These days, a stint on reality television can provide as much career enhancement as getting a master’s degree or scoring a promotion. Think about all of the television personalities who went on from relative obscurity to become trusted authorities and sought-after professionals — the only catalyst being an appearance on a reality TV show.
Take Christian Siriano, for example. At 22, he became the youngest-ever winner of fashion-design reality series “Project Runway,” when he took home top honors in the show’s fourth season. Before appearing on the show, Siriano was a makeup artist for Stila Cosmetics and occasionally made wedding dresses for private clients. Since winning “Project Runway,” his collections have been picked up by stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and he has collaborated on projects with Puma, Payless and Victoria’s Secret, among others. If it weren’t for reality TV, he might still be behind a makeup counter somewhere.
The same thing can be said for the careers of dozens of former reality-TV contestants and stars — Lauren Conrad from “The Hills,” Bill Rancic of “The Apprentice,” various “American Idol” winners and multiple “Real Housewives” — who have all parlayed their 15 minutes of fame into careers that are arguably more successful than they might have been otherwise.
Though these tales may seem like Cinderella stories, boosting one’s career via reality television is becoming increasingly common — and everyone from hair stylists and fashion designers to doctors and lawyers are giving it a go.
We talked to two former stars of different shows about how national exposure led to professional success. Here’s what they had to say:
‘Shear Genius’ Before winning Bravo’s first season of “Shear Genius,” a reality competition featuring hair stylists, Anthony Morrison (pictured above) had just opened a hair salon in Manhattan Beach, Calif., and was concentrating on making his business a success. Now, more than three years after he appeared on the show, he can’t keep people away.
“[Being on the show] exponentially increased my visibility as a hair stylist, shining the light on my unique talents and ideas as an artist,” he says. “It also brought attention to my brand new salon and further facilitated my ability to hire the most talented stylists in Los Angeles because of my work on [the show]. As a natural part of the process, new clients found me and the shop, we continued to honor the ‘old’ clients who had been so loyal before the show, and I built on my reputation as a creative, respectful, responsive business owner and stylist.”
It isn’t only Morrison’s salon that has benefited from his appearance on “Shear Genius.” Since winning the competition, his career highlights have included co-hosting the TLC Discovery show “10 Years Younger” and launching his own signature hair-care line — a longtime career dream.
“I have always had the goal to create a line of hair-care products. I felt that having the distinction of being on a respected show like this one — no less actually winning the competition — would open the doors to partnerships, projects and boundless potential with regard to a line launch,” Morrison says. His product line, Anthony Morrison Weightless Moisture, was launched in August.
Morrison says he is “humbled” for the doors that opened up for him after being on the show, and is glad he’s not “hair today and gone tomorrow,” like many of his fellow reality stars. “I am boundlessly happy and grateful to those with whom and for whom I have shared this journey,” he says.
Adam Mills has a slightly different story when it comes to reality TV and his career.
After being laid off from his job as a corporate events manager in 2008, Mills said his career stalled. “I just became another fish in the sea of unemployment,” he says. “When you’re on top, people gravitate towards you; you’re constantly building momentum going from one great program to the next with no end in sight. When you become ‘that guy on unemployment,’ you begin to start losing credibility.”
Instead of immediately pursuing another full-time job, Mills decided to try something new. “I got on the show after a late-night conversation with three of my closest friends. A simple reply to a Craigslist posting turned into a bet which ultimately landed me on the show. When you’re unemployed, you don’t have any excuses.”
Though Mills acknowledges that he appeared on “The Cougar” — a dating show in which younger men compete for the affection of an older woman — “purely for entertainment purposes,” Mills found that appearing on TV came with the bonus of a career boost.
“Being on ‘The Cougar’ helped me gain some notoriety within my circle of friends and put me back on the minds of people I worked with in the past,” Mills says. “I was soon flooded with calls from new friends, old friends and my parents’ friends. Everyone just assumed I was now pursuing a career in the entertainment business. This new title was a gateway into letting people know what direction I was headed. I was now back on the radar in the world of event production, but this time work was no longer a 9-to-5 job, it was on my terms. I established a company, Division Mind Lab, and leads started pouring in. I was back on the map.”
Interested in advancing your career in this nontraditional way? The following shows are now casting:
What do you think about using reality TV as a way to build your career? Let us know in the comments section, below.