X Factor star Lucy Spraggan is calling for an “industry shift” over the treatment of contestants on reality TV, labelling the resulting fame from appearing on such programmes “a huge trauma”.
The singer – who is now 31 – was just 20 years old when she appeared on the Simon Cowell talent show, and was a favourite to win, but left the competition after just a few weeks following a sexually assault.
While she withdrew from the show following the attack (for which a man – not connected with the show – was convicted and imprisoned), she has remained musically active, releasing music every two years, and now sharing her seventh album.
Making the decision to waive her anonymity (which is granted to all victims of sexual assault), Spraggan has gone on to call herself a “lucky victim,” adding: “I say I’m a lucky victim for many reasons, and one of which is to have a conviction. It’s not something that many people are afforded.”
Spraggan tells Sky News: “I am a completely different person… I’ve done a lot of healing the last 11 years”.
However, her early experiences on reality TV has inspired her to push for change. She says: “I think there needs be an industry shift in the way that we treat the mental health of participants on shows, on reality TV. Becoming famous, especially overnight, is a huge trauma. It’s really quite something.”
She says: “When I looked for the mental health help that I needed, I didn’t know where to look,” adding: “I want use my negative experience to build a better place for other people”.
She says she was inspired by the death of Love Island presenter Caroline Flack, who took her own life in 2020, to write her memoir, Process, and there is also a song about the late star on her most recent album.
A friend of Flack’s, Spraggan says: “I remember hearing that she had died and just being so overwhelmed. I wondered what protocols and what procedures were in place to help somebody who quite clearly needed help at that time.”
Spraggan also says that while she’s been fortunate enough to have a successful music career after appearing on the show, others have been less lucky, and had to return to their former jobs, which she says is “not good for a person’s well-being,” adding: “I think after being exposed to fame like that, you need a little bit of help with your self-worth and work on validation”.
The singer is calling for a mental health pension scheme to be put in place for those working on reality TV – both on and off the screen – where production companies take a percentage of their budget which is then available for staff to access for mental health resources.
When approached by Sky News, ITV said in a statement: “We’ve evolved and improved these oversight procedures since the events in question and we are encouraged to hear that Thames [the production company behind X Factor] recognises the importance of continuous review and improvement of their own processes.
“We continue to evolve our own duty of care processes on programmes we produce to ensure that there are appropriate measures in place to support contributors before, during and after filming.”
Spraggan says she has opened up about her traumatic experiences in both her memoir and album in a bid to help others.
“I want people to see my story and say terrible things can happen, but we can get better, and we will feel better. And that’s what this whole thing is about. It’s a very positive message”.
Spraggan’s memoir, Process: Finding My Way Through, is available now, and her latest album, Balance, is released today.
Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email email@example.com in the UK. In the US, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK