Reality TV Stars Who Are Much Poorer Than You Thought

A lot of reality TV could be described as a spin-off of The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Shows like The Hills, Chrisley Knows Best, and of course, The Real Housewives franchise prove that Americans are endlessly fascinated with peeking behind the closed doors of the fabulously wealthy. But alas, not only are we dealing with the smoke and mirrors of television here, but we're also dealing with reality television, meaning almost nothing is as it seems. So let's take a closer look at the balance sheets of these supposed cinéma vérité celebs to find out just how loaded they really are...or aren't.  

Janice Dickinson

Janice Dickinson is consistently described as "the world's first supermodel," a title she apparently bestowed on herself, having claimed she invented the word during a 1979 conversation with her manager. The validity of that claim aside, what can't be denied is Dickinson's successful career, which landed her more than 37 Vogue covers, spanned several decades, and had her rubbing elbows with the biggest celebrities and rock stars of the time.  

Dickinson pivoted from modeling to writing, authoring three books, including what she describes as a "national bestseller," her memoir, No Lifeguard on Duty: The Accidental Life of the World's First Supermodel. She then made her way into the realm of reality TV, starting with America's Next Top Model, followed by her own series, The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency, then Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!, and more.

Despite decades of modeling fame, book royalties, and reality TV money, Dickinson hit hard times in 2012 when TMZ reported that she was evicted from the house she was renting in Los Angeles for not paying rent for three months. One year later, she declared bankruptcy, having racked up debts from unpaid plastic surgery bills and back taxes totaling around $1 million dollars, according to the New York Post. "I am upset and taking every step to pay everyone back and I feel terrible about it," Dickinson told Radar Online.

As of this writing, there hasn't been much news about Dickinson's current financial situation, but she's still a regular player in the reality TV game, with stints on Celebrity Big Brother and Botched in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Hopefully, she's being a bit more careful with the cash she's making from that.

Heidi and Spencer Pratt

Spencer and Heidi Pratt, née Heidi Montag, became reality stars thanks to MTV's real-life rich kid soap opera, The Hills. From there, they became tabloid fixtures, villains by their own design in a scheme that Spencer told Broadly was netting them "a million plus a year in photos and being hated for it." He added, "It's frustrating for me that people don't recognize that this was genius. This was innovating!"

But the novelty wore off as people's attention moved to other, more scandalous reality stars, such as the Jersey Shore crew, leaving Heidi and Spencer scrambling to remain infamous. This reportedly led to Heidi's disastrous plastic surgeries and their bizarre reality TV appearances, including I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!, which they left after one day.

All the while, the Pratts lived their lives as though the fame would never end. On top of supposedly supporting some family members, Heidi and Spencer also told Broadly that despite earning "upwards of a million dollars a year," they were routinely spending "$3,000 for hair and makeup," and would indulge in $30,000 shopping sprees. You can see where this is going.

In that same 2016 interview, Spencer addressed their financial woes: "Nobody wants to break into our home anymore. They google our new worth and see we are worth $10." Oh, and that home he's referring to? It's Spencer's dad's beach house that they live in rent-free. 

Maybe playing the villain isn't so innovative after all.

Sonja Morgan

Shows like Bravo's Real Housewives series literally couldn't exist if it wasn't for rich people who have nothing better to do than attend swanky, rich people functions and then talk smack about each other behind their backs. Amazingly, RHONY cast member Sonja Morgan's financial troubles didn't become the subject of the catty whispers, but that doesn't mean her checkbook didn't suffer its own attack.

In 2015, Morgan settled a nearly five-year-long bankruptcy proceeding in which she "listed her debt at $19.8 million, with her assets at more than $13.5 million," according to The Wrap. Apparently, the bankruptcy filing was fueled primarily by a $7 million judgement against Morgan over an investment she promised to a film production company, Hannibal Pictures, to produce a John Travolta film that never got off the ground.  

At any rate, Morgan eventually reached an agreement with the bankruptcy court to pay off $9 million– $7 million to Hannibal Pictures and the rest in administration fees, which effectively got her "out of Chapter 11," according to E! News. To finance the payment, Morgan said she had to sell off some property and was "looking forward to building up my business of fine jewelry, evening wear, sportswear and swimwear." 

