While some reality stars can bow out of the spotlight gracefully, for others it is really not that easy. In fact, as you’re going to learn, some of them just implode. Below we cover some of the biggest reality shows of all time. Big Brother and Survivor appear multiple times but they are far from the only shows to have stars hit rock bottom.
There are various reasons why these 16 stars earned their spot on the list. One person kidnapped and beat a woman, another couple got duped into filming a fake reality show (seriously), and one former Survivor winner was deemed by Dr.Phil to be the closest person to death he had ever talked to. We even have a Big Brother winner who, along with another housemate, used his money to fund a drug ring. Love beautiful women? There is also an America’s Next Top Model finalist who posed for a mug shot that’ll last her over a decade. Farrah Abraham also has a sex tape titled Farrah 2: Backdoor and More, so how do you not take that into consideration?
Some of these people turned their lives around, some won’t be reading this because they’re still in jail, and one person won’t be reading this because he’s passed away.
Love reality television? Love reading about celebrities hitting rock bottom? Look no further, as these are perhaps the biggest 16 examples in the history of the genre.
16. Mike Sorrentino (Jersey Shore)
When Mike Sorrentino was hanging out on the Jersey Shore he was definitely one of the most popular members. In fact, in 2010 he made $5 million which was the 2nd most earned out of any reality star (only Kim K earned more). But sadly for Sorrentino, that just means he had more to lose when the wheels started falling off in 2012.
The first sign of a problem came when Sorrentino checked himself into rehab. When asked about it, Sorrentino admitted to having an addiction to prescription medication (particularly oxycodone).
Sorrentino also got himself into some hot water in 2014 when he was arrested after getting into a fight at a tanning salon and charged with simple assault.
Last, but certainly not least, Sorrentino was charged with tax fraud in 2014. It was reported that he avoided paying taxes to the sum of $8.9 million and that he and his brother established “S Corporations” but did not report their income.
Their accountant admitted to preparing fraudulent tax returns for the sum of roughly $550,000 to $1.5 million. They are still awaiting trial but they could face fines of up to $250,000 per fraudulent tax return and spend up to 5 years in jail.
15. Okvath Family (Extreme Makeover: Home Edition)
Every other item on this list is a person, but I can’t not take the opportunity to point out the nightmare that comes with being on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.
There are a lot of heartwarming stories from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition but one that stood out for many viewers was the Okvath family. Bryan and Nichol had seven children, one of whom was suffering from cancer and wrote into the show asking for their home to be remodeled.
The show delivered in a huge way adding a movie theater, a backyard carousel and all the fixings, turning a 1,800-square-foot house into a six-bedroom mansion.
The only thing that was a bigger transformation was the size of bills the family started to acquire after the move. Bryan was unemployed and Nichol was a stay at home mom but their previous property taxes of $1,625 jumped up to $5,600 after the renovation. Electricity jumped to $1,200 and water also increased to $400, but it was not reported what the expenses were pre-makeover.
The family used the house as collateral in 2006, but fell behind in payments and the house was almost foreclosed. After several unsuccessful selling attempts, they sold the house in Spring 2010 for $540,000. Their original asking price in 2007 was $1.9 million.
Bryan and Nichol have also since separated. If you want happy news, their daughter appears to be recovered from her battle with cancer. When talking about the situation in 2009, Nichol said “A lot of people think we’re rich, but we have nothing. We live paycheck to paycheck. We have no cushion anymore.”
14. Lisa Appleton (Big Brother)
Lisa Appleton was on Big Brother but her next appearance in the documentary On Benefits: Living the High Life was definitely a lot less fun for her. The documentary covered the downfall of Appleton that included her and her husband (and former BB Contestant) Mario Marconi being tricked by a conman.
In 2008, Selva Carmichael approached Lisa and Mario and convinced them they had landed a reality TV series and filmed them for six months. After duping them for a ton of their cash, he disappeared. He has since been found, arrested, charged and released from jail.
Mario and Lisa also got divorced in 2008. When Appleton sat down for an interview in August 2016, she admitted how far she’s fallen, saying “I’ve lost everything, I’ve lost my sanity, I’ve lost my marriage, I’ve lost my car, my home, security. I’ve lost my way. I absolutely hate it when people say ‘just get a job’ – you can’t just get a job.”
