Reality TV stars who need to realize they aren't famous anymore

Reality TV shows are everyone's guilty pleasure. We revel in the opportunity to watch real people place themselves in drama-fueled situations miles away from our own lives. They give us an escape — a chance to turn off our brains from the mundane. The stars of these shows also push limits, realizing that if they play out the roles of divas or villains, they'll become household names in the process.

However, as reality TV becomes more and more outlandish, can the shock value be too much to handle, and what happens when the cameras stop rolling? While some celebrities voluntarily take a step back from the reality TV world, others are still chasing after the fickle glory of Hollywood. We don't want to suggest that the men and women on this list aren't successful in other ways (e.g., Paris Hilton is still making bank), but these former reality stars arguably aren't attracting much mainstream attention. We hate to be the wet blanket, but some of these folks may need to realize they just aren't that famous anymore.

From reality TV icon to Nazi sympathizer

Watching this reality TV star's bizarre fall from grace is like rubbernecking at the scene of an accident. Tila Tequila, once a mid-noughties online icon, was once dubbed the "queen of MySpace" by Time. Her social media presence spawned MTV's A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila, a reality TV competition where she looked for romance among both male and female contestants. After the show stopped airing, things went downhill for Tequila. 

First, she sued her ex-boyfriend, NFL star Shawne Merriman, for assault, battery, and false imprisonment to the tune of $1.5 million. He counter-sued, and the duo eventually settled under confidential terms. But this pint-sized celeb apparently had bigger fish to fry — stopping a company from distributing a sex tape of her. According to Radar Online, Tequila couldn't afford to repurchase the tape and feared it would negatively affect her career, but one could argue that her mainstream popularity was already circling the drain. 

The once-famous influencer has tried to remain active on social media, but her postings have alienated the masses. She claimed she was possessed by Satan, trolled various beauty Youtubers, and made waves for referring to herself as "Alt-reich Queen!" Her Twitter account was suspended in 2016 after she shared a photo of her doing a Nazi salute, so something tells us future red carpet invites may get lost in the mail. 

Even Oprah couldn't fix this career

Lindsay Lohan's fall from grace has been heavily documented. It felt like the whole world watched as her reputation shifted from child star with a promising future in film to party animal whose legal woes and relationship drama overshadowed her professional pursuits. The diva transitioned into reality TV in 2014 with Lindsay, a TV series on the Oprah network that documented her attempt at a public relations makeover. According to TMZ, Oprah Winfrey offered Lohan $2 million for the series and took on the Freaky Friday star as some sort of personal pet project. Alas, dismal ratings indicated that even Oprah couldn't resurrect the actress' image as a leading lady. In fact, the series was reportedly nixed, in part, due to Lohan lacking the desire to commit to it. (You know it's bad when Oprah tells you to "cut the bulls**t" on camera.) 

Lohan surprised us in 2019 with another reality TV debut. Titled Lindsay Lohan's Beach Club, the MTV show sees the celeb opening up her own club in Greece and teaching "brand ambassadors" how to promote her business. Unfortunately, a month after the show premiered, it had already lost 60 percent of its audience. Maybe it's time for Lohan to accept that audiences just aren't that interested anymore and pursue a line of work outside the entertainment industry.

Ariana Grande's brother is fame adjacent

It's hard to understand what Frankie J. Grande does for a living. Sure, his sister is Ariana Grande, a pop star that needs no introduction. But Frankie? Since his brief stint on Season 16 of Big Brother, Frankie hasn't done much except keep his glitzy YouTube channel up and running and design cell phone cases. That's cool and all, but one might need to stretch their definition of fame to justify lumping Frankie in the mix.

Though he continues to rub elbows with celebs, Frankie arguably attracts mass interest only when he's stirring up tabloid headlines or in costume or talking about his sister. Case in point: In November 2018, he went on and on about his polyamorous relationship, introducing Us Weekly to "his boyfriends," aka married men Daniel Sinasohn and Mike Pophis. "[We've been dating for] almost three months, but in the gay world, it's like five years," Frankie said, before getting a bit TMI about the whole thing. Just a couple months later (or whatever that is in so-called gay years), Frankie apparently said "thank u, next" to the throuple. He told Us Weekly the relationship brought "double the drama," and then proceeded to strut his stuff with a new beau at — where else? – his sister's Coachella show. Sure, sometimes you can pull off the whole "famous for being famous thing," but let's be honest, Frankie J. is no Kim K.

