Fame and fortune can be an attractive pair of lures. Most people think that they want a life filled with money and legions of fans (or haters), but of course, these things do bring with them their own sets of baggage and some very notable headaches. But alas, with the world of reality TV becoming ever more popular and saturated with shows, it seems to be getting easier for just about anyone to get their fifteen minutes of fame.
Right now we’re witnessing the quarter-hour of Danielle Bregoli (Cash me ousside girl), who, without reality television (way to go, Dr. Phil, you created a monster), would likely be angrily sitting in detention or a police station rather than (apparently) being paid tens of thousands for public appearances.
But aside from her, there are tons of others making money from reality TV, from the Kardashians/Jenners (the Gods of reality TV, because Western society is disintegrating) to the lowly contestants on The Bachelor. This reality TV thing is a great way to waste time for most of us, but for many, it may seem like a great way to get a few precious minutes in the limelight and potentially make a great pile of money, but the payment varies from show to show and some salaries may surprise you. Here are fifteen reality TV salaries you may not believe. We’ll include quite a few current shows, but also some from the past that will really surprise.
15. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo
There isn’t much scarier than a child beauty pageant, or at least there wasn’t until one of the participants and her terrifying family got a reality show after an appearance on Toddlers & Tiaras, as if that show wasn’t enough of an abomination in and of itself. It was once suggested that the family made about $4,000 per episode back in 2012, but Mama June denied this, and it was reported that they earned $50,000 per episode in 2013. Most of that money was (apparently) put into trust funds for the daughters and granddaughter of the family. That show was of course cancelled after reporters discovered that Mama June’s boyfriend at the time, Mark McDaniel, was a convicted sex offender. Who knows if they’ve blown all the money yet… the whole cast seems to be a few bricks short of a load.
14. The Bachelor/ette
We’d say that The Bachelor and its sister show makes for good watching, but the personalities of everyone involved are all nightmares. The titular contestant (male or female) is always some irritating egomaniac trying to pretend to be a normal person and the contestants are invariably pathetic and more annoying than an army of mosquitoes carrying West Nile.
The 25, whether male or female, do not get paid, and are there regardless of money, but the person dealing with the 25 morons is always compensated. Generally speaking, the bigger the name of the person walking into the mansion, the more they get paid. Most of the amounts remain unknown, but there are a couple that have been narrowed down. Sean Lowe was paid between $75,000 for his time on the show and hottie Emily Maynard got a quarter of a million.
13. The Roloff Family
We’ll say some nasty things about some reality TV personalities throughout this list, but the Roloff family of Little People, Big World are an impressive bunch and one of the few positive reality TV shows out there. For those who are unfamiliar, the show details the lives of a family in which the parents both have dwarfism. They both stand around four feet tall, but run a ranch; a task that is difficult for people of far larger stature.
They’ve had their family troubles, financial difficulties and of course, Matt and Amy went through a divorce in the past few years, but they still work on the farm together. For the past few years the family members who have taken part in the show have earned $15,000 per episode, along with a sum of $750,000 for every season TLC films on their property.
12. The Real World
Going on a show like this may seem like a daunting task, but many want such an opportunity because they crave attention. Of course, the overall experience must be terrible; the housemates are usually all okay but sometimes awful, and why would it not be this way? If the producers of shows like these just brought in agreeable, well-adjusted adults with decent jobs and functional personalities, there would be no drama.
But with all that said, the payment must be good, right? No, wrong, not at all. The cast of the show make a measly $300 per week and a winner who receives $5,000. Is this enough for what people subject themselves to on the show? Having taken a look at what the contractual obligations for the show entail, we can honestly say we’ll stick to our current 9-5 gig and avoid this “opportunity” altogether.
11. Big Brother
Remember what we said about the experience of people on The Real World? Well, of course we had to touch on Big Brother, which is a similar concept but with evictions, and maniac casts that make The Real World house look like a nunnery. Of course, because the crazies are crazier, the drama is more intense and the paychecks are higher. They get over double what The Real World cast members make, taking home $750 just for remaining in the house, and if you’re first or second on your season, you’ll receive $500,000 or $50,000 respectively. The contestant who wins “viewer’s choice” takes home a “not too shabby” $25,000. Still though, if you’ve watched a season or two of the show, would you really put yourself through the experience? If so, you’re a trooper.
10. The Osbournes
They say every person has their price. It may be true, it may only be true for some (or most) but a seldom-asked question is: what is the price to be shouted at incessantly by a man who can barely walk and talk? The answer is $5,000 per episode for each member of the Osbourne family. After the show became such a success, Sharon (smart lady) apparently negotiated a massive raise for the family for the second season, with each of them taking $5 million. This is the kind of thing one can demand when one’s trainwreck family becomes the biggest thing on television. Of course, Ozzy was so high for the filming of the show (by his own admission), don’t tell him how much he was making, his kids and wife have likely stashed away his portion.
9. Jon and Kate Plus 8
Reaching deep into the realm of parents who probably should never have had one or two kids together, let alone eight, Jon and Kate are broken up, and Kate has managed to keep her little media empire afloat as Kate Plus 8. We’ll spare you the “he said/she said” details of their divorce and their custody agreement and so on (Jon got taken to the cleaners and now works odd-jobs), but in terms of money, the entire family used to get $22,500 per episode. These days, Kate is raking in $40,000 per episode, which is similar to the salaries of many actors on TV. She nearly went broke after her split with Jon but getting that amount of money per episode will definitely help with the hefty bills of eight kids.
