For two seasons, The Masked Singer has been a reality TV phenomenon that merges three staples of the genre: the live singing of American Idol and The Voice, the technicolor pageantry of Skin Wars, and the B-list celebrity rosters of the VH1 celebreality heyday. Trying to soothsay which of the many celebrities may show up clad in a flora or fauna-inspired suit of nightmares is not an exact science, but the show has definitely established a handful of archetypes from which to pull potential crooners.
Ahead of show’s third season, which premieres in Sunday's cushy post-Super Bowl slot, we've broken down the types of celebs the show seems to go for, and offered up some suggestions for who might fill the bill in each category.
Former contestants: Donny Osmond (Peacock, Season 1), Chris Daughtry (Rottweiler, Season 2)
Both Osmond and Daughtry have been able to top the charts and get people to tune into their past reality TV ventures. Showbiz veteran Osmond was previously seen on Dancing with the Stars, while Daughtry was, of course, discovered on American Idol’s chock-full-o’-talent Season 5.
There are many celebs Fox could ask to join the Season 3 cast who would fit this mold. For example, Vince Neil or Charo, both former Surreal Life housemates on VH1, are just kooky enough to be at home in a celebrity singing competition with dazzling outfits. If they’re looking for more American Idol alums, they could do Clay Aiken, who's already spent most of his career as a punchline. If they wanted to keep it in the Season 5 Idol family, why not try Taylor Hicks, whose “Soul Patrol” victory was a national nightmare that we may not have wanted, but totally deserve. Finally, I think the right mix of talent, fame, and willingness might lie in Season 3 runner-up Diana DeGarmo.
Former contestants: Gladys Knight (Bee, Season 1), Patti Labelle (Flower, Season 2)
This is not to say that none of the other singers who have appeared on the show lack talent, but none reach the legend level embodied by Season 1’s Gladys Knight or Season 2’s Labelle.
Neither Labelle nor Knight had a long reality TV resume prior to Singer, so who Fox might try to nab next is really up for grabs. The first name that comes to mind is Chaka Khan, who not only has an undeniable set of pipes, but is also a full-on personality prime for TV. Another great mix of pipes and personality is Sheryl Lee Ralph, who proved to be reality TV gold when she appeared as a guest judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Dionne Warwick would definitely draw headlines if she appeared, as would a name like Anita Baker. The only problem is that it’s much less of a guessing game when, as with Knight and Labelle, their voices are so recognizable.
Former contestants: Kelly Osbourne (Ladybug, Season 2), Tori Spelling (Unicorn, Season 1); Rumer Willis (Lion, Season 1)
Members of famous families seem to have an automatic spot in almost every reality TV, and The Masked Singer is no exception.
Going off the musical families who've previously been represented on the show, it wouldn’t be that much of a stretch to imagine Evan Ross, Diana’s son, making an appearance. And that goes double for his wife, aughts pop phenomenon Ashlee Simpson, who has the distinction of being both a part of the Simpson family and the Ross family. (Maybe Simpson’s son, Bronx Mowgli, will be on Season 22!) Which member of reggae's famous Marley family will be the first to appear on Masked Singer? It could be Rita Marley or Skip Marley, who was recently featured on Katy Perry’s single, “Chained to the Rhythm.” Don’t rule out a name like Lisa Marie Presley who, like Simpson, has name recognition not only because of her last name but because of her infamous marriage to Michael Jackson.
Former contestants: Michelle Williams (Butterfly, Season 2), Adrienne Bailon (Flamingo, Season 2), Joey Fatone (Rabbit, Season 1)
As with many reality shows, the caliber of celebrity goes up as the show’s popularity crests. In its third season, The Masked Singer is sure to attract a level of celebrity even higher than it has in the past. (Which is saying something, given that it had Michelle Freakin’ Williams in Season 2!) Knowing that, producers have a few ways to play this: do they go for classic '90s and 2000s bands akin to Destiny’s Child, go contemporary, or go pre-1990s?
