The 16 Greatest Reality Stars Of All Time
Vicki Notaro looks at the personalities who blossomed on TV over the past decade.
Jonathan Van Ness
We love all five of the Queer Eye fam (and would quite frankly die for Antoni), but JVN is without a doubt the most fabulous of them all. With his stunning grooming, beautifully kind personality and ability to convert even the least camp of people to his glittery ways, he’s the standout and a reality star for a new generation. Fair play to him for raising awareness around HIV and LGBTQI+ issues; I can’t wait to read his new memoir.
The heiress that became one of the earliest reality TV stars defo paved the way for the kind of scripted reality shows that are now commonplace. The Simple Life saw P-Hiz and Nicole Richie trade the glitz and glamour of Beverly Hills for farms, muck and even a bit of manual labour, and it was TV gold. That’s hot.
She first found fame as a model on these here shores, and then was the breakout star of the iconic Fade Street alongside the lesser known Danielle Robinson, Louise Johnston and Cici Cavanagh. Now she’s a bona fide reality hun, married to fellow reality king Spencer Matthews of Made In Chelsea fame, and they have a second series of their own Newlyweds style show in the works for E4. Go on ya good things!
The greatest Irish export in reality TV, Lou Lou has been a judge on Popstars: The Rivals, The X Factor, Ireland’s Got Talent and the simply iconic You’re A Star. He’s arguably responsible for the careers of um, Jedward, Shayne Ward and Girls Aloud, as well as managing Westlife and Boyzone, obvs. We were going to choose Simon Cowell for this spot, but we have to be patriotic, right?
In her short life, Jade became a national hero for her outspoken, adorable personality on season three of Big Brother, and then a villain for her behaviour towards Indian housemate Shilpa Shetty on CBB a mere four years later. Soon after that, she was diagnosed with terminal cervical cancer and died a short time later, remaining in the spotlight throughout her illness. She’s inspired countless women to attend cervical screenings, and although controversial, she was arguably the first real reality star from the UK. If you haven’t seen it, check out the three part documentary on her life on All4.
Who to choose from all the glam Real Housewives gals? I plumped for Lisa because she has her own spin-off show as well in the form of Vanderpump Rules, and I like her dog. Simple. The former actress has officially left the Beverly Hills franchise now, but no doubt will be popping up on reality shows everywhere.
Ru admits himself that he borrowed heavily from the ANTM structure for Drag Race, but even he couldn’t have predicted how huge and mainstream the drag contest would become. It’s also made a star of fellow judge Michelle Visage, who just had a turn on Strictly. When you think that we have Ru to thank for contestants like Miss Vanjie, Shangela and Courtney Act, we stan.
I debated on which current British reality gal to include in the list; after all, Charlotte Crosby, Vicky Pattison and Stacy Solomon are all worthy of a mention. The crown has to go to the GC though, who burst on to our screens in TOWIE and then saved the day on I’m A Celeb, Celebrity Big Brother, Dancing On Ice and now her very own show, Diva Forever. She’s a force to be reckoned with.
She only has one name these days, but the artist formerly known as Tweedy, Cole and Fernandez-Versini first found fame on Popstars: The Rivals when she was chosen to become a member of Girls Aloud. She then cemented her reality royalty reputation when she and her diamond tears secured a place on the judging panel of The X Factor and won the hearts of just about everyone. She’s kinda fallen out of favour of late, but recently did a stint on The Greatest Dancer. We want to see you as a Strictly contestant, Chezza!
The woman who basically created the format of so many subsequent shows was already a famous supermodel before the success of America’s Next Top Model, but the series made her a household name. Who could forget her “I was rooting for you” speech, her smizing, her flirting with Nigel Barker… I mean, the show was more about her than the wannabe models, in fairness.
The Cabra Girls
Gogglebox is my favourite reality show on telly, particularly the Irish one, and these girlos are the standout stars. Ashley, Lindsay, Jamie and Gráinne keep us all highly entertained with their couch commentaries on everything from Fair City to Peaky Blinders, and they never fail to be absolutely hysterical. PS, we love your new pink couches, gals!
When is a streaming service going to bring Newlyweds back? I long to watch Jessica avoid sex with her new husband Nick Lachey once again! The virginal pop star marrying the hunky boy bander was absolute genius TV, and while watching their relationship implode was of course sad, it was also unmissable. These days, she’s more of a business mogul than telly star, but we want her back on our screens!
Dillon St Paul
We couldn’t do a reality star countdown and not include our own former art director, the fabulous Dillon St Paul. From Fade Street sidekick to e Apprentice UK star, he was born for reality TV and we’re hoping to see him on another show soon. Snaps also to Jennifer Zamparelli who started out as one of Lord Sugar’s hopefuls, and best of luck to Irish beauty entrepreneur Pamela Laird on the latest season!
The Hills was the seminal series of its time, and LC was its main squeeze – her iconic lines would cut you in half. “You know what you did!”, “I want to forgive you, and I want to forget you” and “He’s a sucky person!” were the original “He dussn’t!” She’s still pretty famous in the States thanks to her lifestyle brands, but globally the Pratts are synonymous with the show thanks to the (not quite as good) reboot.
Mrs O was the quintessential TV mom before Kris Jenner, opening the doors of her gothic LA mansion to cameras capturing every moment of family life, no matter how unflattering. Now, she’s a judging stalwart on The X Factor and Got Talent global franchise and we still love her straight talking attitude.
Twelve years after her family first hit the small screen, Kim is perhaps more famous than ever. I’m a superfan, but I can understand why people don’t like her; still, you simply can’t argue with her business savvy, self-promotional abilities, work ethic and incredibly entertaining existence. Of course, Keeping Up also made stars of her entire family – special shout out to Kris Jenner for being the momager with the most.
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