8. Dancing With the Stars
In stark contrast to many of the other shows on this list, Dancing With the Stars actually has an interesting concept. Rather than a bunch of freaks living in a house or a family of awful misfits shouting at each other, this show features celebrities out of their element, learning something new and being judged on their ability to pick up this new skill.
Because they are celebrities and their time is worth a ton more than the average Joe, their salaries start around $125,000 just to show up, with increasing bonuses for every week they stay on the show. The winner, of course, takes home another $100,000. Not bad but the celebs who agree to be on that show sure find out how hard dancing actually is.
7. Celebrity Big Brother
Like we said is the case with Dancing with the Stars, the cast members of Celebrity Big Brother are paid far more (for obvious reasons) than the cast members of the original version of the show. In some cases, the amounts these people are paid just to show up is staggering. Spencer and Heidi (“Speidi”, if you prefer) were able to negotiate themselves into $700,000 to be on the 2017 season, as if you needed more reasons to hate them…
Rapper Ray J however, blew Heidi and Spencer out of the water with his payday. The man who did it with Kim Kardashian on camera was paid $1 million to be on the show. He left the show early on because he needed dental work, and now he may or may not be suing the producers of the show who didn’t let him back onto the show after he was cleared to work again. Who knows what the real story is? Reality TV is all smoke and mirrors.
6. Teen Mom
In some families, when a girl gets knocked up at a young age, the relatives come together to support her, the boyfriend/husband gets a job and works like a dog for his new family, and everything works out, with mom and dad eventually happy and mature, the ankle-biter growing up in a nurturing environment and the grandparents happy and proud.
In some families, the people involved get a reality show and an entire world of television viewers gets to see the result of spoiled, useless people breeding. It can be painful, but it sure does pay. The girls got paid just $5,000 for being on 16 and Pregnant but the cash started rolling in once that show was a success and Teen Mom got started.
Chelsea Houska’s ex, Adam, said that she earned a total of $250,000 from the show in 2015, and that she would make about $300,000 in 2016, but these reports clash with evidence that seems to indicate that each of the girls on the show earns about $75,000 plus bonuses (around $20,000) per season.
5. The Hills
We’re still unsure why this show did so well but that’s life, different strokes for different folks, and some folks like watching idiots complain about problems that don’t exist. Because brain-dead eye candy makes money far better than perpetually confused male “talent”, the women of The Hills made significantly better money than the dudes. Before she left the show, Lauren Conrad was making about $2.5 million from the show, while others were making less but still taking away massive sums of money. Heidi, Audrina and Lo Bosworth were making about $100,000 each per episode during their time as main characters. Many of the male cast members’ salaries are unknown, but Spencer Pratt was making $65,000 per episode at one point and Brody Jenner made $45,000 while he was on the show.
4. The Kardashians/Jenners
You really have to hand it to these ladies (the guys on the show too, we guess, it can’t be easy to put up with the nonsense), they know how to make money doing anything, and they’re pretty hot. The money and sex appeal things do go hand in hand. While they do continue to dominate reality TV, Kim, Kylie, Kendall, Kourtney and of course Kris, make more money from their endorsements and their own business ventures than they do from the show.
They signed on with E! to continue with the show for four more years back in 2015, and that deal was for a whopping $100 million. According to The Mirror, Kris took most of the deal, grabbing $20 million for herself, and allotting $15 million to Kim, with a bonus if Kanye West becomes a more regular appearance on set. The rest of the family were essentially told they were getting $10 million each and to like it (hard times, right?).
While numbers for the current season are unclear, all of the family members involved in the show make around seven figures for their involvement. Kim’s salary was $40,000 per episode back in 2015, and it is likely that she and the rest have all seen raises since then.
3. Judge Judy Sheindlin
If you’re into watching incoherent halfwits babble while an old woman screams at them, this show must be something dear to your heart. While it isn’t as successful as it used to be, the show is still on the air, and is into its 21st season. She’s been criticized by some in the legal profession for her behavior, which some consider unbecoming as a judge, but she’s doing something right, because Judy has the longest running court room show in the business. Back in 2010, her contract was renewed, with a massive raise, putting her annual salary up to $45,000,000 per year. She works just 52 days a year (a day per week) so if we do some very quick math, she earns about $865,000 per day, just for showing up and making what can loosely be called legal decisions. Not the worst gig out there.
2. Jerry Springer
Jerry Springer, like a few people on this list, is an absolute genius. He’s said multiple times that he would never watch his own show, yet he continues to make new episodes. The man knows what sells and he brings it every day he shows up to work. He’s worked as a lawyer, a city council member and mayor of Cincinnati, and of course, his television career started out in journalism. This was how he originally got a show. In the early 1990’s, his program was politically themed and generally offered some genuine, intellectual discussion. That all ended in favor of better ratings, and The Jerry Springer Show as we know it was born.
1. Simon Cowell
Most people think of Simon Cowell as a mean-spirited jerk who gets off destroying the dreams of others. This is inaccurate, and we will explain why. Simon Cowell is a sharp businessman who honestly tells people, without sugar-coating his view, that they need to improve. It may seem mean but that is only because everyone born after 1980 thinks that the world needs to cater to their feelings, and honesty can hurt, and is therefore frowned upon.
For our purposes however, the monster of American Idol and various other musical audition shows is a brilliant guy who has made a killing in reality TV. An accurate annual income for 2016 is unclear, but between 2012 and 2014, Cowell was earning over $90 million and is worth well over half a billion dollars.