Celebs You Forgot Appeared On Reality TV Shows

Television is practically bursting at the seams with reality TV stars, what with all those Kardashians and vast gaggles of Real Housewives. And while reality show stardom is its own uniquely peculiar thing, there are also those who got their starts in the world of reality TV before going on to become celebrities in their own right for more "legitimate" showbiz careers, in fields such as music, acting and other creative endeavors.

Understandably, those who've transcended their reality TV beginnings often don't make a big deal about it, preferring that fans focus on the achievements they've locked in since then. Given the collective short memory of the public, this usually ends up being the case when their ignominious reality-TV origin stories eventually fade into obscurity — until video inevitably emerges to remind us all that, oh yeah, remember when so-and-so used to be on that reality show?

From a handsome TV star's embarrassing appearance on a grunge-era dating show to the rap superstar who was once less famous for music than for throwing her shoe at a fellow reality star, keep on reading to remember all those celebs you forgot appeared on reality TV shows.

Mad Men's Jon Hamm looked for love on The Big Date

Decades before earning accolades portraying Don Draper on Mad Men, a floppy-haired Jon Hamm was one of three suitors to appear on The Big DateMTV's 1990s-era takeoff on The Dating Game. Asked how he'd impress his potential love interest on a first date, Hamm declared, "Well, start off with some fabulous food, a little fabulous conversation... and a fabulous foot massage for an evening of total fabulosity." Go figure, but that slick line was not enough for the future star to be chosen by the woman he was trying to entice.

Years later, Hamm appeared on The Late Late Show, where then-host Craig Ferguson exhumed his reality show past by playing a clip that'd gone viral online. "That was 1995. I was all of 24 years old and making some questionable decisions in my life, as you could see," Hamm quipped. 

Not only did that cringe-inducing clip go viral, it actually made it into one of Hamm's TV series. As Decider reported, the clip was used in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, with Hamm's character — cult leader Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne — lamenting that his rejection on that TV show was a pivotal turning point in his life.

Elisabeth Hasselbeck found fame on Survivor

Elisabeth Hasselbeck is best known for the decade she spent as the sole conservative voice on The View, until she was fired in 2013 and went on to a short-lived stint on Fox News' Fox & Friends. Prior to being tapped for the Barbara Walters-created daytime talk show, Hasselbeck wormed her way into television viewers' hearts when she attempted to outwit, outplay and outlast her fellow castaways in the second season of Survivor

Then known as Elisabeth Filarski (prior to her 2002 wedding to former NFL quarterback Tim Hasselbeck), she told Entertainment Weekly she was "completely happy" with how she played the game after her torch had been snuffed out at Tribal Council. 

According to Survivor host Jeff Probst, the future View panelist made an impression during her stint on the reality show. "When she was on the second season of Survivor, I will tell you this: Every guy on the crew fell in love with her. Every guy," Probst said of Hasselbeck in a 2014 interview with HuffPost. "We watched this young girl mature into this fighting phenomenon, and everybody wanted to date her. They thought about marrying Elisabeth. It was all in our fantasies."

Jamie Chung got her start on The Real World

Actor Jamie Chung is known for a number of screen credits, including her roles in Once Upon a TimeGotham, and Lovecraft County. In fact, she's been such a constant presence on television that it's easy to forget her very first small screen appearance wasn't in a comedy or drama, but in MTV reality show The Real World.

Chung was one of the participants in the first San Diego season, which aired in 2004 when Chung was just 20. "It's a great experience that I would never trade for the world," she said to BUILD Series about appearing on the venerable reality show. 

As "great" as it may have been, Chung apparently wasn't super eager for then-fiancé Bryan Greenberg (they wed in 2015) to see her on The Real World. "I can't find it. She won't let me see it," he told ET. "I've never seen it. All I asked her was, 'Did you embarrass yourself?' And she said, 'No.' So I was like, 'Alright, fine.' ...She was like, 'I was the boring one.'"

Yaya DaCosta wanted to be America's Next Top Model

In 2015, Yaya DaCosta joined the cast of NBC's Chicago Med, capping off years of acting work that included such credits as daytime soap All My Children, a recurring role on Ugly Betty, and playing Whitney Houston in a made-for-TV biopic about the late singer.

Yet before embarking on that successful acting career, DaCosta perfected her skills at runway sashaying and "smizing" under the tutelage of Tyra Banks as a contestant on the third cycle of America's Next Top Model. While she didn't win that cycle's title, she did distinguish herself enough to become runner-up.

Looking back at her experience in an interview with People, DaCosta admitted to having mixed feelings. While she was "able to really learn from it, learn some valuable lessons, to grow up really quickly after some things that I was forced to face through that experience," she also warned aspiring models they were unlikely to find success from a reality show. "If you want to be a reality star, fine," she said. "If you want to be a model, get an agent."