The 'mercenaries' of reality TV

Notorious for living beyond their means, Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag continue to pretend they're reality TV A-listers. Once our favorite bad guys on MTV's The Hills (2006-10), these two are still attempting to cash in on those roles every chance they get, but hey, at least they're candid about it. In an interview with Complex in 2015, Pratt even referred to him and his wife as "mercenaries," noting that they cause drama on shows such as Celebrity Big Brother and Marriage Boot Camp not because that's who they are, but because that's who people want them to be. "Call us in when you are ready for some action. That keeps the bills paid," he said.

They're not shy when it comes to the tabloids, either. "Speidi" seems to embrace an "all publicity is good publicity" strategy. From getting ten plastic surgeries in a day, to faking a divorce, Pratt and Montag have certainly gotten creative to maintain that cash flow. Pratt didn't pull any punches when he talked about their ludicrous spending habits to fellow reality star Bethenny Frankel on her Bethenny talk show. When The Hills ended, he said, "We thought we were Robin Hood with not Robin Hood money." The Hills: New Beginnings gets underway in June 2019, so let's hope this couple invests that exposure wisely and finds a healthy way to rekindle its fame.

Can this bunny get back on top?

Kendra Wilkinson was introduced to the world on The Girls Next Door, a reality show that began in 2005 as an intimate look at notorious Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner and his three live-in girlfriends: Wilkinson, Holly Madison, and Bridget Marquardt (the show's gaggle of girlfriends changed over time.) Wilkinson left the series in 2009, married former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Hank Baskett, and launched her own reality TV show, Kendra, which focused on her "life after leaving the Playboy mansion." This was followed by the spin-off Kendra on Top in 2012, which focused on the happy couple and its growing family.

But Wilkinson's world took a nasty turn in 2014, when Baskett made headlines over an alleged cheating scandal. Wilkinson's problems extended to other relationships too. She also made headlines in 2016 for a "vulgar Twitter rant attacking" former co-star Madison. We don't want to pick sides in that bunny brawl, but all the negativity was clearly not a good look for Wilkinson. Some even accused her of faking drama just to resurrect TV ratings — tabloid dirt she vehemently denied

Wilkinson and Bassett divorced in February 2019, and with no reality show to keep her in the spotlight, her public profile diminished significantly. According to Fox News, she's dating another former reality TV star –  "Bachelor franchise villain Chad Johnson," so time will tell if those two embrace life outside the spotlight or keep grasping at air time.

The reality TV pioneer who's not so 'hot' anymore

Paris Hilton is not the same star who pioneered reality TV with her role on The Simple Life (2003-07) and her catchphrase: "That's hot." You may not see or hear much from her anymore, but fear not, Hilton has skillfully reinvested her reality TV fame into a multitude of business ventures. Don't believe us? She spoke to Money in 2018, listed some of the projects on her impressive resume: "I'm constantly traveling. I have 19 product lines … I'm working on a new show and producing films. A second album and a third book … I don't stop." In other words, Hilton's got the fortune, but does she still have the fame?

Subsequent forays into reality TV haven't fared so well. According to Vulture, her short-lived show, The World According to Paris, premiered in 2011 with only 409,000 viewers and was soon canceled. That same year, Hilton was interviewed by ABC anchor Dan Rather, who asked her: "Do you ever worry about your moment having passed?" Hilton scoffs in reply and gets up to leave.

While the masses may no longer clamor to follow Hilton's every move, she does have a niche following that pays the bills and then some. Take her stint as a DJ: An insider told The Sun (via AZ Central) that the heiress landed a residency at Ibiza's club Amnesia in 2014 that allegedly paid her "$347,000 an hour." Now that's hot.

Kate plus eight plus those lingering minutes of fame

Painted as a strict, no-nonsense mom of eight tots on Jon & Kate Plus 8, Kate Gosselin has repeatedly grasped for a shot at stardom. She first rose to fame with her now-ex-husband, Jon Gosselin, as their series became TLC's reality TV juggernaut. After the duo separated — in messy fashion — she continued with a spin-off show, Kate Plus 8, but her image suffered. Her own sister told the Daily Mail that Kate allegedly left "a trail of hurt" behind her when she cut ties with family members. "I guess we have our own life and she wants a big life and we don't fit in."

