Reality TV stars who are worth more than you thought

Once upon a time, you had to be an actor or actress in order to make millions of dollars as a part of a popular show's cast. But for over two decades now, some of the most entertaining performers onscreen are those who aren't sticking to a script, but are instead stirring up drama as reality TV stars. And they're turning their fame (and infamy) into massive fortunes.

But according to Business Insider, earning reality TV wealth not a straightforward transaction. "Most people starring on reality shows are making salaries that supplement the ones they make at their actual jobs, from their businesses, or from other opportunities afforded them by being on TV, such as licensing deals, book contracts, appearances, or food and liquor products," the outlet noted. On top of that, "if the talent is also a producer or gets any cut of the profits, then that can mean bigger paychecks." However, there are those who are considered to be top-tier talent and they do indeed earn a fair share from the shows while also banking big-time with their other endeavors.

The names that you'll find on this list are mostly among the latter. Frankly, the stars of some of your favorite shows are bringing in funds from every direction and they have so much money that you'll probably be surprised to find out just how much these reality TV stars are really worth.

Chris Harrison is banking on The Bachelor

After years of hosting The Bachelor shows — the original, The Bachelorette, Bachelor in Paradise, and The Bachelor Winter Games, just to name a few — it's hard to imagine the franchise without Chris Harrison. That's likely one of the reasons he's been able to stick around for so long, not to mention bank $16 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth

Back in 2011, Harrison was apparently making $60,000 per episode, according to TV Guide (via Yahoo Finance) and is now thought to be making around $8 million every time the romance based reality show starts up again for another round. Considering that, as of January 2019, he's "hosted [over] 23 seasons of The Bachelor, 14 seasons of The Bachelorette, three seasons of Bachelor Pad, and five seasons of Bachelor in Paradise," it's safe to say that TV Guide's assertion that "The Bachelor has made Harrison a rich man" is spot-on.

That's not bad for someone who admitted in an interview for The Art of Gallivanting, that he "didn't really intend for it to happen." In fact, "it wasn't a goal of [his] to end up in Hollywood." While he initially thought he'd end up in sportscasting, we're going to go ahead and assume that he doesn't regret where he's landed. And, to be honest, he does get to witness some pretty wild games on The Bachelor that are surely just as exciting as the ones he would have seen in the world of sports.

Pauly D turned Jersey Shore into a lucrative career as a DJ

Who's your favorite member of the Jersey Shore cast? Is it Paul Delvecchio, aka Pauly D? If so, then you're among the fans who helped launch him to reality superstar status, which, in turn, earned him $20 million thanks to more than just his onscreen antics.

While appearing on Jersey Shore as well as a Double Shot At Love With Pauly D and Vinny, The Pauly D Project, and eventually Jersey Shore: Family Vacation, Delvecchio's unabashed charm — and signature hairstyle — made him a fan favorite. That's why he continued to ink deals for appearances on shows like Famously Single and Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars, working his way up to a salary of $150 thousand per episode, according to Celebrity Net Worth

Delvecchio also used his reality TV fame to boost his DJing profile, which is why by 2016, he was making over $11 million a year spinning records, nabbing him the #7 spot on Forbes' top-earning DJs list. Delvecchio talked about his success, saying, "Everybody was skeptical at first, because how everybody heard about me is probably from Jersey Shore. But now ... I've been touring all over the country, touring with major pop acts and stuff like that. That legitimizes everything, and they're starting to say, 'This kid isn't just a reality star, he's an actual DJ.'" More accurately, he's a ridiculously rich reality star and DJ.

Kandi Burruss has been cashing in from No Scrubs to RHOA

It may not be surprising that one of The Real Housewives of Atlanta is wealthy, but Kandi Burruss isn't just rich, she's pretty freakin' darn rich. In other words, she has $30 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth, and reportedly makes $450 thousand per season.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Burruss' earning potential. "She's also a Grammy winner who co-wrote the TLC girl power anthem No Scrubs," according to Money, who also noted that she's a member of Xscape who has also "dropped [her own] single called Ready for This." Impressed? Hold on! This woman also "performed on Broadway," "runs a sex toy company, a boutique, and a unisex children's lifestyle brand," owns multiple locations of Old Lady Gang restaurants, and hosted a dungeon party which charged entry. 

In 2018, Burruss talked to Money about her reality TV career and related earnings, saying, "What's the point of having this huge platform if you are not benefiting off of it?" Fair enough. She continued, "When you're first starting on reality TV, they're not really trying to pay you much. ... I didn't think it was going to do anything for my career. I did it on a fluke. I gained a lot of fans that year, but my thoughts were [that] the money has to match my popularity." We'd say her fortune definitely matches her popularity these days.

