1683900152 The Kelly Clarkson Show is toxic behind the scenes staff

‘The Kelly Clarkson Show’ is toxic behind the scenes, staff say

Kelly Clarkson hosts The Kelly Clarkson Show.

Weiss Eubanks/NBC Universal

When The Kelly Clarkson Show aired on NBC in the fall of 2019, the talk show immediately became a popular, fresh addition to traditional daytime programming. With a steady following from Clarkson’s singing career, who have rooted for her since winning the first-ever American Idol competition in 2002, the show captivated audiences. For the past four seasons, the pop singer has interviewed guests like Hillary Clinton and Dolly Parton, performed “Kellyoke” segments in which she covers other people’s favorite songs like “Queen of the Night” by Whitney Houston and “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele sings,” and has maintained a level of openness and connection with viewers at home.

But behind the scenes, staff say they were overworked and underpaid and that working on the show was traumatizing to their mental health, describing the Kelly Clarkson Show as a toxic environment. These employees are entertainment industry veterans who understand the potential downsides of working in a high-pressure environment like daytime television, and are disappointed that that culture persists on a show that has had a chance to make a difference in the industry make. A current and 10 former employees spoke to Rolling Stone on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution and said they were confident the talk show host had no sense of how unhappy employees were with working conditions.

“NBC protects the show because it’s their new moneymaker, but Kelly has no idea how unhappy her staff are,” says a former employee.

A second former collaborator adds, “I remember going up on the stage roof and crying and thinking, ‘Oh my God, what am I doing?’ Why am I putting this on?’”

NBC did not comment on this story after being given several days to do so. Kelly Clarkson and the show’s executive producer Alex Duda did not respond to separate requests for comment.

The Kelly Clarkson Show leads its competitors in ratings. According to Nielsen, as of December 2022, it had 1.4 million daily viewers, and the number is growing every year. The Emmy Award-winning show will be helmed by executive producer and showrunner Alex Duda, who previously served as executive producer on Steve Harvey and The Tyra Banks Show, and will be renewed through season six in 2025. According to a current staffer at The Kelly, The Clarkson Show was due to start recording new episodes by May 20, but due to the writers’ strike that went into effect on May 1, staff don’t believe they will finish the current season. They were told they would be paid over the next few weeks.

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Kelly Clarkson appears on The Kelly Clarkson Show. Weiss Eubanks/NBC Universal

Former employees say the toxic behavior starts behind the scenes with Duda protecting Clarkson from what the employees are said to be enduring due to the climate Duda created.

“I think Alex Duda is a monster,” says a former employee. “I have a friend who is an executive producer and warned me against taking this job because she seems to have done it on every show she’s worked on.”

As for Clarkson, the current employee and 10 former employees appear to be unaware of just how dire the situation is for lower-level employees, who some say have taken jobs other than babysitting or dog walking , and Uber Eats drivers have their bills to pay. They say there’s a behind-the-scenes divide between staff who are preferred by executive and executive producers and those who aren’t. Former staff are also frustrated that the culture at the show hasn’t changed despite a spate of staff complaints, and fear that the longer the behavior goes on without repercussions, the worse it will get as the season progresses.

“Kelly is fantastic. She’s a person who treats no one with anything but dignity and is incredibly appreciative,” says a former employee. “I’d be shocked if she knew. I would be devastated if she knew that the staff are not getting paid for the two week Christmas break. The Kelly that I’ve interacted with and that everyone knows would probably be quite horrified to find out.”


A former employee says they recently quit their job on the show because a producer who reports to Duda yelled and verbally abused them on stage multiple times. They say the way they were treated at work made them so anxious that they vomited regularly and showed symptoms of physical illness.

“This job has deteriorated my mental health,” they say.

A second former employee says they took a leave of absence because their mental health was also suffering. They say they were bullied and intimidated by producers who went out of their way to scare the staff, ask questions, and get the job done. According to the employee, this prompted her to take a month off from her job and see a psychiatrist for the first time in her life because they “really couldn’t handle it mentally.” The former employee says they’ve worked on various sets in the entertainment industry for years, but the Kelly Clarkson Show “is by far the worst experience I’ve ever had in my life.”

“It put me off ever wanting to work a day again,” they say. “When I say I was traumatized, I was really traumatized.”

While this former employee says he was hesitant to contact human resources with his concerns about abuse behind the scenes on the show, other employees said they reported issues to human resources. Seven former employees said they used their exit interviews with NBCUniversal to describe their negative experiences.

A third former employee said he even had a follow-up call with HR after his exit interview about his issues with two producers. The staff rep informed them that they found the producers’ behavior unprofessional, but ultimately the same producers were promoted.

“To be honest, I don’t know what the HR department is doing at this fair,” says the former employee. “Nothing significant happened.”

A fourth former employee said he left the show after feeling bullied, teased and made into uncomfortable situations by executive producer Duda. The former employee, who is white, once said that in a conversation about diversifying Clarkson’s audience, Duda asked her, “Why don’t black people want to come to the show?” Why don’t black people want to see Kelly?”