While Morgan is by no means in the poorhouse, we can say with certainty that in 2015 she became exactly $9 million poorer than everyone thought she was.

Todd Chrisley

Chrisley Knows Best is the reality series about a Georgia real estate king who manages his family and his business with a comically intense level of neurosis, but the scrutiny recently landed squarely on Todd Chrisley, the patriarch of the family, who proudly boasted that his "main home is 30,000 square feet."

It turns out there might more to Chrisley's real estate empire than meets the eye, and by "more" we mean a possible boatload of unpaid taxes and a bunch of questions about his legal state of residency during his 2012 bankruptcy filing, which he originally listed as Florida, according to WSB-TV 2. In looking into this residency claim, the local news station discovered that Chrisley failed to file state tax returns in Georgia, where he actually resided, for eight years.

The bankruptcy filing, which Chrisley did re-file in Georgia, stated that he owed a staggering $46 million against his claimed net worth of $4.2 million in assets. Somehow, the filing was discharged in 2015 with an agreement that Chrisley would pay a $150,000 fee, according to Radar Online. Chrisley told Radar, "It is a business situation that occurred. I had some friends involved that couldn't meet obligations and I was not going to be stuck with $46 million." 

Despite the discharged bankruptcy, Chrisley can't seem to shake his financial woes. On top of the possible shirking of Georgia state taxes, the Daily Mail reported in January 2017 that the trustee handling the bankruptcy is also back, claiming Chrisley only paid $80,000 of the $150,000 fee. 

It all adds up to some serious questions about Chrisley's actual wealth, which doesn't seem to be as abundant as his reality TV show makes it out to be.

Stephen Baldwin

Stephen Baldwin is more well-known for his scripted work, but he did appear on The Mole, Celebrity Big Brother, The Apprentice and I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!, making him a bonafide reality TV star. He's also, unfortunately, found himself in more than a few financial pickles over the years.

In February 2017, Page Six reported that Baldwin's Rockland County, N.Y. home was foreclosed on after he defaulted on his $7,000/month mortgage payments. Previously, Baldwin got in trouble for failing to file New York state tax returns from 2008 to 2010, resulting in him being charged with a felony—"one count of repeated failure to file personal income tax returns"—and being ordered to pay $343,068 in taxes, penalties, and interest, according to Newsday.

Sadly, it doesn't stop there. In 2015, TMZ reported that Baldwin was once again dragged into court over unpaid taxes, this time owing $30,000 to the state of New York and $60,000 to the IRS. Granted, it has to be said that in order for Baldwin to owe so much in taxes, that obviously means he has to somehow be earning a lot, but for whatever reason, he seems to be having a real tough time meeting all of his financial obligations.

Tori Spelling & Dean McDermott

You would think the daughter of Aaron Spelling, one of the wealthiest and most successful television producers of all time, would never have to worry about money. But Tori Spelling's financial worries have plagued her since 2007, which was right around the time she became a reality TV star alongside her husband, Dean McDermott, for their series Tori & Dean: Inn Love.

According to Yahoo, the show addressed how Tori had allegedly only received $800,000 of her father's reported $500 million estate due to an ongoing feud with her mother, Candy Spelling.

Fast forward to 2014, when sources revealed to E! News that Tori and Dean had allegedly plowed through $18 million and were now "living paycheck-to-paycheck." How could that possibly happen?

Well, E! Also points to a passage in Tori's 2013 book, The High Life, in which she writes: "I grew up rich beyond anyone's dreams. I never knew anything else. Even when I try to embrace a simpler lifestyle I can't seem to let go of my expensive tastes. And then there's my shopping problem. I've bought ridiculous amounts of stuff for the kids, clothing, toys, crafts."

Tori and Dean have since been sued by American Express twice over outstanding balances totaling nearly $150,000, and the couple reportedly had its bank accounts "emptied" by the IRS in April 2017, according to Page Six. On top of that, the pair was hit with "a federal tax lien for $707,487.30 in unpaid federal taxes for their 2014 bill," and Dean is now facing a serious charge from his ex-wife over unpaid child support. 

Oof. That's a lot. Might be time to make a phone call to mama Candy.