Shaunie O'Neal's fortune was a slam dunk

You may recognize Shaunie O'Neal as one of the Basketball Wives as well as the show's executive producer, however, this reality TV star earned her fortune via more than just her TV career. O'Neal famously stabilized her financial situation when she signed her divorce settlement with her ex-husband and NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal. Celebrity Net Worth explains that their agreement "was one of the most expensive divorces in history," which undoubtedly contributed to her overall fortune of $35 million.

Unsurprisingly, there's been a lot written about Shaunie's finances, including the fact that after she split from Shaq, she demanded detailed information from him about their previous household spending, according to People magazine. On the other hand, "it was Shaq ... who first accused his wife of financial funny business. When the basketball star filed for divorce ... the petition claimed his wife-of-five-years had been 'secretive about her assets' and demanded a 'correct accounting of all money, funds, stocks, bonds, and other securities (including bearer securities)' she acquired during the marriage." Having millions isn't always fun and games. Sometimes it's divorce settlements and financial investigations. But we're sure Shaunie can handle it. If she can stay on top of the drama on Basketball Wives while also staying on top of her responsibilities as an executive producer, then she can surely stay on top of the frenzy around her funds.

Jeff Probst is surviving and thriving as a very rich man

When Survivor first hit screens, it was among the first reality shows that really took off and won over fans who were willing to stick with it through seemingly endless seasons. And now, 20 years later, it's still thrilling fans with every Tribal Council twist and turn. For that entire time, the location-hopping hit has been led by popular host Jeff Probst, who has not only been handing out millions of dollars to the winners of the show, but he's also been earning millions himself.

Probst makes an estimated $200,000 per episode, according to Men's Health, and since "[e]ach season of Survivor has about 15 episodes, ... that puts Probst at about $4 million for every season." While that sounds like a pretty decent salary, Celebrity Net Worth puts his "salary" at $8 million (although it's unclear where the additional $4 million supposedly comes from). As a result, Probst reportedly claims a fortune of $40 million.

Considering Survivor has been such a long-lasting and lucrative gig for Probst, it shouldn't surprise you to find out that he "is still super enthusiastic" about the gig and told People in 2016, "I've got a great job that has me doing what I love. I'm looking forward to many more seasons." We're assuming he meant to finish that by saying, "... many more seasons of making a tremendous amount of money."

Bethenny Frankel went from $20k in debt to a $100 million deal

Bethenny Frankel is likely a familiar name to anyone who's watched either The Real Housewives of New York City or The Apprentice: Martha Stewart as well as spin-offs that focused on the famous figure, Bethenny Ever After and Bethenny & Fredrik. But that's not all! Frankel also landed her own talk show, aptly named Bethenny, and while it only lasted for a year, she "has parlayed her reality show fame into the Skinnygirl Cocktails empire," according to Celebrity Net Worth, who also notes that she's "written four self-help books and is a frequent guest on talk shows."

Thanks to Frankel's various endeavors, she's another reality TV star with $40 million. But she didn't always have so much cash on hand. In fact, back in 2018, she opened up to Money about the fact that she went from having "$20,000 in credit card debt to a $100 million Skinnygirl deal."

And now, Frankel will be passing on her business savviness to other eager and up-and-coming entrepreneurs thanks to a new reality series with HBO Max. "The Big Shot With Bethenny will see contestants competing for a VIP spot on Bethenny Frankel's business team," according to People. Frankel tweeted about the new project, writing, "It's personal. It's business... and EVERYTHING is my business." That sounds about right.

Lauren Conrad grew up making drama and money on reality TV

Lauren Conrad was a teenager when she hit the reality TV scene on Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County and then stepped into adulthood with The Hills. And while Conrad was entertaining the show's fans with her (quasi) real-life drama, she was also earning the kind of money in her teens and 20s that some people will never see their lifetime.

On the latter show, Conrad was reportedly paid $125,000 for each episode, which worked out to $2.5 million a year. The Daily Beast also explained that her "deal stipulated that no other star's salary could match hers while she was on The Hills." That seems to be backed up by the fact that Spencer Pratt was apparently making $65,000 per episode and Kristin Cavallari was paid $90,000. Audrina Patridge, Lauren Bosworth, and Heidi Montag were the only ones whose salaries could come close to Conrad's, but even they were only earning $100,000 (which is still a lot of money, but quite a bit less than what their cohort was taking home).

