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Contestants on ‘The Masked Singer’ Have to Follow A Lot of Rules Behind the Scenes

For the past three seasons, America has watched in anticipation and awe as celebrity contestants are revealed on The Masked Singer. If you’re as obsessed with the show as we are, you know the thrill of trying to crack the clue package. But now we’re here to share some different kinds of secrets — a.k.a. what it’s like for the competitors. From costume decisions to intense security protocols, we’re lifting the mask on the rules The Masked Singer contestants have to follow during filming.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, season 4 is being filmed with a virtual audience and a socially distant judges panel. But the show’s biggest change this season was announced during the premiere on Sept. 23 when host Nick Cannon announced that the judges will be competing for the Golden Ear trophy. How it works is following each celebrity performance throughout the season, the judges will write down their initial guesses about who’s under the mask and seal them. Judges get a point for each correct guess, and the judge with the most points at the end of the season wins the trophy. Season 4 will air Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.

1

You have to be a celebrity.

The idea for the competition came from a South Korean game show and was brought to the U.S. in 2019. Every episode, celebrities battle it out onstage in a singing competition — but there’s a catch.

2

You can’t reveal your identity until you’re eliminated.

The contestants are forced to go completely incognito. We’re not talking sunglasses and a baseball cap. They have to wear head-to-toe costumes.

3

You get to choose your costume.

4

But, seriously, no one can know who you are.

You’d think the celebrity judges or the host would be able to sniff out who was appearing on the show, but they’re all kept in the dark. No one except a small group of production employees knows who’s competing.

5

You can only go by your code name.

Code names, like Fox, Night Angel, and Unicorn are used to describe the alter egos of contestants. Since no one knows their real identity, the contestants are only referred to by this name until they’re unmasked.

6

You must be in disguise at ALL times.

Because, say it with us now: Your identity must. remain. a. secret. Contestants wear hoodies to keep from being recognized on set when they’re not performing. “They didn’t see your hands, or your body, because we had to wear these big hoodies and balaclavas. It was very, very extensive in hiding who you were,” contestant Margaret Cho told E! News.

7

You have to agree to tight security.

8

Contestants and panelists are not allowed to interact backstage.

The contestants are kept in an entirely separate area from the panelists on set. The only time the contestants can interact with them is when they’re onstage in costume.

9

Even onstage convos should be brief.

“We came to the agreement of like, OK, they’re going to ask one question, and you can answer—with the scrambled voice, you know. You didn’t want to test it too much because you could kind of hear the person, like through their cadence. If people talked a lot you, could probably figure out who it was,” contestant Margaret Cho told E! News.

10

You can’t talk to other contestants either.

“They kept us apart in that we were all scheduled to come onto set at different times. All of our rehearsals were at separate locations where we just had no idea. You never ran into anybody, I never crossed paths with any of the people,” contestant Margaret Cho told E! News.

11

You have to perform in front of a live studio audience.

Even though the show is prerecorded, the celebrity guest is still belting it out onstage in front of a panel of judges and a full audience. If you have stage fright, this is not the competition for you!

12

Even audience members have to sign an NDA.

Since the show is prerecorded, the audience has to sign a nondisclosure agreement before they attend a taping, which prevents them from spoiling the results before the episode airs.

13

Your voice has to be disguised at all times.

While interacting with the panelists onstage, the voice of contestants is auto-tuned and scrambled in a way that’s unique to them and used throughout the season. This is done to keep them from being recognized, of course.

14

You can’t talk without your disguised voice.

According to season 2 contestant Adrienne Bailon, you have to remain silent backstage, unless you’re speaking with one of the limited production members who know your identity.

15

You have to sing cover songs.

Even though some of the contestants are professional singers, original songs aren’t featured on the show.

16

You have to provide clues about yourself.

The contestants give the panelists and audience members a shot at guessing their identity though clue packages that are dropped before — and sometimes after — the performances.

17

You have to help write the clues.

Former contestant Margaret Cho told E! News the celebrities take a hands-on approach: “Well, they wanted clues that were pretty obvious, but at the same time, not.”

18

You can only work with your designated team.

According to host Nick Cannon, the contestants are each assigned choreographers, voice coaches, and production to help them create unforgettable performances. But with security being of the utmost importance, performers can only work with the people assigned to their team.

19

You have to attend mandatory pre-show meetings.

20

You aren’t judged on your singing abilities alone.

This isn’t your typical singing competition show. The contestants are judged for their overall performance, not just the quality of their voice.

21

You can use background singers.

Since singing isn’t every contestant’s strong point, background singers provide support during a performance. “I do the tracks for the singing and then I’m on stage every episode in the corner, in a black mask in the corner with a microphone singing,” singer Clara Plestis told E! News.

