- Reality TV has become one of the biggest parts of pop culture over the past two decades.
- From “The Hills” to “American Idol” to “The Apprentice,” reality television has produced huge stars.
- Here’s what your favourite reality TV stars are up to after years of living in the spotlight.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Love it or hate it, reality television is a huge part of pop culture today. And there’s something for everyone, no matter what your interests are. Want to watch a bunch of people compete to date Flavour Flav? There’s a show for that. More into watching beautiful people in their 20s running around Los Angeles? There’s a show for that too.
A few reality TV icons have become some of the biggest celebrities in the world today – while others have faded into obscurity. Not everyone can finagle a hosting gig into the presidency.
Keep scrolling to see what your favourite reality TV star is doing today.
Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt had one of the most tumultuous relationships ever during their time on “The Hills.”
Pratt, potentially one of the most hated reality TV stars ever, was responsible for the demise of the friendship between Conrad and Montag, one of the central themes on “The Hills.”
According to Conrad, he was also responsible for spreading rumours about an alleged sex tape between Conrad and her ex-boyfriend Jason Wahler.
Montag and Conrad never truly recovered.
“Speidi,” as they were called in the tabloids, are still together and welcomed a son in 2017. They currently star on the rebooted version of “The Hills: New Beginnings.”
Their relationship (and later marriage) has gone through a lot. Montag – who famously underwent around a dozen plastic surgeries – filed for divorce in July 2010, but later admitted that it was just for publicity. The couple also made appearances on “Celebrity Big Brother,” “Marriage Boot Camp,” and “I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!.”
Their son, Gunner, was born in October 2017. Pratt is killing the Snapchat game – he won Snapchatter of the Year at the 2018 Shorty Awards. The duo also launched a podcast in January 2018, aptly titled “Make Speidi Famous Again.”
In 2019, the couple began starring on “The Hills: New Beginnings,” alongside almost all of the old gang. Notably, Lauren Conrad sat this one out.
The girl that started it all, Lauren Conrad, appeared on both “Laguna Beach” and “The Hills,” which followed her life from senior year of high school until she was 23.
“Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County” depicted a group of friends going through the typical ups and downs of high school, and it was all narrated by Conrad. The show was such a success that it led to her very own spin-off, “The Hills.”
For four-and-a-half seasons, fans of the show were able to watch Conrad, her best friends Lauren Bosworth, Audrina Patridge, and Heidi Montag, navigate their early 20s living in Los Angeles.
Most of Conrad’s storylines on the show revolved around her conflict with Montag and Montag’s boyfriend Pratt – but the most memorable moment from “The Hills” will always be Conrad getting chastised by her boss at Teen Vogue, Lisa Love, for opting to stay in Los Angeles with then-boyfriend Jason Wahler, rather than taking the opportunity to intern in France for the summer.
15 years after appearing on “Laguna Beach,” Lauren Conrad has built herself an empire — and she had her first child with husband William Tell in 2017. They welcomed another son in 2019.
Since she left “The Hills” halfway through its fifth season, Conrad has kept herself very busy. She released her first novel in June 2009, called “LA Candy,” which was loosely based on her own experience with reality television. It spawned two sequels and a spin-off trilogy, all written by Conrad.
The reality star also has her own fashion line at Kohl’s, called LC Lauren Conrad. She has a more upscale line as well, Paper Crown, which is best known for its bridesmaid dresses. Her third business venture, the Little Market, is an online marketplace that showcases products made by women all over the world.
And finally, after fans watched Conrad pine after Stephen Colletti (her high school sweetheart) and Jason Wahler (her ex-boyfriend), she married former Something Corporate guitarist William Tell in 2014. They welcomed their first child, Liam, in 2017. Their second son, Charlie Wolf, was born in October 2019.
Johnny Bananas (real name: Johnny Devenanzio) got his start on season 17 of “The Real World,” which took place in Key West, Florida.
Johnny Bananas, as he is best known as, first graced our TV screens in 2006 as a cast member on reality TV juggernaut “The Real World: Key West.”
He didn’t make much of an impression during his season of “The Real World,” but began to shine when he made his first appearance on “The Real World’s” sister competition show “The Challenge.”