New Kids on the Block’s Jordan Knight has already stamped his reality card on The Surreal Life, perhaps suggesting he’d be open to go back into the reality rodeo. Same for Fifth Harmony’s Ally Brooke, who recently tried out for Dancing With the Stars. If they want to go to with other former Fifth Harmony members, they could go with Lauren Jauregui or Dinah Jane, though Jauregui seems a little bit too close to solo fame to detour on Singer. NSYNC member JC Chasez seems like a no-brainer, as do either T-Boz or Chilli, both of whom were on reality TV when they searched for a third band member in the 2005 UPN competition R U the Girl? (It was ultimately revealed that the winner would not join the group permanently and only be featured on one single.) And though I would love to see former Pussycat Doll member Melody Thornton on the Masked Singer stage, I’m sure judge Nicole Scherzinger wouldn’t have it.
Former contestants: Raven-Symone (Black Widow, Season 2), Ricki Lake (Raven, Season 1), Sherri Shepherd (Penguin, Season 2); Adrienne Bailon (Flamingo, Season 2)
TV Talk shows, especially panel shows like The Real, The Talk and their primogenitor The View operate much like The Masked Singer when it comes to casting, which is why alumni of these shows tend to make up so much of the cast.
Going off of this, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Tamar Braxton — who was on the first season of The Real, showed up with her family on Braxton Family Values, and of course won Celebrity Big Brother — showing up on Masked eventually. Same goes for Marissa Janet Winokur, who left The Talk after one season and who also won Celebrity Big Brother. Like Ricki Lake, she’s also a former Tracy Turnblad. Other possibilities include The View’s Star Jones, who invented sponcon with her wedding of mythical proportions, or fellow View alum Candace Cameron Bure. Our pie-in-the-sky talk show host would probably be Emmy-winner and reality TV pioneer Tyra Banks, who we also happens to know a thing or two about singing. “Shake Ya Body,” anybody?
Former contestants: Wayne Brady (Fox, Season 1), Ana Gasteyer (Tree, Season 2)
Both Brady and Gasteyer are consummate entertainers, and Gasteyer’s singing talent has even brought her to Broadway as Wicked’s Elphaba. In that vein, there are plenty of funny people in Hollywood who might also want to lend a costumed voice to the Fox hit.
If they want other comedic actresses with Broadway experience, they need look no further than Megan Mullally, who was in Young Frankenstein on Broadway. Bridget Everett is a comedian who also has vocal chops, though she doesn’t have as much name recognition as some of the others. If they wanna get real classic with it, why not go for Father of Parody “Weird” Al Yankovic. And hey, Russell Brand would be great too, right?
Former contestants: Victor Oladipo (Thingamajig, Season 2), Antonio Brown (Hippo, Season 1), Terry Bradshaw (Deer, Season 1), Laila Ali (Panda, Season 2)
One name that comes to mind is Kevin Garnett, who is hot off the Uncut Gems press tour. Former Dancing with the Stars contestant Tonya Harding could extend her Hardingassaince on the show, as well. DWTS’ Johnny Damon could also join the game. If Fox were going for actual ratings gold, former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner would be a great choice, as would Jennifer Lopez’s current boo, Alex Rodriguez.
Former contestants: Johnny Weir (Egg, Season 2), Margaret Cho (Poodle, Season 1)
As the hit song from The Producers says, “Keep it gay!” Going off of the two types of elite queer people on past seasons, Johnny Weir (an athlete) and Margaret Cho (a comedian), there are a few people that Fox could call.
First and foremost would be Adam Rippon. You might think Rippon takes himself too seriously, but he’s already appeared on Dancing with the Stars and… have you seen his book cover? If you wanna go back to a really classic name, look no further than Olympic diver Greg Louganis. An interesting addition here would definitely be Michael Sam, who could tell his story in the show’s pre-taped openings.
In terms of queer comedians, you have to get the formula just right. Margaret Cho is from an older vanguard that lends itself to reality TV in a way that names like Bowen Yang or Julio Torres do not. I’m thinking… Mario Cantone, maybe Lea DeLaria? And finally, who wouldn’t want to see comedian Eddie Izzard back on TV?
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Mathew Rodriguez is an award-winning editor, journalist and essayist. He is currently the associate editor at TheBody and has written for Out, The Village Voice, Teen Vogue, Mic, INTO and The Advocate.