These days, Conrad has parlayed her early fame into plenty of opportunities — such as her fashion line with Kohl's and "several books [that have ended up] on the New York Times best-seller list," according to EW — which is why she's now worth $40 million. Growing up on screen may not be easy, but it certainly seems to have been worthwhile for this star.

RuPaul's fabulousness has brought in a fortune

If you want to be as rich as RuPaul, then you better work! RuPaul certainly did, which is why the model and performer had already established himself as a superstar when RuPaul's Drag Race debuted in 2009. A fan-favorite that's only grown in popularity, the reality TV modeling competition that dazzles the cameras has made the host one of the most successful figures in the genre as well as an incredibly wealthy person.

While RuPaul has around $60 million — take a minute if you need to let that massive number sink in — he certainly needs a fierce fortune because it takes a lot of money to be so fabulous. In fact, he says he's willing to spend $10,000 on a single dress and has "lost count" of how many he owns. He told Money, "Our show has been on the air for 10 years, and there are — I don't know — 14 gowns per season?"

All this might make RuPaul seem rather superficial, but he accepts the role money plays in his life while also remaining a spiritual person. He told Money, "We live in a world of polar opposites. Black, white; night, day; male, female. But multiple things can be true at the same time. It's about maintaining a balance. It takes a spiritual practice to center between the two extremes. And it does take work to reconcile." We bet the stunning gowns make that easier to do.

Lisa Vanderpump's riches tops the other Real Housewives

Lisa Vanderpump is one of the wonderfully rich women you see as a member of Bravo's cast of luxury-loving ladies — or as Women's Health put it in January 2020: "With nine seasons of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and eight seasons of Vanderpump Rules under her (undoubtedly jeweled and glamorous) belt, not to mention her vast restaurant empire, it should come as no surprise that Lisa Vanderpump is the richest Housewife." One outlet reported that Vanderpump made a whopping $1 million for her final RHOBH season, while others "estimate her salary to have been more in the $500,000-range." Either way, that's a lot of moolah.

While the reality fame may boost Vanderpump's profile, something else boosts her bottom line. The star and her husband, Ken Todd, own over 30 bars and restaurants in the United States and beyond. If you want to know what it's like to eat like a Real Housewife, stop by for a bite at Tom Tom or Pump, aka "Los Angeles' sexiest restaurant."

So how much has Vanderpump earned by feeding others? Well, she's cooked up a personal fortune of $75 million. And with that much money comes responsibility. Or not. "I've been frivolous — I've spent way too much on a dress, on a handbag," she admitted to InStyle. "I'm guilty of all of the above. ... I love things."

Kris Jenner is a multi-millionaire reality TV momager

Headlines may tend to focus on Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian's fortunes (as well as the other Kardashian-Jenner kids, for that matter), however, their mom, Kris Jenner, is worth her fair share... which is obviously putting it wildly mildly. The New York Times notes that "the family business ... amount[s] to a master class in the art of monetizing influence." That's why, thanks to an empire that includes Keeping Up With the Kardashians, multiple spin-offs, and seemingly endless endorsement deals outside of TV — not to mention the fact that Jenner gets a cut of her kids' earnings — this "momager" (a term she trademarked, of course) is worth around $90 million

Not bad for a woman who once had to borrow money from Kathie Lee Gifford back in the day. In 2019, the TV host and Jenner's longtime friend told People, "Kris was having financial problems. ... They were really struggling." However, now that Jenner is on her feet (and then some), Gifford joked, "I want that money back!" No worries. This is one reality star that can pay back her debts and will still have plenty of money leftover in the bank.

Caitlyn Jenner may be the richest reality TV star around

Kris Jenner may be famous for being the family's financially-minded "momager," but it turns out that Caitlyn Jenner has even more money than her ex-wife, with an estimated fortune of a whopping $100 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

The former Olympic athlete, product spokesperson, and eventual reality star now makes the rounds as a speaker. While that may not sound like it's as lucrative as a career on a reality TV show would be, it turns out that Jenner is making a pretty penny every time she steps up on stage to deliver a speech.

TMZ reported that she "used to get $25,000 a pop for motivational speaking," but after going through her transition, "they say Caitlyn can pull well over $100k." Back in 2015, unspecified "analysts" cited by Celebrity Net Worth reportedly predicted that with that kind of cash coming in, Jenner could increase her worth by as much as $500 million in a span of just five to 10 years. That would certainly help her keep up with the Kardashians.