Johnny Bananas is now one of — if not the most — prolific contestants to ever appear on “The Challenge.” To date, he’s competed on 19 seasons of “The Challenge,” plus two more seasons of spin-off shows.
Bananas was on “The Real World” right after graduating from Penn State at age 22. Over the past 13 years, he’s been on 19 seasons of “The Challenge,” making him the most frequent contestant ever. He has also won over $US685,000 from the competition. As he told Entertainment Weekly, “There a few things in life that are constants: death, taxes, and Johnny Bananas.”
Bananas hasn’t gotten tired of the franchise yet. He appeared on the show’s 34th season, which premiered in August 2019, and is still airing. He was eliminated in episode five.
Omarosa appeared on the very first season of “The Apprentice” and immediately made a name for herself.
Omarosa (she’s mononymous) made a name for herself by, in her own words, being a “shrewd businesswoman,” though others preferred to just call her a villain.
She remains the only former “Apprentice” contestant to be asked to appear on “Celebrity Apprentice,” where she had a bitter feud with Piers Morgan.
She rode her success all the way to a job at the White House, and an appearance on “Celebrity Big Brother.”
Omarosa announced during the 2016 Republican National Convention that she had been named the Director of African-American Outreach for then-presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign. Once Trump was elected, he appointed her as the Assistant to the President and Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison.
The White House revealed that she was leaving her post in January 2018, though it’s unclear if she was fired or resigned.
But the main reason that Omarosa’s been in the news? She was a contestant on the first season of “Celebrity Big Brother,” where she gave details about her time working in government. She told fellow contestant Ross Mathews that she was “haunted by tweets every single day, like what is he going to tweet next?”
Besides Omarosa, “The Apprentice’s” biggest star was the host himself, real estate developer Donald Trump.
Before “The Apprentice,” Trump was already a well-known figure in pop culture, thanks to the business books he wrote and his numerous appearances as himself on various TV shows and movies (see: “Home Alone 2,” “Sex in the City,” “Zoolander”).
But “The Apprentice,” a show where contestants competed in business challenges in order to eventually work for Trump, is what turned him into a bona fide celebrity.
15 years later, this former reality TV host is the leader of the free world.
“The Apprentice,” and its spin-off “Celebrity Apprentice” ended in 2015, amidst the announcement of Trump’s presidential bid. We all know what happened – he won.
“The Apprentice” continued on without him for one season, replacing him with Arnold Schwarzenegger, but the Governator announced he was leaving the show because of all the “baggage” associated with Trump. Five months later, in August 2017, NBC announced that it wouldn’t be coming back anytime soon.
Kelly Clarkson was the very first winner of “American Idol.”
Back in 2002, no one knew if winning “American Idol,” a singing competition to find the world’s next big popstar, would translate into real-world success, least of all Clarkson.
The show was a surprise summer hit when it first aired, and picked up steam every episode – culminating in a finale that was watched by over 22 million people.
When she won, Clarkson broke a 38-year-old record held by The Beatles for the biggest jump to number one on the Billboard Hot 100. Her winning single, “A Moment Like This,” went from 52 to number one in a week.
In 2019, Kelly Clarkson is a certified star. In the 17 years since she won, she’s topped 100 different charts with her songs.
Clarkson has topped 100 different charts with her songs over the past decade-and-a-half. She’s also been No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 three times with “A Moment Like This,” “My Life Would Suck Without You,” and “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You).”
She also beat her own record for largest jump to No. 1 with “My Life Would Suck Without You,” which rocketed from 97 to the top spot in a single week.
Clarkson is still putting out successful music, long after past winners of the show have faded from memory. Her 2017 album “Meaning of Life” reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200. Plus, she’s a judge on “The Voice” and she hosts her own daytime talk show, aptly titled “The Kelly Clarkson Show.”
Kim Zolciak was the clear breakout star of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.”
“Atlanta” is the third instalment of the “Real Housewives” franchise, and it premiered in 2008. Zolciak was one of the original cast members of the show, and quickly became a fan-favourite for her feuds with fellow housewife NeNe Leakes, her country music career, and her secretive relationship with sugar daddy Big Poppa.
