New American Idol Judges, Execs Speak Out on Mariah Carey-Nicki Minaj Feud: 'It's Authentic'

2013 Winter TCA Tour - Day 5First things first: Dueling divas Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj did not tear each other’s throats out when they took the stage to promote the 12th season of American Idol Tuesday morning at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour in Pasadena.

But their very public feud was a big topic of conversation.

Asked if the rivalry is real or trumped up for ratings, Fox’s reality boss Mike Darnell insisted it’s “authentic,” adding, “There’s passion in this group. They disagree about the talent and how to approach the talent. [But] it’s not just the girls, it’s everybody.”

Added Carey, who barely made eye contact with Minaj during the 45-minute presser: “This is a very passionate panel. There’s a lot of strong personalities. Starting this process, I felt like there was a possibility that there could be differences of opinion… The fighting is what it is. This is American Idol. It’s bigger than all that. It’s about the next huge talent super star that will come from this show.”

A reporter then challenged the ladies to reveal one thing they admire about each other, and Minaj was the first to take the bait. “She’s one of my favorite artists of all time,” she gushed. “She’s really shaped a generation of singers. To be on a panel with her, it’s kind of crazy. All these singers that come in, they aspire to be a Mariah Carey.”

Carey then (sort of) returned the compliment, reminding the assembled media that, “Nicki and I worked together very early on in her career [on the song ‘Up Out My Face’]. Actually, it was one of my favorite videos and songs. I did feel that she was going to go very far [then] and still have that feeling.”

When the issue was brought up later, Carey sassed under her breath that the rivalry was “one-sided,” to which Minaj shot back, “No. it wasn’t.” (Translation: The still hate each other!)

Other non-feud highlights from the panel:

* “The girls are pretty strong this year,” revealed exec producer Nigel Lythgoe. “Stronger than the boys.”

* There’s too many of these shows on the air and they’re all taking each other down a little bit,” admitted Darnell. “But this is still the king of them all, and the only show that makes stars. Period.”

* Minaj counted Enya among her music idols.

* The number of contestants who received tickets to Hollywood this season? 276. And once again, the genders will be segregated. “We’ve separated the boys and the girls in order to be able to focus a lot more on the different talent,” said Lythgoe. “So we did one week with the boys and then did the following week with the girls. We’re going to separate them in Vegas again until we get down to our Top 10.”