“What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a common question – especially at the start of the school year.
A singer, a doctor, a vet, a firefighter… a reality TV star?
Ever since Big Brother launched in the UK in 2000, reality TV has – for the lucky few – been the launch pad for a lucrative career.
TV presenters Alison Hammond, Vicky Pattison and Mark Wright are successful celebrities whose careers were launched by reality TV.
Nearly half of the housemates in this year’s Celebrity Big Brother made their names – and their money – from other reality shows.
And this year’s Love Island contestants are already cashing in on their status with brand endorsements and nightclub appearances.
“Reality TV has become more of a career choice than being an actor or singer,” says Edward Hopkins, celebrity publicist for Nusic London.
“Gone are the days where people say you are famous for doing nothing. Reality TV is now seen as a legitimate career.”
So how lucrative is a career in reality TV?
The most popular contestants can become millionaires. Publicists say the money rolls in from:
- Brand endorsements: Become the face of a fashion retailer and you can bank £150,000
- Editorial deals: Give a newspaper or celebrity magazine access to your home, add a few quotes, and earn £40,000
- Nightclub appearances: Show your face for an hour at a nightclub and earn £3,000 to £10,000 a pop
- A book or fitness DVD deal: Earn anything from £50,000 to £300,000
While most reality TV stars keep their fortunes a secret, several are estimated to be millionaires.
Former Towie star Amy Childs is said to have £5m in the bank thanks to a book deal, perfume and clothing ranges and a beauty salon in Essex.
Gary “Gaz” Beadle from Geordie Shore has an estimated £1m after investing in a beach club and launching his own fashion line.
And – if you can’t make it on your own – there’s a way of boosting your chances.
“If you leave a show in a relationship there’s a lot more chance of making more money,” says Mr Hopkins.
“I fully believe in the first year a couple can make £1m.”
Love Island star Olivia Buckland came second on series two of the show after coupling up with co-star Alex Bowen – to whom she is now engaged.
She has forged a successful career working with fashion and beauty brands such as Miss Pap and Cocoa Brown, and has also starred in an episode of the reality TV show Say Yes to the Dress.
“I was expecting to come out and get a job in car sales,” she says.
“But the minute I came out my phone blew off. I had so many people messaging me about sponsors and working alongside fashion brands.
“Instagram has become such a massive marketing platform and they utilise reality stars.”
Other celebs who careers started on reality TV
- Sam Faiers (Towie)
- Joey Essex (Towie)
- Imogen Thomas (Big Brother)
- Lucy Mecklenburgh (Towie)
- Charlotte Crosby (Geordie Shore)
- Gemma Collins (Towie)
- Scarlett Moffatt (Gogglebox)
- Louise Thompson (Made in Chelsea)
- Josie Gibson (Big Brother)
- Binky Felstead (Made in Chelsea)
Olivia says reality TV stars get approached to advertise many products, but she wanted to “stay true” to herself by choosing brands wisely.
“It just grew and grew because women and young girls could see I was honest and I am relatable,” she says.
Even though a newer batch of Love Island stars has recently been unleashed onto the world, Olivia is not concerned about the extra competition.
“Me and Alex have managed to carve a life for ourselves where we don’t have to worry about more people coming out.
“As long as you follow your own path you can continue to make money.”
Reality TV has become so lucrative that if at first contestants don’t succeed in achieving fame, they try again.
Megan McKenna has become famous for Towie, yet also has two stabs at Ex On The Beach and a stint on Celebrity Big Brother to her name.
Behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings – who worked on shows including Big Brother and I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here! – says it’s not unusual for contestants to apply for a variety of shows.
“I have people asking me how they get on reality TV, how they can train themselves to be a likely candidate, and how they might present themselves differently.
“The better known stars have been through a number of these shows.
“It’s almost like an apprenticeship they serve up through the ranks of various TV shows until they reach the one they really want to be on.
“I see the same people again and again applying for different reality TV shows.”
Engaged fan base
Social media has transformed the prospects of reality TV stars.
Big brands no longer have to rely on television adverts, or taking out expensive magazine deals, to access their target audience.
Instead they can pay a popular TV contestant to wear their clothes and have direct access to millions of potential customers.
This year’s Love Island contestants have already been cashing in with Montana Brown teaming up with online fashion retailer Pretty Little Thing and Amber Davies with Motel Rocks.
“Social media has definitely helped play a part in building careers for reality TV contestants,” says Andrew Bloch, co-founder of Frank PR and Lord Sugar’s publicist.
“The reality TV audience watch people on the show, relate to them and want to follow the story lines on social media to find out what they are up to when the cameras are off.
“This enables the stars of the shows to build large online followings with an engaged fan base, which raises their profiles and in turn increases their worth.”
While several stars have become millionaires from a career in reality TV, experts warn it’s not an easy task.
You need good management – and a bit of good luck.
“The chances of becoming a reality TV star are low, and just appearing on a show is no guarantee of being able to build a viable long term career off the back of it,” says Mr Bloch.
“For the minority, reality shows can provide a platform for success. However, to aspire to being a reality show contestant as a viable career choice is naive and unrealistic.”
But Ms Hemmings believes it won’t stop people from trying.
“The fact that 99% of reality TV stars are never heard from again doesn’t matter. There is that 1% that have enjoyed success from it.
“Then viewers watch it and see ordinary people showcasing themselves and they think I could do that and they start applying. It feeds itself.”
Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40965279