Sadly, she left during the show’s fifth season due to her conflicts with the other women. She was also pregnant with her son Kash.
Now Kim Zolciak-Biermann, the reality star hasn’t left the spotlight behind. She returned to “Real Housewives” in a recurring role in season 10, and has starred in seven seasons of her own show, “Don’t Be Tardy.”
Zolciak-Biermann and her husband, NFL player Kroy Biermann, starred in their own spin-off between seasons four and five of “Real Housewives” called “Don’t Be Tardy For the Wedding,” based on their wedding planning process (the show is named after her 2009 single “Tardy for the Party“). The name was later changed to “Don’t Be Tardy…” after season one.
Zolciak-Biermann also started her own line of beauty products called Kashmere Collections, and in June 2018 teased a new single called “Wig (Wish I Gave a S—,” performing it at Key West Pride. It has since been formally released.
Before “Project Runway,” Tim Gunn was a faculty member at the Parsons New School for Design. But ever since he first told contestants to “make it work,” he’s stolen our hearts.
“Project Runway” has produced some truly talented designers (one of whom pops up on this list), but the most enduring star of the fashion competition has been the stern mentor to the designers, Tim Gunn.
Tim Gunn left the show after 16 seasons and two different networks in 2018. He and Heidi Klum are set to star in a new show on Amazon.
Gunn published five books during his tenure on “Project Runway,” and his popularity has led to two spin-offs starring him that aired on Bravo – “Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style” and “Under the Gunn.”
Besides that, Gunn has also appeared as himself on TV shows like “How I Met Your Mother” and “Gossip Girl,” and is currently providing the voice for castle steward Baileywick on Disney Junior animated series “Sofia the First.”
Gunn and the host of “Project Runway” Heidi Klum confirmed in September 2018 that they will not be returning for the 17th season, and instead inked a new deal to develop a new fashion competition show for Amazon Video called “Making the Cut.”
According to Vanity Fair, it’s set to premiere in 2020, with judges Naomi Campbell, Joseph Altuzarra, Carine Roitfeld, and Nicole Richie.
Cardi B joined the sixth season of “Love & Hip Hop: New York” in 2015.
Before even joining the show, Cardi B already had a solid following on social media with over 1 million Twitter followers – but she was known as a personality, not a rapper.
Most of her storylines during her two-season stint on the show revolved around her struggles to break into the rap industry (where no one would take her seriously). She left the show to pursue her music career, a decision many scoffed at.
She’s since won a Grammy, released a No. 1 album, and welcomed her first daughter, Kulture.
Most recently, Cardi’s first album, “Invasion of Privacy,” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, and won Best Rap Album at the 2019 Grammys. She’s also the first female to chart 13 songs simultaneously.
Teresa Giudice has appeared in all 10 seasons of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey,” and quickly made a name for herself as one of most popular housewives of the entire franchise.
Giudice has been on “New Jersey” since the beginning – and is the only original cast member left standing.
Teresa Giudice’s life in the spotlight has been a roller coaster — she was released from prison in 2015 after serving 11 months after pleading guilty to 41 counts of fraud.
“Real Housewives of New Jersey” took a nearly two-year hiatus, following Giudice’s conviction and prison sentence. The show returned when she was released from prison.
Giudice is now focusing on her family and her fitness. Her husband, Joe, is currently living in Italy, so Giudice has calmed down a bit since her days of flipping tables on the show. He was deported after getting released from prison in March 2019. Joe was then released to an ICE detention centre, as he is not an American citizen. He was officially deported in October.
The two’s marriage is currently under a lot of scrutiny, and they even appeared on an episode of “Watch What Happens Live” together, with Joe video-chatting, and took questions from Andy Cohen about the status of their relationship. It’s unclear what the future holds.
The two breakout stars of “Jersey Shore” were Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi and Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino.
This guido and guidette duo provided us with incredible TV for six seasons. When “Jersey Shore” ended, many people mourned the loss of their presence every “Jerzday.”
Thankfully, we had not seen the last of our favourite guido and guidette — these two, along with the rest of the cast, returned in 2018 for “Jersey Shore: Family Vacation.” However, Snooki announced her retirement from the show in December 2019.