22

You have to impress the audience, too.

The contestants are voted on by the panelists and the audience members, which are both weighted at 50 percent. The lowest-scoring contestant is eliminated from the competition.

23

You have to take your mask off if you’re eliminated.

After the second face-off, the contestant with the lowest score is eliminated and, as the Who song “Who Are You” plays in the background, their identity is finally revealed.

24

After being eliminated, you still have to keep your identity a secret.

25

No phones are allowed on set.

This applies to the audience, the panelists, and the contestants. “We confiscate their phones. When they go home I’m sure they’re googling like crazy; we ask them not to. But on the set, they don’t have that luxury. They have to use their brains. It’s real time information. They have to guess,” executive producer Craig Plestis told CinemaBlend.

26

The panelists can take notes.

Executive producer Craig Plestis told CinemaBlend that each judge is given a binder to write down clues and guesses. “When the cameras aren’t on them they’re taking copious notes. They’re writing down the clues—they’re very competitive and they all want to get it right,” he said.

27

Your guests must wear costumes too.

To prevent audience or crew members from figuring out who’s competing, contestants’ guests have to wear elaborate masks to conceal their identity, to avoid clues based on association.

28

You have to get deep with your clue packages.

“It’s about every day human connection, because behind the spectacle are real people that we know as celebrities, that we know what we’ve read about them in interviews, what people say about them, but they’re trying to share with us who they are from their point of view, from their personal experiences in life, their trials and tribulations, things they’ve struggled and battled with, and what they’re overcoming,” panelist Nicole Scherzinger told Parade.

29

You can prep before your unmasking.

Things can get a little sweaty under the mask, so there’s a hair and makeup break between the elimination and the moment the celebrity is unmasked. According to Entertainment Weekly, this break can take as long as 20 minutes.

30

You can only talk to crew members wearing a special shirt.

According to contestant Adrienne Bailon, the crew members who knew the cast’s real identities, and contestants were therefore allowed to talk to, wear special shirts that say “You Can Talk to Me.” Smart.

31

You can’t drive yourself to the studio.

“An unmarked car service picks you up, so that no one can say ‘Oh we know so-and-so drives [this car]’ or whatever the case may be,” contestant Adrienne Bailon told Good Housekeeping. “They literally make sure all the cars are black cars, unmarked, you never know who it is.”

32

You are chosen for your celebrity status.

From Dr. Drew to Jojo Siwa, it’s always a big surprise to the audience when the mask comes off — and production tries to cast the biggest names possible. “We strive to get a cross section of celebrities from all walks of life and the bigger the name the better,” executive producer Craig Plestis told Express.

33

Taping takes hours to complete.

First you have to clock in long hours in the studio and rehearsals, then taping one episode takes five hours, if not more.

34

Your costume has to favor form over function.

Along with concealing identities, the costumes are meant to grab that audience’s attention – which can sometimes affect the performer’s vision. “They really cannot see very much. And that’s the most disarming thing for them is getting on stage,” executive producer Izzie Pick Ibarra told E! News.

35

You can use stand-ins during filming.

“When you see the clues, the clues are more or less a voiceover that we did, believe it or not,” contestant Joey Fatonne told E! News. “There was so much stuff going on that they actually had somebody else in the costumes when we did the vignettes. When you see the clues, that wasn’t me in the costume. The voice was me, but the costume was not.”

36

You are paid to be on the show.

While salaries probably vary, Now to Love reported that the contestants on the Australian version of the TV show were each given a signing fee of $10,000 to $200,000, plus a per episode salary. It’s unclear what celebs in the U.S. version of the show make though.

37

There are no set rules for panelists.

Executive producer Izzie Pick Ibarra told E! News that panelists were just asked to, ” … voice the first thought that is going on in their head because what we were trying to do was to have them help you at home to be accumulating information.”

38

You can be friends with the panelists outside of the show.

Contestant Margaret Cho’s friendship with panelist Ken Jeong had no impact on her success on the show. “It was great because I think it’s one of those things like, it’s so obvious, but you’re like, oh it can’t be, because it’s too obvious. Maybe he was thinking, oh, they wouldn’t cast somebody that’s that close to me,” Cho told E! News.

39

No one is off-limits to join the cast.

One may think it’s too obvious to have an iconic singer join the ranks of The Masked Singer, but producers have urged fans not to write anyone off. Executive producer Izzie Pick Ibarra told E! News, “The way that they can perform in genres that are not theirs doesn’t always make it so obvious.”

40

If you win, you get a prize.

But it’s not a monetary prize, like on other competition shows. Instead, the final contestant gets to take home the Golden Mask trophy and, of course, bragging rights.

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