Clearly attempting to cling to reality TV momentum, Kate revealed at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour (via Global News) in February 2019 that she would return to TLC with a new show titled Kate Plus Date. With the help of her twins, Mady and Cara (They're adults now!), Kate goes on a series of blind dates in hopes of finding Mr. Right. While she admits some dates are "kind of hit or miss," she also reveals that she "loves to date on TV and the safety it provides." We suppose that makes sense after so many years of airing her life on camera, but is this legitimate fame or a troubling sign of reality TV dependency?

From housewife to duchess, this starlet dreams big

From her botched boob job to her call girl past, Danielle Staub brought the drama on The Real Housewives of New Jersey. Her run as a TV wifey came concluded in 2010, but that wasn't the end of her reality TV ambitions. As Staub would admit to Life & Style (via The Huffington Post) during her birthday party, "I'm more excited about talks of my spin-off than anything else." That spin-off didn't materialize, and when Staub returned to RHONJ in 2018, it was only as a part-time cast member. What happened to her reality TV fame? 

Maybe her love life got in the way. Married to Marty Caffrey since Season 9 of RHONJ, the duo divorced in 2019, and then Staub reportedly got engaged a week later to the Duke of Provence, Oliver Maier. "I'm feeling elated and excited for the next stage of my life …. hopefully I'll spend the rest of my life in bliss," she told People. But just like her spin-off dreams, that wedding hasn't happened yet. According to TMZ, Staub's daughters "pushed back" on the idea of their mom tying the knot for the fourth time. That may have had something to do with this reportedly marking engagement No. 21 for the former reality TV starlet.

This starlet has been living beyond her zip code

Tori Spelling hasn't been living that 90210 life in recent years — neither on-screen nor off. When her Hollywood producer father, Aaron Spelling, passed away in 2006, Tori was left with a mere $800,000 inheritance (out of an estimated $500 million fortune), and she apparently wasn't able to stretch that very far. Tori, husband Dean McDermott, and their kids have reportedly been saddled by debt, despite starring in a slew of reality shows on Oxygen, including Tori & Dean: Inn Love (later rebranded as Tori & Dean: Home Sweet Hollywood) and Tori & Dean: sTORIbook Weddings. When that TV well ran dry, the facade crumbled. 

In 2019, the couple reportedly owed more than $1 million to assorted creditors, and an arrest warrant was issued for Spelling. As part of a plan to fix its finances, the family reportedly decided to rent, but this was no bargain apartment. According to the Daily Mail, the family moved into a $13,000 a month rental in Hidden Hills, Calif. — where neighbors include A-listers such as the Kardashian/Jenner clan and Drake — so it appears Tori has yet to come to grips with the reality of her financial status. That said, if she plays her cards (and credit cards) right, Tori's starring role in the rebooted BH90210 could pave the way for a return to the A-list.

From changing diapers to changing partners

Rising to prominence during an episode of 16 and Pregnant, followed by a starring spot in the original Teen Mom series, Farrah Abraham has been chasing fame ever since she started changing diapers. Although she kicked off her reality TV career by appearing on a show with a potentially positive message for teens, she pivoted into a more — how should we say this? — mature realm as the years went on. In 2013, Abraham starred in a sex tape with adult-film star James Deen, which she sold for nearly a cool $1 million, per TMZ. Abraham followed that up with her own line of sex toys (and dressed up as Elsa from the Disney kids flick Frozen during her promotional touring), but these days, the reality star should probably focus on letting go of bad press.

Abraham has made plenty of headlines for trouble off-camera. According to TMZ, she was arrested for fighting with a staff member at the Beverly Hills Hotel while allegedly intoxicated. A source told the gossip site she even pulled the "I'm a celebrity … you should know who I am" card. The Blast reported in 2018 that she sued Viacom for $5 million, claiming company executives "wrongfully terminated her employment because she did not conform to gender stereotypes." Time will tell if this sultry mom can reproduce her past success in showbiz.