Before the revival, these two had really been on their own journeys.
Snooki, in the years since “Jersey Shore” ended, has become a wife, a mother of three, podcast host, author, and a businesswoman – she even has her own clothing line.
In December 2019, the guidette revealed she was leaving the show on an episode of her podcast. “I love you so much, and don’t hate me for my decision. I am retiring from ‘Jersey Shore.’ I am not coming back to ‘Jersey Shore’ for season 4 if there is one,” she said. Polizzi cited her growing family as the reason for her departure.
The Situation has had a more rocky road. He recently pleaded guilty to one count of tax evasion, and was sentenced to eight months in prison in October 2018. He began his sentence in January 2019, and was released in September.
But he’s had a much more positive experience in his personal life. He’s been sober for over two years, and got married to his longtime girlfriend, Lauren Pesce. Sadly, the couple revealed that Pesce had suffered a miscarriage in November.
Kim Kardashian might be the biggest success story in reality TV history. But when “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” premiered in 2007, she was best known for a sex tape and her friendship with heiress Paris Hilton.
Kardashian’s first appearance on reality TV was in four episodes of “The Simple Life,” where she was credited as Paris Hilton’s friend and stylist.
But her true notoriety began when a sex tape from 2003 between her and her then-boyfriend Ray-J resurfaced in 2007. Her and her family began starring in “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” that same year.
What is there to say about Kim Kardashian now? In just a decade, she’s become one of the most influential people on the planet.
Every single thing Kim Kardashian does is dissected by the media, from her hair choices to what she names her kids. Her highly publicized life (she’s married to rapper Kanye West) has made her both one of the most hated and loved celebrities in the world.
Her net worth is estimated to be around $US175 million – not bad for someone who’s “famous for nothing.” Where does all that money come from? Her multiple apps (Kimoji and “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood”), her makeup line (KKW Beauty), and many endorsements. Plus, her salary per episode of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” which entered its 17th season this year, is reportedly $US500,000.
Jon and Kate Gosselin (and their eight kids) were the subject of a national phenomenon during their show “Jon and Kate Plus 8.”
Jon and Kate were the subject of local media coverage for the birth of their sextuplets, which led to a TV special about their lives with sextuplets and twins. This special was the basis of the TV show “Jon and Kate Plus 8,” which documented their daily lives with eight kids.
The show was extremely successful – the fifth season reached a record-breaking 9.8 million people, making it the most-watched program that night, including broadcast TV.
Jon and Kate are divorced now — but their personal lives remain in the tabloids. TLC moved forward with “Kate Plus 8,” while Jon is currently a DJ and part-time prep cook.
Their divorce was the subject of an extreme amount of tabloid attention, exacerbated by the fact that their relationship was highly volatile. As recently as 2018, custody battles ensued.
Jon has since been in a relationship with a registered nurse named Colleen. He’s also a DJ and a prep cook at T.G.I. Fridays (though he claims that he donates his salary from that job to charity). Two of his kids, Hannah and Collin, currently live with him.
Kate, on the other hand, is still involved in reality TV. After continuing the show as “Kate Plus 8” until 2017, she announced in June 2018 that she will be starring in a new show about her dating life, called “Kate Plus Date.”It premiered in June 2019.
Bethenny Frankel might be the most inspirational story from the “The Real Housewives” franchise but she actually starred on “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart” before that.
Few people remember that Frankel actually got her start on “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart,” where she came in second. That was a full three years before “The Real Housewives of New York City” aired in 2008.
When the show started, she was a single woman looking for love and a struggling businesswoman trying to get an idea off the ground. What a difference 11 years can make.
In just 11 years, Bethenny Frankel has gotten married, given birth, gotten divorced, left, returned to “The Real Housewives” — and then left again— and created an empire with her Skinnygirl products.
Frankel tops many lists ranking the best “Housewives” of all time, and for good reason – she’s funny, determined, and aspirational. She’s truly a success story.
Frankel left “RHONY” to star in her own show, “Bethenny Getting Married,” which became Bravo’s highest-rated series premiere ever (at the time). The show later changed its name to “Bethenny Ever After,” and focused on her life with her then-husband and their new daughter. She returned to “RHONY” in season seven after a three-year break. However, in August 2019, Frankel once again announced she was departing the show, for good this time.