Kody Brown

While few Sister Wives viewers would ever describe polygamist Kody Brown and his four wives as being "rich," audiences have often wondered how they afford to live? With a 23-member tribe that now includes kids in college, as well as their four large Las Vegas homes, their day-to-day cost just to eat must be staggering.

In fact, InTouch Weekly took a deep dive into the large brood's finances and found that despite earning an estimated $3 million over the course of seven seasons, the family fortune is valued at just $800,000, according to Celebrity Net Worth. That translates to under $38,000 per family member.

Unless TLC decides to bring them back for another season, which according to iTech Post, is still up in the air at the time of this writing, the Browns seem to be relying on income from a few of the wives' side businesses, such as 'Meri's LulaRoe clothing line" and Janelle's "weight loss business." 

Is it even possible to sell enough pairs of stretch pants to feed a family of 23? That doesn't sound ideal.

Peggy Tanous

We're back to those infamous Real Housewives again. This time, we're looking at the finances of Peggy Tanous of the Orange County cast. No, she certainly wasn't a breakout star of the series, and she only appeared on one season of the show in 2011, but her actual reality vs. her reality TV persona vary so greatly, that we're discussing her here among the rest of the financially challenged.

According to Celebuzz, Tanous touted herself on the show as the "wealthy Orange County party girl who loves her bling, Bentley, and plastic surgery," but just two years after her exit from the show, things drastically changed. In 2013, she filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, listing $840,000 in assets, as well as "$2,500 a month in non-court ordered child support income," and a mere $30,000 in yearly income against liabilities totaling $2.6 million.   

At the time of this writing, things seem to have gotten worse for Tanous. In fact, Celebrity Net Worth values her assets at a jaw-dropping negative $3 million, citing "a mountain of financial difficulties," including the threat of a home foreclosure and alleged "lawsuits against three banks." 

Yikes. Hopefully her bling and Bentley retained their resale value.

Dennis Rodman

According to Complex, Dennis Rodman earned an estimated $50 million over the course of his NBA career, but like many athletes, he has barely held onto any of that fortune, despite launching a second career as a reality star on shows such as The Apprentice, Celebrity Big Brother, Celebrity Rehab, and more. 

Celebrity Net Worth puts Rodman's 2017 ledger balance at an estimated $500,000, which, we suppose, is actually an improvement from the pathetic situation in which he found himself in 2012, when he was dragged into court for a third time for failing to pay child support, while admitting to living a lifestyle that was costing him $31,000/month.

In order to avoid jail time in the case, Rodman negotiated the $850,000 he owed to to his ex-wife, Michelle Rodman, down to $500,000, so at least all of his years of going broke have taught him how to bargain-hunt.

As of this writing, Rodman doesn't have any major reality TV projects—or any notable projects slated. His collaboration with PotCoin, the "digital currency for the cannabis industry," which sponsored his increasingly bizarre trips to North Korea, has also ended in something of a financial disaster

Is there a mythical figure that's some sort of anti-King Midas? If not, Rodman seems to be performing the role.

Alyssa Milano

We already know what you're thinking: How is Alyssa Milano a reality TV star? That's a fair point, since she is obviously best known for her scripted roles on Who's the Boss? and Charmed. But did you also know she hosted Project Runway All Stars from 2013 to 2016? You were probably also unaware that as of June 2017, Milano and her husband have sued her business manager, Kenneth Hellie, alleging that his mishandling of their taxes, bills, and investments left them "with millions of dollars in debt and their credit in ruins."

This is all according to Variety, who spoke with both Hellie and Milano's attorneys, who unsurprisingly, gave very different accounts of what's going on. 

"Obviously a lot of it's like the Johnny Depp situation," Hellie said, apparently referencing the Pirates of the Caribbean star's well-publicized habit of frivolous spending. 

Milano's lawyer fired back, saying her clients "live a relatively modest lifestyle" and that it was Hellie's "negligence and misconduct" that caused their current financial burden.

Milano claimed that because Hellie allegedly covered up of just how bad her financial situation was, the actress turned down a role on the third season of Mistresses, a gig she would have taken for the $1.3 million payday if she'd known how broke she really was. It's crazy to think that Milano might be so strapped for cash that she's taking jobs just for the money, but it does sort of put her brief stint on reality TV into perspective.