11 Times Reality Show Contestants Clapped Back At Judges

There's no denying that television viewers love watching all the drama that unfolds in reality competition series — demonstrated by how many of these shows have been produced over the years. And while the genre continues to be dominated by singing — "American Idol," "The Voice," etc. — viewers have also embraced series set within other areas, with competitions featuring fashion models, dancers, comedians, drag performers, tattoo artists, chefs, interior designers, special-effects makeup artists, bakers, and so many more. 

Yet in pretty much every one of these shows, the format is nearly identical: contestants demonstrate their particular skill set and are then evaluated by a panel of judges. Based on the judges' critiques, contestants are either put through to the next round of competition or sent packing. When the latter happens, contestants and judges occasionally clash, and these tense encounters can spark fireworks — especially if a contestant provokes a judge to become angry enough to lose it in front of the camera. 

It may not happen often, but when it does, it can be reality TV gold. For proof, keep on reading to recall 11 times that reality show contestants clapped back at judges.

A Pink impersonator went off on The X Factor's judges

During a 2012 edition of Britain's "The X Factor," Zoe Alexander — a singer who impersonated Pink for a tribute act — took to the stage for an audition. Telling the judges she was anxious to move on from Pink and establish herself as a singer in her own right, she curiously sang Pink's "So What." "It's very confusing for me, because I did feel like I was watching a Pink tribute act," judge Tulisa told Alexander. She was then given the opportunity to try again with a second song, with the judges imploring her to tone down the Pink and just be herself. 

That second performance, however, failed to move the needle; all four judges voted no. At that point, Alexander began to scold them. "I wanted to be me! You guys told me to sing a Pink song!" she said. As the judges insisted they hadn't given her that instruction, she finally stormed offstage, hurling the microphone in anger. Her father pulled her back onto the stage — at which point she cursed at the judges before angrily exiting, this time violently pushing a camera operator out of her way.

Alexander subsequently posted a video alleging producers insisted she sing that particular Pink song and had deliberately set her up to fail. "It took me many years to come to terms with their dishonest portrayal of me and their intentionally induced public perception," she told Business Insider.

Gymnast Simone Biles snapped after being asked about smiling

Gymnast Simone Biles sprang to fame after winning four gold medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics. That led her to become one of the many Olympic athletes to compete on "Dancing with the Stars."

After she and dance partner Sasha Farber teamed up with dancer Brittany Cherry for a trio performance, the judges weighed in. Carrie Ann Inaba offered both praise and criticism, telling the athlete she was being over-precise with her movements, comparing her dancing to a metronome. As Inaba delivered her critique, Biles glared at her, stone-faced. Immediately after, "DWTS" co-host Tom Bergeron asked Biles, "I kept waiting for you to smile at some of the compliments, you didn't." That did cause Biles to smile. "Smiling doesn't win you gold medals," she said with a shrug. 

Her sassy retort went viral, and Bergeron wound up issuing an apology via X (formerly Twitter). As Bergeron told the Independent, his insensitive question deserved the response it received. "So instead of saying, 'Simone, what's your reaction to the judges' comments? Now, Carrie Ann was complimentary and the other two less so.' Instead of saying that, I had that last thought from [the producer] in my head, and I went, 'I noticed you didn't smile,'" he said. "Now, what woman wants to hear a guy say, 'Hey, sweetheart, smile.' The moment it came out of my mouth, I thought, 'Oh, you [idiot].' I was so properly put in my place."

A drag queen's epic staredown with RuPaul

One of the more awkward moments on "RuPaul's Drag Race" took place when the show's namesake star visited some of the competing queens backstage, offering pointed advice to one of them. "Pearl, the reason I'm twisting your t***s here is because you were in the bottom last week, and I wanna make sure that this week you up the ante," RuPaul said in a clip. "Well, you kind of, like, told me I had no personality," Pearl responded. "I mean, that doesn't make me feel good or give me confidence." RuPaul replied, "Well, I'm hoping to light a fire under your ass." With that, Pearl and RuPaul stared at each other during several seconds of excruciating silence, broken only when Pearl broke into a smile and asked, "Is there something on my face?"

In a subsequent interview with "Hey Qween," Pearl revealed an unnerving off-camera encounter with Ru. After Pearl shared admiration for RuPaul and excitement for being on the show, RuPaul offered a chilling response. "She turned to me and she said: 'Nothing you say matters unless that camera is rolling,'" Pearl recalled. "That broke my spirit, and that is the reason why I had one foot in and foot out the entire time I was on that show ... It was, like, so heartbreaking because I idolized her."

In a since-deleted video (via Gay Times), Pearl claimed to have been banned from ever appearing on the show again.

A wannabe singer accused Demi Lovato of using Auto-Tune

One of the more memorable auditions for the U.S. version of "The X Factor" featured Shawn Armenta, a 50-year-old singer who performed his original composition, "Candy Girl." Beyond the song itself, viewers also got to experience Armenta's unique vocal stylings and cringe-inducing dance moves. Judge Simon Cowell aptly summed up the performance by declaring, "It's just wrong."

