It all started with a writers’ strike in the late 1980s. Desperate to fill a television slot, Fox aired one of the first highly successful reality shows, COPS. The hit show pulled in millions of viewers every episode and paved the way for greedy television executives to make popular shows at a fraction of the cost. Today, network television is completely dominated by reality shows. TLC, formerly known as The Learning Channel, has devolved into a cesspool of trashy entertainment. It’s what people want to watch.
Oftentimes, we’re literally watching people’s lives fall apart on reality TV. Some of the highest-rated reality shows belittle the people that star on them. Viewers ridicule the stars of the show, who were brave enough to open their lives to an audience of millions. Sure, reality stars were seeking fame — but at what cost? Many people don’t realize how differently they’ll be portrayed on TV, and others simply don’t care.
In this article, you’ll find a list of your favorite reality shows and how they absolutely ruined the lives of people that starred in them. Sadly, the events on many of these shows have ruined families, destroyed careers, and caused more than a few people to commit suicide. Reality television has ruined the lives of these people. Clearly, the paycheck they received wasn’t worth it.
15. Extreme Makeover — Deleese Williams
Extreme Makeover (2002-2007) was a reality-television show that was a product of its time. In the early 2000s, reality television centered around self-improvement programs. Whether it was remodeling your home, losing weight on national television, or — in the case of Extreme Makeover — receiving an insane amount of plastic surgery, audiences loved to watch transformations. The show was highly criticized because the show reinforced unrealistic body-image goals and heavily implied that beauty could only be found by spending money on plastic surgery.
One contestant on the show, Deleese Williams, found that the show was a lot more cutthroat than it appeared on TV. Williams was given the chance to undergo surgery and seemed like she was the perfect contestant for the show. Williams’s sister, Kellie McGee, was told by producers to make hurtful statements about her sister’s appearance. Unfortunately, after several other of Williams family members publicly ridiculed her appearance, her life-changing surgeries were canceled because her recovery didn’t fit the show’s production schedule.
Deleese returned home with worse image issues than she had before she left. Her sister was so overwhelmed with guilt because of the comments she had made about Williams that she committed suicide four months after the ordeal. Williams’s sister was unable to forgive herself for her comments.
14. Hell’s Kitchen — Paulie Giganti & Rachel Brown
Working in the food industry is one of the most stressful occupations in the world. I don’t know what compels anyone to turn to working as a chef because from what I’ve heard (and seen on TV), it’s absolutely horrible. For those unfamiliar with Gordon Ramsay, he’s one of the toughest chefs on television. Constantly berating the contestants on Hell’s Kitchen, Ramsay is one of those guys we all love to see yell but we would never want insulting us.
While it may be a coincidence, two former contestants of Hell’s Kitchen have killed themselves after appearing on the show. 36-Year-old Paulie Giganti was found dead in his home after a neighbor reported a foul order coming from Giganti’s apartment. Giganti and Ramsay would constantly butt heads on the show, as would Ramsay and Rachel Brown, a former Hell’s Kitchen contestant who killed herself. If that’s not strange enough, a third chef, Joseph Cerniglia, who appeared on Ramsay’s show Kitchen Nightmares, jumped to his death. On the show, Cerniglia was told by Ramsay that his show was going to “swim down the Hudson.”
13. Kitchen Nightmares — Amy’s Baking Company
Kitchen Nightmares is a highly entertaining reality show where Gordon Ramsay visits struggling restaurants and tells them what they’re doing wrong. He publicly insults American business owners while being disgusted by their business practices. Oftentimes, the businesses are failing for more reason than one. The food sucks, the restaurant is dirty, and the owners are hopeless, but there was one business where (at first) Ramsay couldn’t figure out why it was failing.
Amy’s Baking Company was one of the restaurants featured on Kitchen Nightmares, and it’s featured on most everyone’s favorite episode. It’s the only episode where Gordon Ramsay gives up on the restaurant because of a conflict with the owners. If you haven’t seen the episode, watch it. Words cannot do it justice. Essentially, the owners, Amy and Samy Bouzaglo, were incredibly abusive to their young waiters and waitresses. Furthermore, the owners would scream at customers who said that they weren’t satisfied with their food.