Frankel also created the extremely successful Skinnygirl brand, which started out as a liquor company. She sold the company in 2011 to Beam Suntory for a reported $US100 million, but smartly retained the rights to the “Skinnygirl” name – so now she licenses the name out to everything from lunch meats to shape-wear.
When “The Bachelor” started, Chris Harrison was just an unknown sportscaster from Dallas, Texas.
Contestants come and go, but Chris Harrison is forever. Truly, this man is the glue holding Bachelor Nation together.
But when “The Bachelor” first premiered in 2002, no one knew if anyone would even watch the show. “Back then, we didn’t think we’d be doing 20 seasons of it. We thought we’d do two seasons of it,” said Mike Fleiss (the show’s creator). “I didn’t think it was going to be big.”
Thankfully, they picked the perfect guy to host the show – and Harrison has been steering the ship ever since.
Now, Chris Harrison has truly become the face of the franchise — plus he picked up another hosting gig along the way.
After 24 seasons of “The Bachelor,” 15 seasons of “The Bachelorette,” three seasons of “Bachelor Pad,” six seasons of “Bachelor in Paradise,” and one season of “Bachelor Winter Games,” you’d think we’d get tired of Harrison waltzing in every rose ceremony to let us know that “this is the final rose.” But we don’t.
Even though this man has been part of our lives for 17 years, we don’t know all that much about him. He announced that he was getting divorced from his college sweetheart in 2012, and he began dating “Entertainment Tonight” producer Lauren Zima in 2019.
Since hosting a combined 49 seasons of television is a full-time gig, it’s pretty much all he does. He also began hosting the syndicated version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” in 2015.
Christian Siriano made history as the youngest winner of “Project Runway” ever, winning at age 19.
Before he competed on “Project Runway,” Siriano was briefly an intern at Marc Jacobs.
During his time on the show, Siriano won three challenges, the most anyone won that season, and eventually went on to win the competition.
Style icon/popstar/iconic Spice Girl Victoria Beckham called his designs during the show a “breath of fresh air.”
Christian Siriano is now one of the most sought-after designers in Hollywood. He even designed a dress for former First Lady Michelle Obama.
Eleven years after his win, Siriano is still a heavy-hitter in the fashion industry. He’s known for including models of all different body types in his shows, including Ashley Graham and Selma Blair.
Siriano was recently praised for designing Leslie Jones a dress for the premiere of “Ghostbusters” after she tweeted about designers refusing to work with her. He immediately came to the rescue and publicly called for a change in the way that designers view body types.
“Flavour of Love” introduced us to many colourful personalities, but none has been as iconic as Tiffany “New York” Pollard.
“New York” appeared on two different seasons of “Flavour of Love,” a dating show where women competed for the affection of Public Enemy rapper Flavour Flav.
She was a contestant on the first season in which she was famously spit on by Brooke “Pumkin” Thompson during an elimination ceremony. She ended up coming in second.
She appeared on the next season, “Flavour of Love 2,” to help Flav eliminate contestants, but was then added as a contestant herself. She came in second again.
New York is still slaying the reality TV game — she’s starred in her own spin-off of “Flavour of Love,” and recently joined the cast of “Famously Single.”
Since ditching Flavour Flav, “New York” starred on two seasons of her own dating show, “I Love New York.” She also had a show documenting her attempt to break into the acting industry, called “New York Goes to Hollywood” – and once Vh1 figured out people would watch her do pretty much anything, she also starred in “New York Goes to Work,” where viewers texted in and chose which job they wanted to see her do. It ended in 2009, and she disappeared.
In 2015, she returned to TV, and popped up on the UK reality show, “Celebrity Big Brother,” where she was involved in one of the most infamous misunderstandings on the show. Angie Bowie, ex-wife of David Bowie, was told of her ex’s death, and told “New York” about it – but “New York” thought that Bowie meant David Gest, one of their housemates. It inspired many a meme.
“New York” joined the second season of “Famously Single.” She also had an art exhibit dedicated to her in 2018, called “David’s Dead: A Celebration of Tiffany Pollard.”
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