13. Jessica Kiper (Survivor)
Jessica Kiper (better known as Sugar) was pretty successful the first time she appeared on Survivor, being the second runner-up in Survivor: Gabon. That was definitely not the case for her second appearance on the series, in which she was the first one kicked out. But we aren’t here to talk about her Survivor skills, but about the fact that in 2011 (a few years after her appearance) she was appearing on Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew and battling addictions to alcohol, marijuana, cocaine (former user, not current allegedly), opiates (such as Vicodin), Valium and Xanex. She literally had more addictions than any other participant that year.
She clearly didn’t learn her lesson because in 2014 she was arrested on a DWI charge after backing into a stopped car. To make matters all the worse, she then decided to take a selfie from the back of the cop car and post it to Instagram. At least she also said that Survivor was worse than jail, because if she keeps it up she’ll definitely be there for more than 39 days.
12. Michael Skupin (Survivor)
Michael Skupin was seemingly going to go a long way the first time he appeared on Survivor, but then he fell into a fire and burned his hand. Then Michael came back on a future season and came in 2nd. But you can bet he is hoping that he’s only going to serve 39 days in jail after standing trial on a child pornography charge. Police were investigating Skupin back in February for his potential involvement in a Ponzi scheme when they discovered his possession of the illegal content.
The Attorney General spoke out against Skupin saying “Not only did this man rob people of their hard-earned savings with his financial scams but he victimized innocent children every time he looked at a piece of child pornography.”
Skupin was quick to defend himself saying “My whole life has been kids: my kids, my family and anyone who ever needed help in any way. I’ve traveled the globe working with millions of kids both one-on-one, at schools, camps, and assemblies. I’ve coached over 60 seasons of youth sports. I have never, ever hurt a child in any way – not as alleged and not ever.”
11. Matthew McDonald and Adam Jasinski (Big Brother)
Adam Jasinski was an incredibly charismatic player when he appeared in Big Brother 9 and took home the $500,000 grand prize on April 27th, 2008. Sadly for Jasinski, on October 19th, 2009 he was charged by the DEA for possession of 2,000 oxycodone pills with intent to distribute.
Jasinski admitted that he used his winnings to buy and resell oxycodone pills, something he had done for months. He also admitted to not filing a tax return on the year he won Big Brother. In 2011 he was sentenced to four years in federal prison. Jasinski has also admitted to suffering from bipolar disorder.
Jasinski was not the only player from that season to spend time behind bars. Matthew McDonald was sentenced to three years in jail for distributing drugs and participating in the drug ring with Jasinski. While Jasinski has not opened up about his experiences, McDonald admitted “ I got so addicted to the whole ‘fast life’ after the show: money, cars, trips, women, drugs, and my then new found fame…faster than I got addicted to those pills. I never took into account where all these pills were going and whose lives I was ruining while I was making money.”
10. Jason Wahler (Laguna Beach, The Hills)
Jason Wahler was definitely easy on the eyes when he appeared on the shows Laguna Beach and The Hills. But Wahler never wanted to be famous, in fact in an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Wahler admitted that his dream would have been to play baseball in college, but then the show took off. With it, came a heavy period of addictions in which Wahler battled not only alcohol but also a severe addiction to cocaine. His addiction problems cost him his relationship with Lauren Conrad, a breakup that played out on the series in 2007.
In 2009, Wahler hit his lowest point, saying “My addiction drove me to suicide. Not contemplation. Actually attempting suicide. And somebody found me and that’s why I’m still here today. I’m very grateful for that.”
Wahler appeared on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew in 2010, and you may be happy to hear he has been sober since July 23rd, 2010. Wahler has also opened up a sober living facility that operates in Orang County.
9. David “Puck” Rainey (The Real World: San Francisco)
If you were watching reality television back in 1994, you were probably tuning into The Real World: San Francisco. The show centered on a diverse group of strangers living together, one of whom was David Rainey. On the show, Rainey (better known as Puck) was an a-hole and his confrontations with another housemate’s battle with AIDS caused him to get evicted. After leaving the show Rainey has had himself an interesting life that has seen him become the father of 7 children, but as he says “I have three with my wife and then four with lesbians. I’ve got like, a lesbian breeding program.”