Armenta bristled. "I worked way too freakin' hard for this and I'm not a bad singer. I know I'm not." Judge Demi Lovato, however, pointed out that many people work hard but never make it in showbiz. "That's why you use Auto-Tune and I don't," he fired back, prompting judge Britney Spears to ask, "I want to know who let you onstage. I feel uncomfortable with you even staring at me." That was the final straw for Armenta. "I don't need this either — set up the amateur hour!" he said. "See you later," said judge L.A. Reid, giving Armenta a dismissive wave indicating he should leave now. "Yeah, see you — I'm a better writer!" Armented added before storming off the stage.  

In a subsequent interview with Oh No They Didn't, Armenta accused Spears of copying him, and claimed that his interaction with the judges was significantly longer, but was edited to make him look bad. "What actually happened was that I shut them down for three to five minutes, because they were getting booed," he alleged. "The panel was getting booed."

An arrogant singer told off the judges during U.K. X factor

The U.K. version of "The X Factor" likewise featured its share of singers whose fanciful estimation of their own talent far exceeded their actual ability. Take Debi Stevens, who began her audition by asserting, "I'm amazing!" After hearing her sing, however, the judges felt otherwise. Sharon Osbourne noted that while her voice was just alright, Stevens herself lacked star quality. "You've got no charisma," Osbourne observed, while Simon Cowell agreed. "I felt your confidence was slightly deluded," he told her. Judge Louis Walsh put it even more bluntly when he told her, "Debra, the reality is, you're not very good."

Stevens' eyes narrowed to slits, telling Walsh that she felt like slapping him — and didn't care what he thought of her. "You can't sing, you have no talent — get out!" she told Walsh. Osbourne, sensing Stevens might not be the most stable person, gently escorted her out — only to have Stevens bolt, rush back in, and pick up a glass of water that she intended to hurl at Walsh. Walsh, however, countered by throwing his own water at her first. Stevens then exited in a huff while Cowell laughed uproariously at the bonkers spectacle he'd just witnessed. 

Years later, Stevens told Lady Candic that producers had instructed her to act arrogantly. "It took a lot of years of therapy to sort of come to terms with the fact that I was egregiously manipulated," she said.

Singer Mason Noise thrown out after insulting Simon Cowell

Another contestant on "The X Factor" who clashed with judges was the cleverly named Mason Noise. After completing his performance, the singer brought the proceedings to a halt. "Hold up, I got something to say," he told the audience, complaining that his earlier performance had been edited down to just 47 seconds while other contestants received more screen time. "Mason," warned Cowell," you are five seconds away from getting thrown off this stage." Engulfed in boos from the audience, Noise told the crowd, "You shouldn't be booing — I'm doing this for you. I'm doing this for artists!" 

Cowell wasn't buying it. "You're being a complete ***hole," Cowell angrily responded. "Don't tell me how long you should have on this show!" As Noise continued to insist he was "bringing art" to the competition, Cowell added, "Why don't you just shut up ... Mason, shut it." Cowell, growing increasingly ticked off, told Noise to apologize to the production staffers who'd edited his performances for air. "Don't come on and insult my show and insult these producers." After he refused to apologize, Cowell told him to leave — and he did, dropping his mic and exiting the stage.

Despite the ugliness of that exchange, judge Nick Grimshaw subsequently invited Noise to return to the show, and all was forgiven. "Yes he was difficult ... but people with an artistic temperament can be difficult," Grimshaw said in a statement, as reported by the Irish Independent.

Michael Bolton demanded an apology from Bruno Tonioli after a brutal critique

Singer Michael Bolton was among the celebs to compete in the 2010 season of "Dancing With the Stars," and it was fair to say dancing was not his strong suit. Bolton's defining moment came after he and dance partner Chelsea Hightower jived to the Elvis Presley hit "Hound Dog." "I don't think the world is ready for your interpretation of the jive .... it probably needed a pooper scooper at the end," Len Goodman quipped. Fellow judge Bruno Tonioli, however, was even more scathing, telling Bolton, "You did it all very, very badly — I think this is probably the worst jive in 11 seasons." Goodman was shocked and chastised Tonioli for being unnecessarily mean. "I think that was unfair," he scolded.

Bolton was booted off the show later that night. During his exit interview the following morning on "Good Morning America," he agreed Tonioli was out of line. "You heard the tone. Even Len stopped him and said, 'That's inappropriate,' and I think he should apologize publicly and be reprimanded for it," Bolton said, as reported by ABC News

There was no apology. In a statement, "DWTS" producers insisted that Tonioli's role on the show is to offer his unvarnished opinions, regardless of what a contestant might think of them. "While we respect the feelings of our celebrities and dancers, we don't feel Bruno should be expected to apologize for doing his job," the statement read.

An aspiring model clapped back at Tyra Banks after America's Next Top Model elimination

During an episode of "America's Next Top Model," Tiffany Richardson and fellow wannabe runway star Rebecca Epley were up for elimination when host Tyra Banks pulled a fast one by axing both. While Epley openly wept, Richardson was nonplussed, even joking with the other women. That set Banks off. "This is a joke to you," Banks said, her anger rising. "This is serious to these girls, and it should be serious to you." Richardson insisted she was upset but didn't see how acting like it would benefit the situation. "I'm hurt ... I'm sick of crying about stuff that I cannot change. I'm sick of being disappointed."

That further irked Banks. "You ain't sick of being disappointed, Tiffany," she said, the volume of her voice rising as she told her she blew a chance at winning. "Do you know that all of America is rooting for you?" she yelled. As Richardson continued to push back, Banks wasn't having it. "Quiet! Stop!" the supermodel shouted, daggers firing out of her. "I have never in my life yelled at a girl like this!" Banks shouted, ending her tirade by yelling, "I was rooting for you! We were all rooting for you! How dare you?"

Looking back at the viral moment, Banks regretted losing it so badly. "Oh my god totally, I wouldn't have done it," Banks later told BuzzFeed News. "Actually, maybe I wouldn't have aired it."

Tattoo artist kicked off Ink Master for getting into a shoving match with one of the judges

When a reality show contestant feels wronged by judges, it can lead to an exchange of words. In an episode of tattoo competition "Ink Master," however, a judge-contestant clash nearly resulted in an exchange of fists when hotheaded tattoo artist Kyle Dunbar took issue with the severity of judge Chris Núñez's criticism. After calling Núñez a "b****" (among other choice epithets), Dunbar angrily confronted him. "You want to push me to a level of insanity? You'll get that," he said. "And you want to stand up there with some level of judgment? I'll tattoo circles around you." "Really?" Núñez replied, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "Dude, you're awful."

That pushed Dunbar to the boiling point. Fuming, he marched up to Núñez, getting right in his face and giving him a solid shove backward. Meanwhile, Núñez continued to taunt him, telling Dunbar, "We're not going to fight ... This is stupid. You're fighting over a tattoo?" That infuriated Dunbar even more, and he gave Núñez another shove before several men stepped in to separate the two; Dunbar was subsequently removed from the competition. 

"If you train your dog by scolding every time it does something wrong, it cowers from you for some time," Dunbar later told MLive to explain his actions. "Eventually, if you beat it a bit, it strikes at you."

Daymond John was granted a restraining order against Shark Tank contestants

Verbal altercations that turn physical are one thing, but it's a very special reality show contestant whose behavior toward a judge hits the point where a restraining order is required. Yet that was the case with "Shark Tank" investor Daymond John and the folks behind Bubba's Q Boneless Ribs, the company he decided to back after they appeared on the show, hawking their delicious-looking ribs. 

During the episode, viewers saw John promise to plunk down $300K to own 30% of the company; however, the company's founders — Al "Bubba" Baker, wife Sabrina, and daughter Brittani — subsequently alleged that John changed the deal, claiming that he instead offered them $100K for a 35% stake. 

The Bakers took their grievances with the "Shark Tank" star public on social media. According to John, their relentless attacks on him caused him reputational damage, which John claimed resulted in the cancellation of speaking engagements and a TV project that had been in the works. That led him to seek a permanent restraining order against the Bakers, which a judge granted. "The actual facts, the record, and the federal judge's opinion have confirmed that I did not and could not have committed any wrongdoing," John's spokesperson, Zach Rosenfield, said in a statement to Entertainment Weekly. "Let this be a reminder of the importance of the truth in an age of misinformation and clickbait. I have always upheld transparency and honesty throughout my journey as an entrepreneur."

Queen Tammie Brown didn't hold back when responding to RuPaul's critique

A fan-favorite on "RuPaul's Drag Race," Tammie Brown got into it with RuPaul himself in a now-legendary confrontation. As Tammie griped about "negativity," RuPaul retorted by stating that she was bringing that on herself. That proved to set Brown off. "You both called me losers... and I don't see you out there walking children in nature," Brown fired back — a comment that infuriated Ru. "You forgot who you are! You forgot, Tammie! You forgot you're fabulous. Don't blame me for that, that's your f***ing responsibility," RuPaul yelled angrily. 

Tammie then served up a pithy response that stopped RuPaul cold: "Excuse your mouth," the sassy drag queen declared.

Recalling that oh-so-memorable moment in an interview with "Drag Tea Interviews with Matt," Brown recalled receiving numerous messages from people offering criticism for what they perceived as serious disrespect to a drag icon. Brown, however, viewed the situation very differently. "I don't care who RuPaul is and what RuPaul's done," Brown declared defiantly, "you're not gonna talk to me like that."