A reality TV star is someone who has gained notoriety primarily as a result of their appearance on a reality show. Unlike “celebrity reality” stars like Flavor Flav, Bret Michaels, and Corey Feldman, who were famous before appearing on reality TV, the term “reality TV star” usually refers to someone who was not well-known before appearing on one. Most reality TV stars first rose to prominence as part of an ensemble cast reality show like Big Brother, Survivor, or America’s Got Talent, and then attempted to use their newfound celebrity to launch a career in the entertainment industry.
Some of the most well-known reality TV stars stand out from their co-stars because of their interactions with others on the show. For example, due to her controversial antics during the show’s competition, reality TV star Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth of The Apprentice is perhaps the most remembered star of the series. Jonny Fairplay, a Survivor: Pearl Islands reality TV star, is also remembered for lying about a death in his family to gain sympathy from his cast mates and advance in the competition. A reality TV star who was ostracized cast mates or otherwise villainized the show is more likely to be invited to appear on other reality shows with ensemble casts in order to increase ratings stirring up tension among the group.
Some of the earliest reality shows, such as MTV’s The Real World, sparked the reality TV star phenomenon near the end of the 1990s. However, it wasn’t until the year 2000, and the massive success of the first major reality show, Survivor, that reality TV contestants began to achieve a level of fame comparable to that of other public figures. The lives of Survivor’s previously unknown cast, which included ordinary people from a diverse range of backgrounds, piqued the public’s interest. The cast was featured alongside other celebrities in magazines like People and on shows like Entertainment Tonight as a result of the show’s media coverage.
Many aspiring celebrities began pursuing reality show appearances as a vehicle for achieving public recognition after witnessing the unprecedented fame that contestants on shows like Survivor and Big Brother achieved. Reality TV stars have been known to receive endorsement deals, book deals, and offers to merchandise their own brand of products in addition to invitations to appear on additional reality shows.