The successful daytime TV program The Kelly Clarkson Show is all about positivity and happiness — but that cheery attitude doesn’t extend behind the scenes, according to a number of current and former staff members.
In an exposé shared by Rolling Stone on Friday, 10 former and one current staff member of The Kelly Clarkson Show said they were bullied and harassed by the show’s producers, some to the point of tears, vomiting and mental anguish.
All 11 of the anonymous sources agreed that Clarkson, the face of the popular daytime production, is likely unaware of how more junior staff members are being treated on set. They claimed executive producer Alex Duda, who was called “a monster” by one former staffer, shields Clarkson from complaints about the “toxic” work environment Duda allegedly created.
“Kelly has no clue how unhappy her staff is,” one former staffer told Rolling Stone.
Another former employee described Clarkson, 41, as “fantastic.”
“She is a person who never treats anyone with anything but dignity and is incredibly appreciative,” they told the outlet.
Neither Clarkson nor Duda has commented publicly on the new allegations.
The staffers, all of whom are said to be entertainment industry veterans, said they were underpaid, overworked and “traumatized” by the employment experience. Many said their mental health suffered while working on The Kelly Clarkson Show, some so severely that they had to seek therapy after leaving their job.
The sources said some employees have had to take second jobs as dog walkers or Uber Eats drivers to pay their bills. (The average salary of the employees at The Kelly Clarkson Show is not known publicly.)
Several of the staffers said they filed HR complaints about harassing behaviour from Duda and others on set, but saw no action taken. One ex-staffer said an unnamed producer was “verbally abusive” and had on one occasion thrown a stapler across their office. Another claimed they were reprimanded by Duda when they asked in a meeting how The Kelly Clarkson Show planned to address the spread of anti-Asian hate crimes.
“There’s a culture of non-accountability for some people, and that needs to change,” a former staff member said.
In response to the Rolling Stone article, one current staff member told Entertainment Tonight that the show’s “toxic” branding came as a “surprise.”
“Kelly is a fast-paced production and isn’t without stress, but nothing about the environment rises to being labelled toxic,” the anonymous source told ET. “The show is still paying us although we had to shut down early because of the writers’ strike.”
The same source claimed the production is working on ways to retain staff in L.A., where the first four seasons were filmed, amid the show’s recently announced move to New York City.
A spokesperson for NBCUniversal, which airs The Kelly Clarkson Show, disputed the toxic work environment claims in a statement to ET.
“We are committed to a safe and respectful work environment and take workplace complaints very seriously and to insinuate otherwise is untrue,” the statement reads. “When issues are reported they are promptly reviewed, investigated and acted upon as appropriate. The Kelly Clarkson Show strives to build a safe, respectful and equitable workplace that nurtures a culture of inclusivity and creativity.”
The Kelly Clarkson Show is not the first daytime TV production to be branded toxic. The Ellen DeGeneres Show, TMZ and The Tyra Banks Show (which was produced by Duda), among others, have all also faced allegations of employee mistreatment.
The Kelly Clarkson Show premiered on Sept. 9, 2019, and is currently filming its fourth season (though had to halt production as a result of the writer’s strike). The production has been awarded 13 Daytime Emmys, including three for Outstanding Entertainment Talk Show Host for Clarkson.