After the episode aired, the owners began responding to criticism on their social media accounts, personally attacking the people writing reviews. The restaurant’s social media pages were closed, and the owners tried to hire a public relations firm to fix their image online. The damage had been done, and after more than a million dollars invested into the business, Amy’s Baking Company closed in September 2015.
12. American Idol — Paula Goodspeed
For a number of years, American Idol was a beacon of hope for people who wanted to become famous singers. With auditions open to the public, the show attracted a number of people who thought that they could sing but couldn’t. And, with celebrity judges, there were a number of contestants who only auditioned to sing for their heroes.
Paula Goodspeed was a young woman who had been obsessed with Paula Abdul for as long as anyone could remember. When she was just 16 years old, Goodspeed changed her name to Paula and tried to model her career and image after Abdul. With hopes of impressing her hero, Goodspeed auditioned for season five of American Idol in 2005. It was a disaster.
Two years after she auditioned, Goodspeed committed suicide in her car while outside Paula Abdul’s home. Prior to her suicide, Goodspeed sent Abdul flowers. Though media outlets called her a celebrity stalker, Goodspeed’s family denied these claims.
11. Newlyweds: Nick And Jessica — Jessica Simpson & Nick Lachey
Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica was a short-lived reality show that followed the lives of the then-newly married Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson. The premise of the show was originally planned for the marriage of Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley but was shelved after the couple decided not to participate. Simpson, trying to promote her new album, agreed to do the show, and it propelled her career to new heights.
The show began filming at such a crucial point in the couple’s relationship. While watching the episodes, it became increasingly apparent that the couple didn’t know as much about each other as they thought that they did. Issues that should’ve been solved privately, like how to handle their complicated financial situation, were aired on TV for the world to see.
10. The Hills — Heidi Montag
The Hills was a reality show that was originally planned to be a spin-off of Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County. The show documented the professional and personal lives of a group of women living in Los Angeles. It was one of those shows that gave viewers an inside look at a life of glamour and an even better look at the fashion industry. One of the women on The Hills, Heidi Montag, has since had an illustrious career on reality TV. Despite her success, The Hills ruined Montag’s life.
Believe it or not, reality television, often times, isn’t actually real. That’s almost entirely the case when it comes to Montag. In her own confession, Montag revealed that she pretended to be friends with some of the other women on The Hills. Furthermore, Montag said that she put a b*tchy persona on when filming for the show. When filming stopped, it became increasingly hard for her to stop using her TV persona. This led to her ruining relationships with her family and friends. Those that knew her before her TV career say that she’s a completely different person today — and that’s not a good thing.
9. The Osbournes — Ozzy Osbourne
At the turn of the century, The Osbournes was the most-viewed series ever on MTV. It existed in the early stages of reality TV, and nobody had ever seen anything like it. The family was explosive, constantly arguing in between their absurd onscreen antics. Though the Osbourne family has admitted that some of the more ridiculous stunts on the show were staged by MTV producers, Ozzy Osbourne‘s publicist has continued to say over the years that the show is authentic.
In 2009, Ozzy looked back on the show in shame. He revealed in a BBC Radio 2 interview that he was on drugs for the entire filming of the series and refuses to watch the show because of it. Despite how it put his family on the map and launched the careers of his children, Ozzy Osbourne said he regrets agreeing to do the show. In his own words, “You go to bed one day, and you wake up, and the world’s completely different. Everywhere there’s [sic] f****ng cameras; you get attacked by the f****ng things. The kids couldn’t handle it; my wife couldn’t handle it — she had colon cancer… I had to watch my family suffer.”
In addition to nearly destroying his family, Ozzy was ridiculed by members of other bands while on stage. It’s hard to talk about your rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle when you’re withering away on national television. That’s something Gene Simmons knows all too well. There was nothing rock ‘n’ roll about seeing him recover from plastic surgery.
