When reality TV isn't showcasing the wealth of the rich and famous (think back to the days of The OC before even The Hills and The Real Housewives) it's inevitably portraying the lives of the soon-to-be rich and famous.
Reality TV stars are bringing in thousands of dollars per episode--their pay checks rarely reflecting any real talent, but more the hard earned result of life decisions, like teen pregnancies, large and unusual family dynamics, questionable backwoods lifestyles and excessive partying.
Although reality TV fame doesn't guarantee a successful career in the spotlight, an increasing amount of today's "stars" are getting their big breaks on networks like MTV and TLC. And many are capitalizing on their fifteen minutes, using their now famous names for book deals, advertisement gigs, speaking engagements and music careers.
A small slice of the "talent" below is just that, actual talent. But most of these now wealthy celebrities made their money the new-fashioned way: living out their unique lifestyles for all of us at home to watch.
10 Heidi Montag - Net Worth $100,000
Heidi Montag realized her fame potential when she became a regular cast member as Lauren Conrad's BFF on The Hills. She soon split with Conrad for boyfriend and future husband Spencer Pratt. The two became known as "Spiedi," the villains of the show, terrorizing The Hills with their drama. Heidi, wanting to be known as a sex symbol in Hollywood, famously underwent ten plastic surgery procedures in one day, including breast enlargements, liposuction, chin reshaping, nose job and 'back scooped out'. Speidi's "fame" was short lived, however, and the couple blew all of their hard earned reality TV millions. All isn't lost however, according to TMZ, they will soon be starring in an episode of Celebrity Wife Swap. Montag is currently estimated to be worth $100,000.
9 Kody Brown and the Sisterwives - Net Worth $300 Thousand
It's a wonder to anyone who watches the show how this family survived pre 2010 and their TLC pay checks. Kody Brown, who is only legally married to first wife Meri, currently counts four wives and 17 children. Only two of those wives worked before the show started airing, with the third wife taking care of the children and stretching their budget through couponing. The fourth wife, who Kody married at the end of the first season of the show, Robin, was also unemployed, and brought three children with her to the relationship(s). Today the family lives in the suburbs of Las Vegas in a gated cul-de-sac (after escaping polygamy retribution in their native Utah), where the wives have created their own online jewelry company, My Sisterwives Closet, and Kody still works a mysterious sales job. Kody's estimated worth is $300,000, although when stretched among 21 people, isn't really all that much.
8 Honey Boo Boo - Net Worth $300 Thousand
Before the hit TLC show Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, star Alana Thompson found fame on TLC's Toddlers and Tiaras. The spin-off showcases Alana, her mom, "Momma June," father, "Sugar Bear" and sisters in their hometown of McIntyre, Georgia. Honey Boo Boo was one of TLC's highest rated shows in it's first season, even though critics called the show "horrifying" and "offensive." The show just wrapped up its third season in March. Sassy child star Alana is worth an estimated $300,000.
7 Farrah Abraham- Net Worth $325 Thousand
Star of MTV's 16 and Pregnant and four seasons of Teen Mom, Farrah Abraham, from Council Bluff's, Iowa, was cast on the show after she became pregnant with her high school boyfriend. Eight months into her pregnancy he was killed in a car accident. Her tumultuous life and relationship with her mom has made for great tabloid drama, but the Teen Mom exceeded controversial expectations by starring in a sex tape with adult film actor James Deen, titled Farrah Superstar: Backdoor Teen Mom. Abraham has since released the sequel to her tape, and also appeared on the fourth season of Couples Therapy as an individual, released an album and a book, called My Teenage Dream Ended. She is now working on her third adult film. At 23 years old, Abraham has a net worth of $325,000.
6 Austin "Chumlee" Russell - Net Worth $600 Thousand
Austin "Chumlee" Russell was a childhood friend of fellow Pawn Star's cast member Corey whose dad and grandfather own the the Gold and Silver Pawn shop. Chumlee started working at the shop half a decade before it became famous on the History Channel. Although Chumlee is often portrayed as the shop idiot, he has surprised viewers on more than one occasion with his knowledge of pin ball machines, video games and sneakers. This fan favorite makes $25,000 per episode, with a net worth of $600,000.
5 Melissa Rycroft- Net Worth $1.5 Million
Bachelor winner Melissa Rycroft on Jason Mesnick's season who was subsequently dumped in the after the final rose ceremony didn't let her heartbreak destroy her career. Rycroft has made a career out of reality TV, originally starring as a cheer leading contestant on Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team. After her Bachelor fame, she went on to compete in Dancing With the Stars. Rycroft is now married to wealthy business man Tye Strickland with two children. She is worth $1.5 million.
4 Jenni "JWoww" Farley - Net Worth $2.6 Million
Jenni "JWoww" Farley found her fame on MTV's Jersey Shore. The six season alum subsequently began starring with fellow Jersey Shore Guidette, Snooki, on the recently renewed spinoff' Snookie and JWoww. In addition to reality TV, JWoww created a clothing line, Filthy Couture, and a book, The Rules According to JWoww: Shore-Tested Secrets on Landing a Mint Guy, Staying Fresh to Death, and Kicking the Competition to the Curb. JWoww is worth $2.6 million and currently expecting her first child with fiance Roger Mathews.
3 Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi - Net Worth $5 Million
Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi also earned her fame on MTV's Jersey Shore and Snooki and JWoww. Snooki is one of the highest paid reality stars ever, making $150,000 per episode and has also released three books, a Shore Thing, Confessions of a Guidette and Gorilla Beach. The reality star is currently expecting her second child with fiance Jiani LaValle. Her net worth is approximately $5 million.
2 Kate Gosselin- Net Worth $9 Million
Kate Gosselin, a former Registered Nurse, rose to stardom after giving birth to two sets of multiples, twins and then sextuplets. Her and ex-husband John Gosselin starred in reality show on TLC John and Kate Plus 8 for five seasons, when it was renamed Kate Plus 8 after they divorced. In addition to their show, the duo made money from appearances, and Kate has published three books and a cookbook. Kate is worth approximately $9 million.
1 Carrie Underwood - Net Worth $70 Million
It's easy to forget that this superstar got her big break on the reality TV show American Idol. Although the show has produced several big winners, Underwood is by far the most known and successful. The beautiful blonde country singer grew up in Checotah, Oklahoma, singing in her church until her senior year of High School when she tried out for American Idol in St. Louis, Missouri. The sweet, small town country singer, won not only the hearts of fans with her innocent appeal and larger than life vocals, but won the entire 2005 show. Underwood has become a country fixture, now worth a cool $70 million.