Paula Abdul, Ju'Not Joyner Spotlight Ugly Side of 'American Idol'

"The way they portrayed me on the show was that I'm the daughter of a state senator and a news reporter and I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I came off as this stuck up northeastern b***h," Brown said.

That changed when executive producers Warwick and Nigel Lythgoe actually listened to Brown sing.

"A few weeks in, when I was rehearsing, Ken and Nigel came in and said, 'You know, we knew you were pretty but we really didn't know you could sing this well,'" Brown said. "It made me think that I was on the show, and some people are put on the show, just to get ratings."

Does 'American Idol' Go Too Far for Ratings?

It's no secret that reality TV, like all TV, is ratings driven. But what shocked Brown, other "Idol" hopefuls and those who worked for the show is its ruthless pursuit to woo viewers, even if it means manipulating them and the contestants.

"The show uses the back stories to help bring contestants who they want to go further in the show to the front of the public, the public's eye, so the public has sympathy for them and they will vote them into the top 24 or the top 12, or the top 3 and ultimately the winner," said Justin Buckles, a former "American Idol" production coordinator and author of "Stage 46: The Reality of Reality Television," a novel based on his four-year-long "Idol" experience. "I think they use the back story to manipulate the public, no question about that in my mind."

Buckles also has personal reasons to speak out against "Idol." He claimed the show exploits its staff and subjects employees to sub-par working conditions. Buckles said that at one point, he worked seven days a week for four months straight, earning a flat rate that amounted to approximately $4.50 an hour after taxes.

"It is slave labor and I am not afraid to say it," he said.

But ultimately, for these contestants, and surely for Buckles and Abdul, "American Idol" provided a platform. They agree that while things were not as glamorous behind the curtain as audiences might believe, they wouldn't be where they are today without the show.

"Maybe there is a possibility that it is rigged. Maybe," mused Brown. "But I'm in a place in my life right now where I don't care. I get hired to sing, I've recorded three albums ... I'm living a life that I can't complain about."

Additional reporting contributed by ABC News' Laura Coverson.

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