Longtime TV host and judge Tyra Banks, along with Marathon Productions, Inc., the production company of America’s Got Talent, are being sued by a woman and her mother after a failed audition for the talent show.
The woman, Jane Doe, says that her young daughter Mary Doe (their real names are not revealed in the lawsuit) was traumatized when Banks “physically manipulated and verbally abused” the girl.
Jane Doe, a self-proclaimed singer and songwriter, attests that she performed a song along with her husband at the March 19 taping. She claims that the song is about her close bond with Mary, who was present for the performance on set and “held a certain long-term emotional importance” to the song.
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Jane says that she was “humiliated” when the audience and judges began to criticize the song — not an uncommon occurrence on reality competitions — but things turned very sour when Banks continued to mock the song to Mary.
(You can see the official legal documents below, courtesy of Deadline. The article continues after the documentation.)
According to the lawsuit, Banks began to physically shake Mary’s shoulder and pull her hair back, and made an insinuation that she was “accidentally conceived.”
Jane says that because of the AGT experience, Mary has suffered long-term emotional distress, depression and trauma.
“Mary would become extremely nervous and anxious whenever, among other triggering events, she hears any mentions of the song and the song itself, whenever she ruminates about the events during or related to the performance, and whenever she thinks about the prospective televised airing or use online of Jane and her husband, their performance, as well as the airing and use online of any footages of Mary,” reads the lawsuit.
Normally, when contestants appear on competition reality shows, they usually sign a waiver, allowing the production company to use footage of the audition. In this case, Jane alleges that Mary entered into a contract with Marathon without any parental consent.
While the lawsuit states that AGT has agreed not to televise the alleged mockery of the song or Mary’s reaction to said mockery, Jane is seeking that the entire performance be eradicated from any future broadcast to prevent further distress on her daughter. (On May 9, apparently, AGT agreed to those terms.)
The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages “in an amount to be determined by proof at trial” and they’re requesting a jury trial.
Fremantle Media (the parent of Marathon Productions), the production company and Banks have not commented on the lawsuit.
This isn’t the first time Banks has been sued: in 2014, former America’s Next Top Model contestant Angelea Preston filed a $4-million lawsuit against Banks and the show, claiming she was wrongfully disqualified after producers discovered she’d worked as an escort in the past. That case was ordered to arbitration, and the end result has not been made public.