Larger Than (Real) Life! The Most Memorable Reality TV Stars Ever
Their shows might be over but there are those memorable reality TV stars made such a lasting impression that they will never be forgotten.
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From Donald Trump and Snooki, to Jon and Kate Gosselin and Kim Kardashian, these larger-than-life characters are just as drama-filled as the ones we relate to with scripted content—and continue to prove so by perpetually dominating the headlines.
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So who are those unforgettable reality stars? Let's dive in to see who made the list and why. Stuff's about to get real!
43. Emma Stone
Emma Stone makes our list of memorable reality TV stars because that’s where she got her start. At the tender age of 15, Stone—then known as Emily—auditioned for and won the part of Laurie Partridge on In Search of the New Partridge Family. Stone has since wowed the world with her acting chops—from fighting zombies to winning over the Academy (which included winning over Meryl Streep) with her Best Actress-garnering performance in La La Land.
42. Jamie Chung
You may know Jamie Chung as Mulan on ABC’s Once Upon A Time, but Chung got her start in 2004 as a castmate on The Real World: San Diego. She’s also appeared on Days of Our Lives, Samurai Girl, The Gifted and CSI. She’s possibly the most memorable real worlder—and certainly the most gifted.
41. Jennifer Hudson
It’s easy to forget that Jennifer Hudson first rose to fame on American Idol (she only placed seventh in the third season). She’s since gone on to star in Dreamgirls, which won her an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, and a SAG award for Best Supporting Actress. Talk about unforgettable.
40. Lisa Vanderpump
Lisa Vanderpump shot to fame in America on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and moved on to shows including Dancing with the Stars and Vanderpump Rules. But she was known in her home country of Britain long before then and has been acting in movies and TV shows since she was a child. You don't get much more memorable than her.
39. NeNe Leakes
NeNe Leakes was loved on The Real Housewives of Atlanta and from there moved on to a slew of other reality shows and then sitcoms (The New Normal) and even Glee. Leakes also had her own shopping line on HSN which sold out in days—proving her lasting appeal to real real housewives everywhere.
38. Khloé Kardashian
Khloé Kardashian, AKA the favorite Kardashian, is another memorable reality TV star who found her fame in Keeping Up With The Kardashians, her short-lived marriage to Lamar Odom, and Khloé and Lamar, her short-lived TV series about her short-lived marriage.
37. Honey Boo Boo
There aren't many people who don't know of Honey Boo Boo. Her real name is Alana Thompson but Honey Boo Boo became a household name from her stint on Toddlers and Tiaras which then led to her own show Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.
36. Bethenny Frankel
Bethenny Frankel shot to fame in 2005 when she came second in Martha Stewart’s The Apprentice spin-off and went on to do Shark Tank and The Real Housewives of New York (despite not being married at the time). She’s also worked as a correspondent for NBC and written two books on dieting. But possibly the best job she ever had was as a PA on the set of Saved By The Bell.
35. Janice Dickinson
In case you weren’t around in the '70s, a time Janice Dickinson was supposed to have been a supermodel (the first, she said), you would have instead caught her on any number of reality TV shows such as America’s Next Top Model, The Surreal Life, I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, and The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency. She’s certainly a super reality star—and there's no forgetting her.
34. Brooke Hogan
Brooke Hogan's daddy, famous wrestler Hulk Hogan, helped make her famous when she appeared on his reality show Hogan Knows Best—which led to her own spinoff, Brooke Knows Best. At heart, Brooke is a singer and has released albums, one of which even dented the charts. Brooke continues to stay current (and give a nod to her wrestling legend dad) with another one of her creative ventures—producing and acting in the Netflix cult series Glow.
33. Teresa Giudice
Most memorable for her role on The Real Housewives of New Jersey where she learned that flipping a table makes for great television, Teresa Giudice has gone on to write cookbooks and even appeared on The Celebrity Apprentice. She also spent 11 months of a 15-month sentence in jail for fraud. Oopsy.
32. Nicole Scherzinger
Nicole Scherzinger found her voice on the reality show Popstars. From there she joined the group Eden’s Crush then moved on to the Pussycat Dolls. Since then Scherzinger has appeared on many reality shows, from Dancing With The Stars to being a long-running judge on The X Factor. There's no forgetting Scherzinger.