Heather Morris tried out for So You Think You Can Dance

Heather Morris is best known for playing cheerleader Brittany on Glee; as Dance Spirit recalled, Morris was cast in the role after first being hired as a choreographer — following a stint as backup dancer for Beyoncé, accompanying Queen Bey in performances of her hit "Single Ladies."

Prior to starring in a massively popular hit TV series and touring the world with one of the world's biggest pop stars, Morris was a struggling dancer looking for a big break. It was during those early years, soon after some semesters at Arizona State University, that she left for Los Angeles in order to audition for the second season of Fox reality competition So You Think You Can Dance. Unfortunately, her audition didn't land her a spot on that season, and her SYTYCD journey ended right there.

Despite failing to make the cut, coming to Hollywood proved to be a heady experience that ultimately led her to pursue the path that would lead to her future success. "I said, that's it, I'm moving to L.A.," she told Dance Spirit. "I worked my butt off all day, every day."

Laverne Cox hustled hard for I Want to Work for Diddy

Laverne Cox broke through thanks to the role of Sophia Burset in critically acclaimed Netflix dramedy Orange Is the New Black. Her work on the show led to more acting roles, including the lead in a live TV performance of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, CBS legal drama Doubt and the Oscar-nominated film Promising Young Woman, along with a heightened profile as a transgender activist.

Long before OITNB, Cox made her television debut in I Want to Work for Diddy, a short-lived 2008 reality show in which a diverse array of people competed for a job as the assistant to Diddy, a.k.a. P. Diddy, a.k.a. Puff Daddy, a.k.a. Sean Combs. 

As Cox admitted in an interview with Observer, she wasn't really interested in getting a job working for the rap mogul, but had far grander ambitions. "I thought it was important for the audience for that show to see a black rapper and media mogul embracing a trans woman of color on television," she explained. "I was hoping it might change things for me and other trans women of color on the streets and in Black communities."

Karamo Brown was once on MTV's The Real World

Jamie Chung wasn't the only celebrity to get a start on MTV's The Real World. Others have included WWE pro wrestler Mike "The Miz" Mizanin and future Queer Eye star Karamo Brown. The latter was on the Philadelphia season back in 2004 and competed on one season of The Challenge

Reflecting his time on The Real World, Karamo told The Washington Post that his younger self was a far cry from the man he would end up becoming, revealing that "22-year-old Karamo was called 'Crazy Karamo.'"

When he revisited the show 15 years later in a segment for MTV, Brown rewatched the scene when he told his roommates he is gay. "Oh my gosh, that moment, I still remember feeling like this is a moment where people are going to see someone who they've never seen," he said. They've only seen on Real World white guys who are openly gay, and this is the moment they're going to get to see an African-American guy who is openly gay, who loves being Black, who is all about hip-hop culture."

Emma Stone auditioned for The New Partridge Family

These days, Emma Stone is known as a three-time Academy Award nominee, and winner of the 2017 Oscar for La La Land. Once upon a time, however, Stone auditioned to join The Partridge Family

Not the original series, mind you; that would have required a time machine, given that Stone was born in 1988 and the beloved musical sitcom debuted in 1970. What Stone auditioned for was In Search of the New Partridge Family, showing off her singing chops on the VH1 reality competition. As Entertainment Weekly recalled, the purpose of the show was to find the cast for a new series titled The New Partridge Family. However, don't expect to find any episodes anywhere. As EW noted, "Stone did end up winning a role on the show — but because The New Partridge Family was never picked up, the world never got to know her as Laurie Partridge."

The experience, she admitted in a 2014 interview with Vogue, gave her some keen insight into reality television. "I realized why the people on The Bachelor go so crazy," Stone said. "You go in there rolling your eyes, thinking, 'This is just a reality search competition,' but then you're there for seven weeks, and you just really, really want to win."

Lucy Hale sang her heart out on American Idol Juniors

Lucy Hale hit it big when she was cast in Pretty Little Liars, which premiered in 2010 and enjoyed a seven-season run. From there, Hale starred in two different series for The CW: Life Sentence and Katy Keene. Way back in 2003, however, Hale was one of the aspiring child singers to take to the stage for American Idol Juniors, a short-lived spinoff of the massively successful Fox singing competition. 

During a 2020 appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Hale discussed her audition when a clip was shown of her 14-year-old self performing the Blondie hit "Call Me." Apparently taken by surprise by the clip, Hale admitted she was "mortified" at watching her reality show audition. "Look at that crimped hair," she added. "What a mess!" In another clip that's surfaced on YouTube, Hale (this time with non-crimped hair) sings The Supremes' "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me." 

