other participants are in the same boat as viewers at home as they only discover the secret of other singers’ secret identities when the episodes air! They do try to keep the mystery going, and thanks for that!