In 2009, Puck was sentenced to one year in prison for battery charges against his girlfriend. A year later he was arrested for a DUI and in 2011 he was arrested on charges of suspected domestic violence. In 2012, he was sentenced to two years in prison on charges of stalking women. It was reported, but not confirmed that he may have violated a restraining order and that was why the punishment was significant.
8. Teresa Guidice (The Real Housewives Of New Jersey)
Teresa Guidice starred in the series The Real Housewives of New Jersey, and even also appeared in a season of The Celebrity Apprentice. But in 2013 they were both charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud and bank fraud. They also made false statements on loan applications and bankruptcy fraud.
They were both charged in 2014, Teresa was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison and Joe got 41 months and a potential deportation to Italy post-release. They were also ordered to pay $414,000 in restitution.
7. Austin “Chumlee” Russell (Pawn Stars)
Pawn Stars was one of the most popular reality shows of all time because after all, who doesn’t love to see people haggling over old artifacts? One of the main stars is Austin “Chumlee” Russell, but earlier this year Chumlee got himself in some serious hot water. He was arrested and charged with 20 felony counts after police raided his home. They found ounces of marijuana, several guns, crystal meth, Xanax and possible cocaine on the property.
Chumlee’s life may not have hit rock bottom, but for someone who has admitted in the past to smoking a ton of weed, being arrested like this is hardly ideal. Chumlee was able to take a plea deal in court and will be on probation until 2019. If not, he’ll spend two to five years trying to swap around prison supplies.
6. Apollo Nida (The Real Housewives Of Atlanta)
Trust me, we definitely aren’t going to blame you if you are not completely up to date on The Real Housewives Of Atlanta, but did you know one of their stars is spending the next 8 years behind bars? Apollo Nida was charged back in 2014 after admitting to being guilty of bank fraud and identity theft. He was allegedly in a four-year scheme that saw him scam more than 50 people. That’s definitely one way to make sure you don’t spend any time on the show.
It’s hard to say if this “ruined his life” or that this really shocked people as Nida is far from a stranger from a jail cell. From 2003 to 2009 he served time for car theft, proving that he just could never get it together. Nida’s attorney spoke out on his behalf saying “Right now he feels remorse. He thought the judge was fair, and accepts his sentence, although he was hoping it would be less. Apollo is elated that this proceeding is past him and is no longer handing over his head.”
5. Farrah Abraham (16 And Pregnant)
When you get famous because you have a daughter at a young age, you really need to hope that you’re not going to land on a list like this. But how have the wheels not completely fallen off for Abraham? Alcohol issues? Check, she was arrested in 2013 for a DUI. She followed that up by having a sex tape released, which she sold to Vivid Entertainment for $1.5 million (yay money, boo public image). She was supposed to attend rehab for 10 days but was kicked out early after she got into a fight with nurses and bullying other patients.
She also had a 2nd sex tape get released, this one titled Farrah 2: Backdoor and More. Classy girl.
Abraham then was going to appear on Couples Therapy, but the person she was trying to hire to be her fake on-screen boyfriend did not want to appear on the show. When talking about it Brian Dawe said “I was only thinking about the profit I would be making from doing this show. That was wrong. In the back of my head, I realized I could not participate in a TV show that would further exploit Farrah, and where I would have to lie to be involved.”
Abraham tried to save her image by saying he was a real boyfriend, he just couldn’t handle the pressure.
Also in 2014, she signed a $544,000 contract to work at Palazio’s Gentleman’s Club in Austin, Texas. Abraham has also had a past battle with drug addiction, including writing in her book My Teenage Dream Ended that she’d do so much coke her nose would hurt.
She’s like Lindsay Lohan, except she has a 4-year-old daughter. Let’s hope her daughter never wants to google her Mommy’s name.
4. Tim Zickuhr (Ice Road Truckers: Deadliest Roads)
Now to be fair, Ice Road Truckers: Deadliest Roads may not have been your favorite reality show, but if you watched season 2 then you definitely know who Tim Zickuhr is.
