The promise of instant fame is a surefire lure for any opportunist looking to capitalize off of television exposure. Reality TV is a goldmine for those willing to do anything for money. Yet, the past lives of a reality TV star is always revealed as sources continue to come forward to reveal information.
The networks allegedly screen applicants by running background checks, but it is rumored that producers look for personalities that will clash and cast members who will turn up the drama. Cast members that make the cut despite extensive wrap sheets are clearly hired for their made-for-TV personalities.
Reality TV has had its lion share of participants with a criminal history. From DUI arrests to burglary, the crimes run the gamut of illegal offenses. According to ABC News, singer Jermaine Jones was recently booted off ‘American Idol’ after producers learned he had a criminal record and active arrest warrants. Brad Womack starred in season 11 of ‘The Bachelor’ despite his criminal convictions.
Marlo Hampton’s appearances on Bravo’s ‘The Real Housewives of Atlanta’ were reduced after viewers learned she had an extensive criminal history, including a violent crime conviction. Radar Online published all 7 of her mug shots. NeNe Leakes later tweeted that Bravo told her Marlo was “not their brand”.
In recent years, the trend of reality TV star couples with checkered pasts have emerged. Bravo introduced viewers to alleged grifters Taylor Armstrong and her now deceased husband Russell on ‘The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,’ and Michaele and Tareq Salahi starred on ‘The Real Housewives of DC’. Both couples depicted a lavish lifestyle that was fabricated for the cameras and have since been rumored to be con artists.
Which reality TV couples have had their criminal past exposed?
6 NeNe Leakes & Gregg Leakes
Until recently, ‘The Real Housewives of Atlanta’ star NeNe Leakes was keeping a secret. Like some of her fellow Bravo co-stars, the ‘Dancing with The Stars’ alum has an arrest record that was recently uncovered. Diary of A Street King described her 1992 conviction for “Theft of Service” for defrauding the phone company and subsequent arrests for probation violation.
NeNe's criminal career lasted from 1992 to 1995, when she was arrested again for writing bad checks. Meanwhile, sources have also uncovered a mug shot of her husband Gregg Leakes, reportedly arrested in the past for writing bad checks, shoplifting, and receiving stolen property.
5 T.I. & Tiny
T.I., star of the hit VH1 reality TV series ‘ T.I. & Tiny: The Family Hustle,' has an extensive wrap sheet. The rapper has been arrested repeatedly for drug possession. In October 2007 he was busted for trying to purchase illegal weapons and later sentenced to prison for a second time. That incident marked his third arrest for gun possession.
In 2010, T.I. and his wife Tameka “Tiny” Harris were arrested for drug possession, according to MTV News. Because T.I. was on federal probation, he was sentenced to 11 more months in prison. Wife, Tiny, pled not guilty and her case was ultimately dismissed. Tiny has also appeared on the BET reality series ‘Tiny & Toya’ and is said to have a few new reality shows in production, including a spin-off with best friend Shekinah.
4 June Shannon & Mike Thompson
The parents of Alana “Honey Boo Boo” Thompson, also known as the star of TLC’s ‘Here Comes Honey Boo Boo’ are no strangers to the inside of a jailhouse. June was arrested in 2008 for unpaid child support, reports Hollywood Life. Mike served a jail sentence for a 1994 burglary and possession of a firearm in 1998.
The family made their reality TV debut in ‘Toddlers & Tiaras,’ which led to their current spin-off. ‘Here Comes Honey Boo Boo’, which debuted in 2012, has had its share of critics. The Georgia Division of Family and Children Services even paid a visit to the TLC stars home after concerns were raised about Alana drinking Red Bull and dancing in a bar for money, reports Hollywood Life. The case was later thrown out of the court by a judge.
3 Teresa & Joe Giudice
Stars of ‘The Real Housewives of New Jersey', Teresa and Joe Giudice are in the middle of a serious fraud case that could land them both in prison. Bravo viewers have learned that the extravagant lifestyle the duo flaunted on the popular reality show was not one that was legally financed.
According to the NY Daily News, the couple will plead guilty to bankruptcy fraud, mail fraud and other charges in response to 41 indictments. The couple is awaiting trial and the judge allegedly claimed Joe (an Italian citizen) is likely to be deported. Despite their legal drama, Teresa will be filming the upcoming season of RHONJ.
2 Phaedra Parks & Apollo Nida
‘The Real Housewives of Atlanta’ stars Phaedra Parks and husband Apollo Nida are once again back in the press over criminal allegations. Phaedra was the subject of a tell-all book, Lies of a Real House Wife: Tell The Truth and Shame The Devil by Angela Stanton who claims Phaedra was involved in criminal activities. The crimes ultimately resulted in the imprisonment of Angela and Apollo in 2004, but Phaedra was never implicated. She is currently suing Angela for slander.
In the meantime, Apollo was arrested again in January over an alleged $3 million fraud and identify theft scheme. His accomplice, Gayla St. Julien, has already been sentenced to serve five years in prison. In a recent interview with Sister 2 Sister magazine, Apollo admitted that his marriage may not last if he is found guilty. If convicted, this will be Apollo’s third jail sentence.
1 Catelynn Lowell and Tyler Baltierra
Catelynn Lowell and boyfriend Tyler Baltierra of MTV’s ‘16 & Pregnant’ and Teen Mom’ fame were back in the media this month reporting they are ready to have another baby. The couple infamously gave up their daughter for adoption, which was documented for the reality series.
According to Wetpaint, arrest records were exposed from the duos 2009 arrest for “Controlled Substance Use of Marijuana”. This caught viewers by surprise as they are always portrayed as the mature, levelheaded cast members. Though the arrests reportedly took place during the taping of '16 & Pregnant', it was never aired. The couple recently appeared on VH1’s ‘Couples Therapy’.