31. Courtney Stodden
Courtney Stodden rose to fame as a 16-year-old who found love and marriage with actor Doug Hutchison—who was a tender 51-years-old when they tied the knot (they met in the acting class he taught). They’ve since separated. Stodden has appeared on Couples Therapy and also starred in an adult sex tape because that’s what some people do if they want to be memorable.
30. Lauren Conrad
Lauren Conrad was the good girl on Laguna Beach and remained that way. She stayed good through its spin-off, The Hills, too. Conrad has since expanded her persona into the fashion blogging and retail realms—including a longstanding clothing collaboration with affordable retailer Kohl's, established in 2009. She continues to remain a strong presence in the lifestyle blogging community to boot.
29. Jacinda Barrett
Hailing from Australia, Jacinda Barrett rose to fame on MTV’s The Real World: London. Since then she moved into a real acting career appearing in films like Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason and Poseidon. She even became a US citizen making for a very memorable documented immigrant.
28. Dick Donato
Dick Donato picked up the nickname “Evil” thanks to his email address but his appearance on the eighth season of Big Brother—which he won along with his daughter Daniele—didn’t make the audience doubt the name wasn’t worth it. Promising to use the prize money to pay for Daniele’s college education, he instead spent it on a vacation and bought Daniele a red car. They vroomed their way into our memories.
27. Johnny Fairplay
Johnny Fairplay—nee Jon Dalton—made his first appearance on Survivor: Pearl Island and made waves by pretending his grandma was dead (she wasn’t). He then went into professional wrestling; no word on what his grandma thought of it all but he's quite memorable for it.
26. Tiffany Pollard
Tiffany Pollard first came to our attention on VH-1’s Flavor of Love then spun that out into I Love New York. Calling herself the HBIC (Head B**ch In Charge), she also appeared on the UK version of Celebrity Big Brother placing an unforgettable fourth.
25. Danielle Staub
Danielle Staub made herself so memorable by ruling the roost for two seasons on The Real Housewives of New Jersey (she was the inspiration for Teresa Giudice’s table flip). She later agreed to strip at Scores but decided not to. Instead, she returned in 2017 to The Real Housewives of New Jersey.
24. Carrie Underwood
Carrie Underwood went from winning the fourth season of American Idol to becoming America’s sweetheart and one of the most popular female country singers in history. She has sold more than 65 million records worldwide—which must be a record for an American Idol singer.
23. Bob Guiney
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Bob Guiney went from a contestant on the first season of The Bachelor to the Bachelor himself in the fourth season—but wound up married to someone who wasn't in the series, making the fancy gameshow entirely pointless. He made the memorable list by having published books, played in bands, and having hosted shows from GSN Live to Date My House.
22. Gordon Ramsay
Scottish Gordon Ramsay is a chef who has starred in many food-themed reality shows, from Hell's Kitchen to The F-Word. His real-life restaurants have earned more than 15 Michelin stars but he's just as memorable for his f-wording temper.
21. Kelly Clarkson
Kelly Clarkson won the first season of American Idol (take that, Justin Guarini!) and now has a slew of Grammy nominations under her belt. She's judged on The Voice and released more albums than can be counted making Clarkson quite memorable indeed.
20. Justin Guarini
Justin Guarini was a runner-up on the first season of American Idol (he lost to Kelly Clarkson) but that didn't cause him to disappear. He's since released a number of successful albums, acted on stage on Broadway and in the movies, and was Dr. Pepper's Lil' Sweet. The curls might be gone but the voice is still very much there.
19. Jesse James
Jesse first gained notoriety when he starred in Motorcycle Mania on the Discovery Channel—who then offered him his own series called Monster Garage. James is also memorable for marrying Sandra Bullock and then divorcing her when it was revealed how many affairs he'd allegedly been having. James has since cheated on Kat Von D.
18. Adrianne Curry
Adrianne Curry became memorable by winning the first season (or cycle as they prefer to call it) of America's Top Model and has been modeling and appearing on reality TV ever since. She was even married to one of the Brady Bunch (Christopher Knight) for a bunch of years and was named one of the top ten most popular cosplayers.
17. Kelly Osbourne
Kelly Osbourne and her family became household names when they were originally featured in The Osbournes but since then she has appeared on Dancing With The Stars and as a presenter on E!'s Fashion Police. No word on what she thinks bats taste of or, indeed, if Ozzy ever tried feeding her one.