American Idol Juniors only lasted a single season. As host Jimmy Kimmel quipped, that was probably because "people maybe didn't enjoy seeing children have their dreams broken."

Lady Gaga was on two MTV reality shows

Back in the '00s, MTV aired a hidden-camera prank show called Boiling Points, in which unsuspecting dupes are secretly filmed while being unwittingly placed in bizarre and ridiculous situations. Those who could last for the designated time frame without losing their you-know-what were awarded $100. One of these was an aspiring young singer named Stefani Germanotta, who these days is more commonly known as Lady Gaga.

In the 2005 gag, the future Mother Monster has just been served a meal at a restaurant when she receives a phone call. She hurries upstairs to take the call, and upon returning sees that her just-served food has vanished. Told that the busboy took it away, her server returns the plate to the table — with a crumpled up napkin and other detritus now atop the food. "I'm gonna vomit," she says upon seeing the state of her meal. "This is disgusting!"

That wasn't Gaga's only reality show experience. A few years later, the not-yet-famous singer made an appearance on The Hills. In the episode, Lauren Conrad and Whitney Port help her unjam her outfit's stuck zipper prior to a performance at a nightclub.

The Price is Right asked Aaron Paul to come on down

Aaron Paul was still several years away from being cast in his career-making role in Breaking Bad when, in 2000, he stuck a price tag-shaped nametag to his shirt and attended a taping of The Price Is Right. As luck would have it, he was one of the lucky members of the studio audience called to "Come on down!" His enthusiasm is palpable. "You're the man, Bob!" he yells to host Bob Barker while hopping up and down like a boxer before a prizefight. 

Yet that was nothing compared to his sheer excitement when he won the first bid, jumping onstage and putting his hand on the host's shoulder. "I'm touching Bob Barker!" Paul screams. He makes it to the Showcase Showdown, but sadly guesses a price that was over the actual amount.  

Seventeen years later, Paul goofed on the experience when appearing on The Late Late Show (which films at the same studio facility as The Price Is Right). In the bit, he and host James Corden, dressed like burglars, break into the game show's studio so he can play one more time in order to redeem himself.  

Miranda Lambert strove for fame on Nashville Star

Miranda Lambert is one of country music's most successful artists, known for such hits as "Mama's Broken Heart" and "The House That Built Me." Back in 2003, however, she was a struggling 19-year-old up-and-comer who decided to take a shot at the brass ring by auditioning for the first season of Nashville Star, a countrified knockoff of American Idol. While Lambert didn't win, the television exposure attracted the attention of execs at Sony Music Nashville, the label that eventually signed her.

As The Boot reported, Miranda looked back at her reality show experience during a panel at the 2020 Country Radio Seminar. "When the show started, the first episode, I was the first contestant to do the first song, on the first episode," she recalled to the outlet. 

"All my grit from the bars, all the moments where nobody was listening, people were clanking balls, people on the stage, and booing you, requesting waltzes 24/7 — it was like everything that had culminated came to that moment," Lambert told The Boot. "That was what set me on this journey."

Cardi B brought drama to Love & Hip Hop

By now, Cardi B's origin story is familiar to her fans, the tale of a former exotic dancer who broke through in the music business with her catchy hit "Bodak Yellow" and its unforgettable chorus, "I don't dance now, I make money moves." Since then, her stardom has grown so much that it's easy to forget that, in between her dancing days and music stardom, she spent some time on Love & Hip Hop; New York

There's no denying that Cardi B was made for reality TV, evident in her infamous appearance on a 2017 reunion special when she hurled one of her shoes at another member of the cast. Security guards were forced to intervene, Jerry Springer-style, when it appeared a brawl was about to break out. 

In a 2016 interview with the New York Post, she admitted she was "a bit skeptical when approached to be on the show" since she was devoting herself to pursuing a music career. "I did not really want to open up about my entire life on TV, but it was a big opportunity," she admitted. 

Grimm's David Giuntoli joined MTV's Road Rules

Actor David Giuntoli is a familiar face to television viewers thanks to starring roles in such series as Grimm and A Million Little Things. As Us Weekly recalled, he had yet to book any onscreen acting roles when he was cast in the 2003 season of MTV's adventure reality show Road Rules, which was set in the South Pacific. 

Giuntoli turned out to be enough of a fan favorite that he was brought back to the franchise. Not only did he compete in the seventh season of Real World/Road Rules Challenge: The Gauntlet, he won. According to the magazine, winning the show actually placed him on the path that led to TV stardom when he used his winnings to pay off his student loan and earned the financial freedom that allowed him to pursue a career as an actor.

Giutoli joked about his reality show past to Us Weekly when the interviewer brought it up. "That's buried now but it is the first thing on my resume," he quipped.