It's too easy to dismiss reality superstar status as just luck. I wanted to dig deeper and find out how you become a major reality star so I called upon some experts:
Reality Steve, Reality TV guru (and everything you ever wanted to know about The Bachelor and The Bachelorette) at http://realitysteve.com
Brande Roderick, actress, Playmate of the Year, and formidable contender on All-Star Celebrity Apprentice 2013
Mark Stolzenberg, head of the Acting School for Film and TV at http://actingclassforfilm.com
June Deery, Ph.D., author of Consuming Reality: the Commercialization of Factual Entertainment
Learn the Game
Reality Steve says that successful reality stars pick up on the game and learn how to play it quickly by giving good sound bites and steering away from boring. He emphasizes that, "The second they start to talk about an uninteresting thing, a producer will be there to steer them in another direction -- 'why don't you talk about this instead.'"
Successful reality stars intuitively know how to keep it interesting and learn to work with producers. Deery says that direction takes many forms from suggestions about the role they are expected to play, to direct lines being fed to them by field producers. Tactics may also include, "interviewers provoking emotions on camera and off camera," as well as "turning cast members against each other."
The meek don't get rewarded in reality TV. Reality Steve says, "You have to be confrontational to be memorable; if you're a follower, you're not memorable."
He goes on to say that confrontation often grows out of being put into a reality TV bubble that can include no TV, no phones, and a lot of alcohol, which leads to manufactured drama.
Roderick emphasizes the real in reality TV and makes an important point about successful reality stars -- their ability to be vulnerable in front of the camera.
Roderick says: "You have to wear your heart on your sleeve so to speak and not be afraid to make a fool of yourself in front of the world. I think the thing that has made me successful in reality is being very transparent, being vulnerable and not being afraid to show who I am to the world."
It's that openness and willingness to share that contributes to reality superstars' relatability. Look at Giuliana and Bill Rancic who have touched viewers by documenting their struggles with issues including infertility and breast cancer on their show Giuliana & Bill.
A psychological attachment occurs when viewers see reality stars putting themselves out there especially when it is an issue that a large number of people can identify with.
Be a Brand
As Kim and Kourtney Kardashian were introduced on Piers Morgan Tonight, Morgan said: "... these two have amassed a fortune of an estimated $100 million, by creating a brand based entirely on a lack of any discernible talent other than self-promotion, marketing and brand development.
The catch is, as much as people hate to admit it, marketing is a significant talent in today's culture. Deery calls it the process of "commodifying the self" and in her book, Consuming Reality: the Commercialization of Factual Entertainment discusses among other things: "...how mediation allows commercialization, how television is a cultural device for turning more and more of experience into something we can sell. The private becomes privatized, the public becomes mere publicity."
Hone Your Persona
Psychologist Carl Jung developed the idea of persona, which is defined as the image we present to the world. The word persona is derived from the Latin word mask as in the ones worn by Roman actors on stage.
I was thinking about personas in relation to reality superstars like Bethenny Frankel, who has that unmistakable sarcastic business savvy image and wondered if successful reality stars have more highly developed personas as a group.
I asked the highly regarded acting teacher, Mark Stolzenberg and he discussed the personas of actors such as Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, and Marilyn Monroe who were famous for specific images and certain character traits. However, Stolzenberg said that these actors' personas were "crafted over time and cultivated as a vehicle for performance." He describes it as an "artistic process" rather than hitting the jackpot. Stolzenberg echoes the voice of many in the acting community in his regard for reality stars.
On The View, Whoopi Goldberg has been vocal about reality stars not paying their dues in the same way that actors do. But is it rather that there are different dues to pay?
Improv Your Reality
Roderick who is both an actress and a reality star said this about the difference: "...acting is scripted, and you have to memorize lines about someone else's life. And reality is improv based on your own life."
Stay In The Tabloids
To be a reality superstar you have to have longevity in the tabloids. Reality Steve said that after Brad Womack's second season on The Bachelor, tabloid interest in his choice Emily Maynard never ceased. Even after they broke up there was interest in her life and whom she was dating. She ended up being one of the show's most popular bachelorettes.
According to a recent New York Times article, film actresses aren't selling magazines the way they used to. It's reality stars like Lauren Conrad from The Hills or Kim Kardashian that are accounting for the best-selling covers.
People seem to find reality stars more relatable. Hollywood actors are in a cut-off fantasy world, where as reality stars are just living life-like everyone else -- or so it seems...