In 2015, Zickuhr decided to turn in his car keys for a pair of handcuffs and was arrested for beating up a prostitute, kidnapping her and trying to extort a $1,000 ransom for her. If that wasn’t stupid enough, the person he tried to take the money for just happened to be an LVPD cop.
Zickuhr had given the woman his ATM card to go and retrieve whatever amount she thought she was worth for the session, but was none too happy she decided to take $1,000. He later admitted that he had hoped to prostitute the woman on Craigslist to earn him some money.
The entire ordeal is enough to get him 5-15 years in jail. In an even more bizarre story, earlier in the year Zickuhr was linked to a robbery in which he shoved an 80-year-old woman to the ground in an attempt to steal her fanny pack. She broke her left femur and tore her rotator cuff in the altercation and Zickuhr was identified after police recovered his flip-flops that broke on him and were left at the scene after he ran away.
3. Renee Alway (America’s Next Top Model)
In 2007 Renee Alway had high aspirations to win America’s Next Top Model but sadly she came in third. She then appeared on the spinoff Modelville, which was also put together by Tyra Banks.
Even more tragic, in 2013 the only thing she was going to pose for was her mug shot and it had better be a good one because she was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Alway was arrested on charges of burglary, narcotics possession, fraud, committing a felony while on bail and other charges. She ended up pleading guilty to four felony burglary counts and one count of vehicle theft and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
She didn’t go out without a fight, engaging the police in a six-hour standoff before being arrested. Earlier in the year, she had been arrested on grand theft of more than $400, grand theft with a firearm and receiving stolen property.
Alway was addicted to prescription pain medications and admitted that her first two children were born with an addiction to the drug. Her third child was born only a few weeks before her final arrest. She also battled an addiction to heroin.
When talking about her experiences after being on the show, Alway said “It was just closed door, after closed door, after closed door. And that was really hard to take.I felt like a failure because I couldn’t get past the reality TV stigma that had been put on me … and then there’s the pressure of the fans. ‘Where are you?’ ‘What happened?’ It’s almost like a setup for failure.”
2. Todd Herzog (Survivor)
Todd Herzog was easily one of the smartest players of Survivor: China and was well deserving of his first place finish. Winning the prize in 2007, it was clear Herzog took a deep dive downward when in 2013 he made an appearance on Dr. Phil and was suffering heavily from alcoholism. He admitted several depressing things, including that he drank 2-3 liters of vodka a day and was hospitalized on several occasions for alcohol poisoning.
Just how bad was he? At the time Dr. Phil literally said, “I’ve never talked to a guest who’s closer to death than this one.”
A video that was played showed a drunk Herzog saying “Today I had an entire bottle of Vodka” and then crawled around on the floor prior to being helped to the stage. On stage (after being carried on) he broke into tears saying he couldn’t believe this was happening.
Given that he required several people to help him get to the stage, you may not be shocked that when they checked his BAC on the stage Herzog blew a 0.26.
Herzog checked into rehab immediately following the taping and despite trying to leave, the outcry from fans helped keep him on track. For 112 days Herzog was sober, he even went back on Dr. Phil, but on day 114 he relapsed. He hit the emergency room with an intoxication level of .5 (seriously) and Phil re-intervened.
Herzog has visited Dr.Phil a third time admitting he had nothing going in his life, no dream, a condo that he wanted to sell and that boredom leads him to drink. He has admitted to seeing hallucinations when he drinks and his mom has reportedly said Todd will drink and start muttering about how there is a little girl in the closet. That is some seriously creepy stuff.
1. Mark Balelo (Storage Wars)
Mark Balelo was far from the most liked character on Storage Wars, but it’s still never a positive thing to hear about a reality star who’s live has a tragic end. Balelo constantly battled a drug addiction, including one person reporting that Balelo was often “high as a kite on the set of Storage Wars. He showed a photo on his phone of a huge white plastic bag filled with powder. It was obviously drugs but I wasn’t sure if it was meth or cocaine. I saw him high on the set, sweating with his teeth chattering. He was so high he couldn’t even talk. I think a lot of people knew he was high. How couldn’t they?”
So perhaps the argument is not just that his life fell apart, but that he never got it together. Balelo died in 2013 after he committed suicide via carbon monoxide poisoning. Earlier on the week, Balelo had been arrested for a drug-related offense.