8. The Real Housewives of D.C. — Charles Ommanney
For whatever reason, The Real Housewives is the latest American reality-television series to dominate ratings. Starting with The Real Housewives of Orange County in 2006, the show has added 8 other series to the American franchise, with countless others popping up around the world. The show documents the lives of upper-class women who’ve managed to live a lifestyle that most of us can only dream about.
For one of the stars of The Real Housewives of D.C., Charles Ommanney, appearing on the show was one of the biggest mistakes of his life. When he first appeared on the show, Ommanney was a well-respected photojournalist who took photos of the White House for nine years. Due to the reputation that Ommanney’s wife (now ex) had on the show, his career began to struggle. He went from being a fly on the wall in the white house to being the husband of the woman that everyone hated to watch.
Ommanney struggled to build professional relationships because people feared they would end up on the show. Originally signing on to the show to please his new wife, Ommanney has since taken a step back from the program and said it was the biggest mistake of his life. The couple has since divorced.
7. Big Brother — Lesley Sanderson
Big Brother was originally a UK reality show but has since spread to almost every country imaginable. The premise of the show was to stick a bunch of gorgeous people in a house together and have them vote to evict each other out one at a time until only one person remained. The people in the house can’t have any contact with the outside world and are under surveillance 24/7.
One of the first stars to come out of Big Brother was 19-year-old Lesley Sanderson. Due to coming off as the rudest person in the house, Sanderson struggled to deal with the real world after being booted from the program. In her own words, “Big Brother ruined my life and turned me into a hate figure. I thought cocaine was the only way to block out the pain. Before Big Brother, I had never touched drugs.”
Initially flocked by men in the streets, Sanderson ruined relationships with family members and struggled to find a boyfriend because of how the show made her look. In the years following her appearance, she was raped, battled drug addiction, and tried to kill herself.
6. 19 Kids And Counting — The Duggars
19 Kids and Counting was one TLC’s shows that seemed wholesome. It chronicled the lives of members of the Duggar family, a devout Baptist family that tries to live their lives dedicated to God. The parents, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, refuse to use birth control, which has resulted in them having 19 kids.
The Duggar family had their lives destroyed when it came to light that their eldest son, Josh, had molested five different girls, including some of his sisters, when he was a teenager. The Duggar family responded by apologizing for Josh’s behavior but didn’t completely condemn his actions. Jim Bob and Michelle publicly stood by their son despite the fact that he had brought trauma to their daughters and the daughters of their friends. It was later revealed that the family had tried to hide what their son had done, working together with law enforcement to cover up the allegations of sexual molestation.
After news of the allegations came out, TLC suspended and later canceled 19 Kids And Counting. The network doesn’t even air any reruns of the program. Further, Jim Bob’s business ventures have suffered, and he can say goodbye to the political career that he’s dreamed of having his entire life.
5. The Bachelor — Chris Bukowski
Formerly a contestant on The Bachelorette, Chris Bukowski became a contestant on Bachelor in Paradise as well as Bachelor Pad. Despite being a fan favorite, Bukowski left his second season of Bachelor in Paradise after one night of filming, saying that reality television has ruined his life.
It all started when Bukowski received an email from the casting department of The Bachelorette, a show he had never watched. His friend had submitted an application on his behalf, and he hesitantly agreed to appear on national television. After he was eliminated from The Bachelor, Bukowski agreed to appear on Bachelor Pad, where he was portrayed as a villain to an audience of millions. Fans of the show were trash-talking him as well as members of his family.
Despite the bad publicity, Bukowski continued to appear on Bachelor shows with the hopes of fixing his image. It never worked. His parents became obsessed with how he was portrayed on television, so much so that the relationship Bukowski had with his father deteriorated to the point that it has taken years to repair.
4. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo — Honey Boo Boo
Here Comes Honey Boo Boo was a spinoff of the TLC reality series Toddlers & Tiaras. Originally, Honey Boo Boo and her family were briefly featured on Toddlers & Tiaras. Due to the bizarre nature of her family and the love that she received from fans, TLC opted to create a show to follow around Honey Boo Boo and her family.
