It’s hard to remember a time when the television airwaves were filled with new episodes of our favorite scripted series like “The Cosby Show,” “Martin,” “Living Single,” “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “A Different World” and so on.
Scripted series began to take a back seat nearly 10 years ago when the reality show phenomenon appeared. Television producer extraordinaire Mark Burnett premiered his show “Survivor: Borneo” in 2000 and the television industry has never been the same. “American Idol,” “The Apprentice,” “America’s Next Top Model,” “The Hills” and “Making the Band.” Recently, Northern Virginia native Stacie Turner made her debut on Bravo’s “Real Housewives of D.C.,” adding to the growing list of African-American reality stars.
However, the reality show sensation has not only become a huge hit for the powerful networks, but for the featured cast members as well. During the past decade many household names who started out on reality based shows are now celebrities worth millions of dollars such as Fantasia, Eva Marcille, and Washington D.C. transplant Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth.
Known as the first bad girl of reality television, the Ohio-born Omarosa, a political consultant by profession, is a Howard University alumna. She got her big break on the first season of “ The Apprentice” and went on to be featured in over 20 reality shows including “The Surreal Life,” Fear Factor” and even a controversial appearance on the “Oprah Winfrey Show.”
TV One’s “Donald’s Trump: The Ultimate Merger” featured men from all walks of life competing for Omarosa’s love. “The reality world has certainly changed since I first started,” Omarosa said in an interview with the AFRO. “It’s just not the same.”
The reality star just signed a three-year deal to continue filming “The Ultimate Merger” and recently revealed she is in a serious relationship with actor Michael Clarke Duncan. “I’m in a really happy place and I hope to stay here,” Omarosa said. “I’m looking forward to making more television, but focusing on the positive instead of the negative like most reality shows do today. I’m definitely here to stay.”
But Omarosa isn’t the only DMV resident who’s made it big in the reality television circuit. Dawn Richards, a Baltimore resident, got her first taste of fame when she starred in MTV’s hit show “Making the Band.” Richards joined music group Danity Kane created by hip-hop icon Sean “Diddy” Combs. Although Danity Kane broke up two years ago, she is now a member of Dirty Money, which features Diddy and singer/songwriter Kalenna Harper. Richards is reportedly in talks with MTV to star in a reality show with her boyfriend Q, formerly of pop group Day 26.
Although many reality stars are known for seeking the limelight and the money that comes with being on a television show, some have other intentions.
“I definitely didn’t want to do it for the fame, money, or anything like that,” Stacie Turner, a member of the “Real Housewives of D.C.” cast, said. “I chose to join the ‘Real Housewives’ series to bring more attention to my charity, Extra-Ordinary Lives.” The Alexandria, Va., native and Howard University alumna recently wrapped up filming for the show. Although the show just began airing this month, Turner says she would do it again. “You know, ask me midway through the season, but so far I’d have no problem doing a season 2; I’ve had a positive experience.”
While some newcomers to reality television are able to quit their day jobs once they enter the national spotlight, a good majority are not. “I was an attorney before the show, and I’m still an attorney after the show,” “Ultimate Merger” star Lyle Silva, a Bowie resident, said. “I’ve got to pay the bills.”
Likewise, Baltimore-based chef Timothy Dean, who appeared on Bravo reality show “Top Chef,” continues to run his restaurant Prime Steakhouse despite recent reports the Fells Point eatery is facing foreclosure.
Other reality stars from the D.M.V. who continue to make strides in the entertainment industry include; Mike Moore (Making Diddy’s Band) Kamille (“Real Chance of Love”), Isis (“America’s Next Top Model”) Joi (“Flavor of Love”) and Brooke Crittendon (“Harlem Heights”) and HGTV “Design Star” contestant Tashica Morgan.
“Being a part of the reality television world is something special,” Silva said. “Your network changes, the people you know change, and most importantly your net worth changes. It’s all worth it.”