The same former employee said he was asked by HR to participate in an investigation into management launched by another colleague, but never told him the outcome of the complaint.

“You’d think they’re very proactive and really care, but they just nod their heads and take notes and it gets nowhere,” they say.

A fifth employee said his production manager verbally abused her and others, which other current and former employees confirmed. They say that colleagues regularly walked around the production manager and saw him throw a stapler across their office.

“He spoke in a way that you shouldn’t do in a professional setting — he cursed, raised his voice and threw a violent tantrum,” says the former employee. “Other people who know him would laugh at that and say, ‘Oh, he’s in a bad mood,’ but you shouldn’t laugh at that. Why is he getting a bad behavior pass?”

The former employee said they reported their production manager’s behavior to HR more than once before they left the show, but “they didn’t take any action.”

“They knew my situation, they knew my story, but I didn’t get the support I really needed from them,” they say. “What is the point of HR? They lie to you too. They make it seem like they’re there for you, and when push comes to shove, they’re not there.”

A sixth staffer said they were reprimanded by Duda for asking how executive producers should address the show’s proliferation of anti-Asian hate crimes. They say that after reporting the incident to human resources, they were subsequently bullied, yelled at and excluded from future meetings by the executive producers they complained about. The former employee ended up leaving the show because he felt retaliated and was forced out because he had no other choice.

“I thought I did the right thing. Someone brought this to me and I thought it was important,” says the former employee. “I can’t believe I brought up something that wasn’t easy to begin with, got attacked for it, and then when I told them they were making me uncomfortable because I was raising an important issue, they attacked me again and I felt even worse.”

According to emails obtained by Rolling Stone, the Writers Guild of America has also launched an investigation into the show because The Kelly Clarkson Show is part of the Writers Guild and, on a unionized show, only writers are allowed to write but allegedly producers also wrote episodes, violating the protections of the WGA’s Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA). The Writers Guild of America did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Filming for the upcoming season of The Kelly Clarkson Show is scheduled to take place in New York City. This poses problems for crew members and staff in Los Angeles, where the show has been filmed for the past four seasons. According to one current and four former employees, rumors of the show’s relocation have been circulating for months. Then, during a staff meeting in January 2023 after the show’s vacation break, Clarkson reportedly expressed her desire to return to the East Coast because she wanted to be closer to her family and pursue Broadway and other passions. Duda also met with people one-on-one to take their fevers and find out if they would be interested in doing the show or not.

Employees said they didn’t know specific details about the upcoming move until they received an email from Duda two minutes before Variety confirmed the news Monday.

Kelly Clarkson on The Kelly Clarkson Show. Weiss Eubanks/NBC Universal

The Kelly Clarkson Show isn’t the first daytime show to report major behind-the-scenes staffing troubles. According to veteran television workers with decades of experience in Hollywood, there’s an ingrained culture of abuse in this space. In July 2020, BuzzFeed News reported on the toxic work environment at The Ellen DeGeneres Show that led to the firing of three executive producers. In September 2020, published an investigation alleging a longstanding toxic culture at Telepictures, the production company behind The Ellen Show, TMZ, The Rosie O’Donnell Show and The Tyra Banks Show, where Duda worked before The Kelly Clarkson Show . staff of dr. Phil also told BuzzFeed News in 2021 that working on the show was abusive and toxic. Some said it wrecked her mental, emotional and physical health, which the show categorically denied. Many people say that the cycle of misconduct and wrongdoing continues behind the scenes on daytime television because the same executive producers and showrunners who make careers in this world bring their experiences and behaviors to other shows. But those still working in the trenches during the day want this cycle to end.

A current employee who spoke to Rolling Stone was initially excited about working on the Kelly Clarkson Show after years of unhappiness and anxiety on another daytime television program that was said to have a toxic environment. But now they’re disappointed because they say the experience gave them a pattern in the behavior and culture behind the scenes of daytime television in general.

“I was trying to find a new job having already experienced the toxicity of the day and it had the potential for a fresh start, but Alex [Duda] And the people who are loyal to her have not broken this vicious circle. You can’t be a leader if you keep letting all these bad things happen and fostering a bad culture,” says the employee. “All these daytime shows are meant to make you feel good and happy. Kelly [Clarkson] uses a farewell phrase: “Make it a great day, and if it’s not great, change it,” but it’s hard to exist and work in a machine that spreads these happy, bubbly, positive messages, and then there are people here who do that just treated badly.”

Some staffers are skeptical about the potential for change at the Kelly Clarkson Show, particularly those who say they’ve reported their issues to staff representatives to no avail. Others, on the other hand, want producers to take responsibility and change the work environment for the better.


“Some people have a culture of irresponsibility, and that needs to change,” says a former employee.

“People shouldn’t be treated like that,” says another former employee. “Especially when you’re working on a TV show that wins Emmys and brings in millions in advertising dollars.”