What is a Reality TV Star?

G. Melanson
G. Melanson
Extensive media coverage can itself create stars from reality TV programs.
Extensive media coverage can itself create stars from reality TV programs.

A reality TV star is an individual who has achieved public recognition primarily through his or her appearance on a reality show. Unlike “celeb-reality” stars such as Flavor Flav, Bret Michaels and Corey Feldman, who were famous prior to their appearances on reality TV, the term “reality TV star” typically refers to a person who was not a public figure prior to his or her stint on a reality show. Most reality TV stars initially gain fame as part of an ensemble cast reality show, such as Big Brother, Survivor, or America’s Got Talent, and then attempt to use their new-found fame as a platform to further a career in entertainment.

Singing competitions are among the most viewed reality TV shows.
Singing competitions are among the most viewed reality TV shows.

Some of the most well-known reality TV personalities stand apart from their co-stars because they gained notoriety of some kind through their interactions with others on the show. For example, reality TV star Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth of The Apprentice is perhaps the most remembered star of the series due to her controversial antics during the show’s competition. Survivor: Pearl Islands reality TV star “Jonny Fairplay” is similarly remembered for lying about a death in his family in order to gain sympathy from his cast mates and further his place in the competition. A reality TV star that was ostracized by cast mates or otherwise villainized by the show has a greater chance of being invited to appear on other reality shows with an ensemble cast, in order to stir up tension amongst the group and subsequently increase ratings.

Contractors and designers might become stars of their own reality TV renovation show.
Contractors and designers might become stars of their own reality TV renovation show.

The reality TV star phenomenon developed near the end of the 1990s with some of the earliest reality shows, such as MTV’s The Real World. It wasn’t until 2000, however, and the massive success of the first major reality show, Survivor that participants of reality TV shows began to achieve a level of fame that paralleled other public figures. Suddenly, the public became intensely interested in the lives of Survivor’s previously unknown cast, which included ordinary people from a diverse range of backgrounds. The media coverage that the show received ensured that the cast were covered alongside other celebrities in magazines such as People and on shows such as Entertainment Tonight.

Some reality TV stars are contestants looking for new romance.
Some reality TV stars are contestants looking for new romance.

After seeing the unprecedented fame that contestants on shows such as Survivor and Big Brother garnered, many aspiring celebrities began pursuing reality show appearances as a vehicle for achieving public recognition. In addition to receiving invitations to appear on additional reality shows, reality TV stars have also been known to receive endorsement deals, book deals, and offers to merchandise their own brand of products.

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Discussion Comments

lluviaporos

@browncoat - Oh I'd love to go on the Amazing Race or even something like Survivor. I don't care about the celebrity stuff, or even that much about the money, but it would be so cool to be able to participate in an adventure like that.

I think that's why people like the shows, myself, because those kinds of shows allow you to pretend that it's really you out there, traveling around different countries or paddling a canoe through the Amazon forest or whatever.

There are films and TV shows that have the same thing, but they are polished and it's harder to relate. With reality TV, the stars are real people and you can kind of respond to them as though you know them.

browncoat

@irontoenail - Honestly I think those shows are getting faker and faker. I'd be surprised if half the people they use aren't actually actors. The only ones that I really think are probably real people are the The Great Race and the Biggest Losers show. Those two at least encourage people to travel and lose weight, instead of degenerating into a competition between girls as to who can get a man or whatever.

I could never understand why someone would care what the people in Big Brother are doing once they get home (or even on the show, to be honest). I mean, they don't have talent or even good looks, they aren't actors who have to get dressed up for premieres or anything. So why should anyone care what they do?

irontoenail

The makers of reality TV claim that they use "real people" but what they really like is really big personalities because that makes better television.

I've heard that in reality TV casting, they will have it in mind who they want to be on the show and will basically seek out those kinds of personality types with the hope that they will create conflict. In fact, apparently they will keep in touch with people who are particularly strange or larger than life and will contact them again if something else comes up that is suitable for them.

So if your heart is set on being a reality TV star, then you should definitely let the casting director know that you are willing to go on any show and not just the one you're trying out for. You never know when they might contact you again.

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    • Extensive media coverage can itself create stars from reality TV programs.
      Extensive media coverage can itself create stars from reality TV programs.
    • Singing competitions are among the most viewed reality TV shows.
      Singing competitions are among the most viewed reality TV shows.
    • Contractors and designers might become stars of their own reality TV renovation show.
      Contractors and designers might become stars of their own reality TV renovation show.
    • Some reality TV stars are contestants looking for new romance.
      Some reality TV stars are contestants looking for new romance.
    • The reality TV show "Teen Mom" featured girls facing unplanned pregnancies as its stars.
      The reality TV show "Teen Mom" featured girls facing unplanned pregnancies as its stars.
    • Some reality programs focus on helping people get into shape.
      Some reality programs focus on helping people get into shape.