16. Jerri Manthey
Jerri Manthey shot to memorability on Survivor: The Australian Outback then did Blind Date, The Surreal Life, and posed naked for Playboy. She's also a member of the Hooters Girls Hall Of Fame—but wants nothing more to do with wings since she was taken off a US Airways flight after disagreeing with the crew.
15. The Situation
Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino's first situation was on board MTV's Jersey Shore. Other situations have involved Celebrity Big Brother, a years-long prescription pain-killer addiction, and pleading guilty to tax evasion. Those are some serious situations all of which make him pretty unforgettable.
14. Spencer Pratt
Spencer Pratt along with his wife Heidi are so memorable that they even have their own celebrity name—Speidi—and have appeared as a team on the UK's Celebrity Big Brother, I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here, and Wife Swap. His Speidi sense tingled a lot on those shows.
13. Heidi Pratt
Heidi Pratt (nee Montag) shot to fame in MTV's The Hills, where her memorable relationship (and subsequent marriage) to co-star Spencer Pratt rattled the nerves of her friend and fellow cast-mate Lauren Conrad. Pratt released an album, Superficial, that bombed—but she also released a baby boy who's doing brilliantly.
12. Scott Disick
The three-time baby daddy to Kourtney Kardashian—and prone to some pretty outrageous and memorable tantrums—34-year-old Scott Disick has turned quite a few heads. One of those heads belonged to 19-year-old Sophia Richie (daughter of Lionel Richie) (Hello!) who he dated after his break from Kourtney.
11. Jon Gosselin
Jon Gosselin went from Jon & Kate Plus 8 to working as a prep cook at a TGI Friday's in Pennsylvania—so sort of a Jon Plus 8 Orders Of Sesame Jack Chicken Strips. He's also worked as a DJ, spinning at various gigs around Wyomissing, something the headlines still find endlessly fascinating.
10. Kate Gosselin
Mom of eight Kate became memorable upon being immortalized in the series Jon & Kate Plus 8—but she divorced husband Jon in 2009. She's since been on Dancing With The Stars and continues to get public attention for Kate Plus Date, a reality series that documented her attempts to find love.
9. Kim Kardashian
Kim Kardashian West is about as memorable a reality TV star as you can get. From her sex tape to her sexy series Keeping Up With The Kardashians to her sexy husband Kanye West, there's not much Kardashian does that doesn't make the news.
8. Snooki Polizzi
Nicole 'Snooki' Polizzi shot to fame on MTV's Jersey Shore and whereas she might only be 4'8, she's much larger than life. Polizzi's written three books, appeared in over ten reality shows including Dancing With The Stars—and even did an episode of Supernatural. Spooky Snooki couldn't be more memorable.
6. Simon Cowell
Simon Cowell may be on the other side of the table, but he's still a reality TV show star (and hugely influential too). Responsible for finding and signing such acts as One Direction, Cowell got his start working as a PA on the movie The Shining. Heeeeeeere's Simon!
5. Heidi Fleiss
Heidi Fleiss went from managing a prostitution ring at just 22 to Britain's Celebrity Big Brother to America's Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew. In fact, it was Dr. Drew who subjected her to a brain scan that revealed she has a significant frontal lobe dysfunction. But who needs a frontal lobe when you're a reality TV star? They only get in the way of making a person memorable.
4. Richard Hatch
Richard Hatch solidified his unforgettability factor by being the first break-out star on Survivor, winning its first season. He's since appeared on The Celebrity Apprentice and, most recently, The Biggest Loser: Temptation Nation. He's also appeared in jail on tax evasion—but that wasn't televised.
3. Paris Hilton
Paris Hilton went from hotel heiress to The Simple Life via a sex tape and the world has never been the same. She may have left the small screen in the early aughts but has since launched 23 fragrances and is reportedly the highest paid female DJ in the world. Hilton became engaged to model/actor Chris Zylka in January 2018, so now everyone knows where Zykla likes to stay each night...
2. Donald Trump
The Donald went from real estate to reality TV as the host of the reality game show The Apprentice and turned the world upside down when he became a real President—where he often emphasized the level of his ratings both then and now.
One of the world's first reality TV stars, Puck (real name David Rainey) found his way to fame via MTV's Real World: San Francisco. He was a brash bicycle messenger who was ultimately evicted from the show due to his brash behavior. And in 2011 he reminded everyone how memorable he is when he was arrested on "suspicion of felony corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant." Pucking hell.
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