The show was the subject of controversy from the very beginning. Many people felt that Honey Boo Boo’s family (as well as TLC) were exploiting a young girl to make a quick buck. Critics of the show also felt that anyone who was watching should feel terrible because they were laughing at a very low-class family. The family was the punchline without even realizing it. People were laughing at them, not with them.
At the height of the show’s popularity, TLC canceled Here Comes Honey Boo Boo in 2014, when reports revealed that Mama June (Honey Boo Boo’s mother) was dating a man who had been convicted of child molestation. To make matters worse, one of Mama June’s children confirmed to media outlets that she was the one her mother’s new boyfriend had molested! And Mama June continued to date her!
3. Dance Moms — Abby Lee Miller
Abby Lee Miller fascinated a new generation of reality-television lovers as the main character in the show Dance Moms. The show focused on the training and the careers of children who were aspiring to become professional dancers. Abby Lee Miller is the founder of the Abby Lee Dance Company, the studio that Dance Moms focused on for seven seasons.
Despite being the star of one of the most successful reality TV shows at the time, Abby Lee Miller pled guilty to felony bankruptcy fraud in 2016. Despite having three spinoff series and one of the most sought-after dance studios in the United States, Abby Lee Miller owed an estimated $400,000 in taxes. To avoid paying taxes, Miller created a number of hidden bank accounts to hide over $755,000. For her crime, Miller was sentenced to serve one year and a day in prison. She began serving her sentence in July 2017.
Had she not been such a success (or as greedy), Miller wouldn’t be sitting in a jail cell right now. Hopefully, she uses the next year to think about if it would’ve been worth it to just pay her taxes. To make matters worse, Miller has been replaced by Cheryl Burke on Dance Moms, and there’s no indication that Miller will ever return to the program.
2. Love and Hip Hop — Karlie Redd
With the hopes of launching a career as an actress, Karlie Redd auditioned for Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta. Despite the commercial success of the show, Karlie Redd wanted to branch out into more legitimate forms of entertainment. Redd auditioned for a role in a Tyler Perry movie, and, surprisingly, she was turned down for the role. According to Redd, she was rejected for the role because she was a reality star, and Tyler Perry didn’t want anything to do with people from that industry. Is anyone else surprised by this? Did anyone actually think Tyler Perry had standards? His movies are terrible.
But it wasn’t the first time that Redd was rejected by movie producers because of her role on Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta. In her own words, Redd said, “There’s [sic] been roles that I auditioned for, and then they found out… Literally, I’m on my way set to work, got the role and everything, and then they find out I’m on the show, and then they’re like ‘Uh, no.'”
It looks like Karlie Redd should’ve done a little more research into the entertainment business! It’s ironic that she only took a reality TV role to get her foot in the door, and now, she’s stuck on a show that she doesn’t have much interest in. Oh well. At least she’s loaded.
1. Jersey Shore — The Situation
Michael “The Situation” Sorrentino was one of nine fist-pumping Guidos to star on MTV’s Jersey Shore. The show was loved by fans and hated by critics, and depending on how much you enjoy indulging guilty pleasures, you probably loved hearing about the show. It was such a mainstream success that everyone had an opinion on how the stars of the show were acting and how MTV was stooping to a new low by airing Jersey Shore on TV.
Some members of the cast, like Vinny, were loved by just about everyone. Other members, like The Situation, were hated by just about everyone. He was the type of person you would expect to star on Jersey Shore when people first heard about it. He was a douchebag and the least likable character on the show by far. He had no redeeming qualities, and the show reflected that.
Besides becoming one of the most hated television personalities in America, The Situation found himself in a situation brought on by the success of the show. In 2014, he was arrested for assault after fighting in a tanning salon. Three months later, The Situation was charged with tax fraud after allegedly avoiding to pay $8.9 million. It’s no wonder that he was so desperate to do a Jersey Shore reunion before he ended up behind bars.
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