While Mnet‘s Produce series was once the most popular survival show on television, the public’s view of the series has fallen steeply since it was revealed that the votes were manipulated through multiple seasons. These six former contestants from Produce 101 and Produce 48 all exposed the series for everything from manipulation to shocking working hours.
Before beginning her career as a soloist, AleXa (formerly known as Alex Christine) joined former Unpretty Rapstar contestant and YouTuber Grazy Grace to talk about her experiences on Produce 48. One shocking fact AleXa revealed was about how long it took to film the show.
While there are usually labor laws in place to prevent minors from working long hours, AleXa says she spent 24 whole hours in the studio filming the first episode of Produce 48 with nothing but brief food breaks. From then on, filming days would often involve waking up at 8 a.m. and filming until as late as 3 a.m. the next day.
2. Go Yujin
Former BlockBerry Creative trainee and Produce 48 contestant Go Yujin exposed her experiences to Ripple S on YouTube. In the interview, Yujin explained that she had no choice but to audition for Produce 48 after BlockBerry Creative told her she’d be sent home if she didn’t. However, looking back, it may have been for nothing. When asked if she could tell the show was being manipulated while she was on it, Yujin answered, “Yes. I really felt it.”
Sadly, Yujin went on to explain that no matter what she did, the Produce production team had no interest in filming her. Instead, they only ever filmed the contestants they already planned to film in advance.
3. Kathy Lee
Katherine Lee, who prefers to go by Kathy these days, dropped out of the K-Pop industry long ago, but she was originally a contestant on Produce 101‘s first season. While Kathy used to be a big fan of K-Pop, she revealed to BuzzFeed News that Produce 101 taught her the industry is “fake.”
For one, Kathy says she’s sure her agency—MIDAS Entertainment—had secured her spot on the show despite how well she did in the audition. On top of that, she described the show as “disingenuous and scripted,” noting that producers would film constants fake crying and even fake bullying just to get attention.
4. Lee Insoo
Lee Insoo, who was part of Off the Cuff until their disbandment this April, competed on season two of Produce 101. Joining Go Yujin in her Ripple S interview, Lee Insoo revealed that on his season of the show, there was no public audition process at all. Instead, he says CJ E&M covertly scouted trainees themselves.
On top of that, there was an incentive manipulating the system all along: casting directors got paid based on trainee performance. Alongside getting paid for selecting contestants for Produce 101, Insoo says the casting directors would continue to get paid based on how well those trainees ranked and how long they stayed on the show.
5. Jung Dongsu
In an interview with MBC, Produce 101 competitor Jung Dongsu gave another glimpse into how the producers manipulated the show unfairly against certain contestants. He recalled a time when two trainees took the initiative to teach their fellow contestants how to dance—only for one trainee to be done dirty in editing.
Dongsu explained that the producers edited the clips to make it look like one of the trainees who taught their peers actually did nothing at all, ensuring he wouldn’t get acknowledged by the public despite his hard work. “That really made me feel that there was something going on,” said Dongsu.
6. Lee Haein
Lee Haein competed on both Produce 101 and Idol School. While Idol School wasn’t technically part of the Produce umbrella, it was another Mnet survival show that faced similar allegations. In an episode of PD Notebook with MBC, Lee Haein and her father revealed the shocking working conditions of Idol School contestants.
According to the former contestant, the trainees’ accommodation was perpetually under construction with very little ventilation. As such, they lived with a strong smell of toxic paint fumes, and many contestants developed skin diseases all over their bodies. Her experiences were corroborated by other anonymous constants, who also revealed that child trainees tried to escape through windows and older trainees stopped menstruating.