(Lyndsey Parker) It happens almost every season, on every talent show: A promising singer is presented by producers as being a fresh-off-the-turnip-truck total unknown, but it only takes a few YouTube or Wikipedia searches to uncover that contestant's illustrious professional past — and the public cries foul.
Such "scandals" surrounded "American Idol" contestants Carly Smithson and Joanna Pacitti, who'd had major-label deals as teens, and "The X Factor" Season 1's Stacy Francis, who became the focus of a Perez Hilton smear campaign after her extensive showbiz background came to light. Even "The Voice," probably the most transparent talent show when it comes to casting seasoned professionals, caught some flak this year for putting through Judith Hill, a veteran who'd sung backup for Michael Jackson. And the latest such controversy centers on "X Factor" Season 3 standout Lillie McCloud.
Lillie, an incredibly ageless 54-year-old diva, seemed to come out of nowhere on "The X Factor's" premiere, wowing everyone with her soul-stirring performance; judge Kelly Rowland even exclaimed, "Where have you been hiding?" But nothing remains hidden online, and once Lillie's daughter tweeted about the audition using the name "Nicole McCloud," the secret was out. It didn't take long for the Interweb to start buzzing about Lillie's past.
While "X Factor" editors had presented Lillie as a humble mother and grandmother finally pursuing her deferred musical dream, it turned out she actually had a long résumé dating back the 1980s — under the stage name Nicole McCloud — that included a deal with Portrait/Epic Records, four albums, gigs alongside stars like Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson, and 10 singles that made the U.S. Billboard Dance chart. Lillie even once sang the theme song to "Slovakia's Got Talent," indicating a possible connection to "Got Talent"/"X Factor" franchise creator Simon Cowell.
A story on Lillie/Nicole's background first appeared on the pop-culture website MJsBigBlog, and a Stacy Francis-like backlash was in effect before "The X Factor" had even finished airing on the West Coast — already tarnishing what should have been Lillie's big moment.
"So, it's all bull. The X Factor is turning into The Voice, recruiting real, accomplished artists who are down on their luck. 'Discovering a superstar?!' Really?" posted one irate MJ reader, Sassycatz. "There's a huge difference between playing bars, fairs, busking, anything to try and get a break, even being a session singer, to having a record deal and several Billboard charting songs, and performing with top name artists," posted another disgruntled reader, HKFan. Other commenters on the blog and on Twitter defended Lillie, but MJ reader Montavilla might have summed it up best with the comment, "I don't have a problem with her having experience. I have a problem with her having experience and pretending that she doesn't."
Most fans didn't seem to begrudge Lillie's past (it's not like she ever became a huge star, and clearly she still needed this break). But they resented the show's lack of disclosure. Lillie spoke to Yahoo Music's Reality Rocks the day after her "X Factor" audition aired to set the record straight.
"I do want to let the public know that I am for sure not hiding who I am," she insisted. As for why "X Factor" producers didn't mention anything about her past singing career, she replied, "I really don't know the answer to that. When I would ask that question, I would be told, 'This is what's important, this is how we want to do it.'
Read More: Yahoo! Music News - If you haven't seen Lillie's performance, watch it below: