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Reality TV attracts all sorts of people who appear on the various shows with every intention of competing for money, love, and (ultimately) fame. While some crumble under the pressure and others fizzle out before they get a chance to shine, there are those who we will simply never forget for one reason or another, including these 12 who are among the most memorable reality TV contestants of all time.
“Boston Rob” Mariano had a wild ride when it came to the world of reality TV. One of the first to truly stand out among the bunch, Mariano started out on Survivor and ended up appearing on the series a total of four times before finally winning the big prize. He also appeared on The Amazing Race twice with his wife Amber, who was another Survivor alum. First coming across as somewhat of a villain, he turned out just to be super crafty about the challenges he faced on each show, knowing exactly how to manipulate the situation (and often times, other contestants) to his advantage.
What’s called leadership, drive, and ambition in men is often called bossiness and, er, b*tchiness when women display the very same qualities. While this could definitely apply to Omarosa and her time on The Apprentice, her cut-throat ways were certainly something other contestants needed to be wary of at all times. Seriously, this woman took no prisoners and would let no one get in her way. It’s one of the reasons people can’t stand her, but it’s also one reason she’s such an intriguing character and certainly makes her one of the most memorable reality TV contestants to ever compete.
Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag may have started out in the reality TV world as two separate entities, but before long they merged together in the minds of viewers to simply become “Speidi.” Wanting to hold onto their fame once their Princes of Malibu and The Hills days were long gone, these two went on a campaign of show-hopping, stepping in front of the camera any time they could book a spot on a new season and doing their best to make sure they kept their names in the press (even faking divorce talk just to nab a few extra headlines). These days, the two are still happily married and expecting their first child together, surely already prepping the little one for a life in front of the camera while his parents are busy pitching a docuseries of their family trio once their bundle of joy makes his big entrance. Do you think they’ll hire a camera crew for the birth? Of course!
Tiffany “New York” Pollard was fierce, fearless, and beyond fabulous from the moment she first stepped onto the set of VH1’s Flavor of Love featuring Flava Flav himself. During the flamboyant rapper’s quest for romance, Pollard made such a mark on viewers (and Flav himself) that she not only appeared on the second season of his reality series, she even scored her own show, I Love New York. After her series ran its course, she took a little time away from the spotlight, but if buzz is to be believed, she’s looking to get back into the game which makes us very happy.
Jonny Fairplay is the kind of person who seems to believe that everything is fair when it comes to love, war, and reality TV. During his time on Survivor, he concocted and played out what was deemed “the greatest lie in Survivor history” – and that’s really saying something when it comes to a show where contestants are challenged to “outwit, outplay, and outlast” each other by almost any means necessary. Going so far to pretend that his grandmother had died in order to win over the sympathy of fellow contestants, his methods may have been devious, but his time in front of the cameras was certainly memorable.
DeMario Jackson may be relatively new to the reality TV scene, but he’s already made one heck of a mark. First, appearing on Rachel Lindsay’s season of The Bachelorette, he was sent home after being accused of being a two-timing cheater, apparently ghosting a woman he’d been dating for seven months in order to appear on the show. His villainous ways got him cast on season four of Bachelor in Paradise, but DeMario soon found himself in trouble again, however this time, things were much more serious. With allegations of misconduct shutting down production and sparking an internal investigation, he was eventually cleared of any wrong-doing, but we surely won’t forget about DeMario and his scandal sparking ways any time soon… especially since he’s likely to show up on future Bachelor shows to capitalize on his current (drama-fueling, ratings-baiting) notoriety.
Corinne Olympios was undeniably one of the most memorable contestants of Nick Viall’s season of The Bachelor. As quirky as can be, her love of naps and “cheese pasta” were unabashedly flaunted and it’s not very likely that we’ll forget someone who claims to have a nanny even though they’re an adult. Making sure to catch Nick’s attention right away with a topless, (*cough*) hands-on photoshoot, she was the perfect gal to keep things lively on the show.
However, Corinne was also the second person involved in the Bachelor in Paradise season four scandal, even conducting her own separate investigation after hiring an entire legal team to make sure that she was properly protected throughout the ordeal and to ensure that justice was served in the end. While it’s still unclear what exactly happened, the misconduct allegations that temporarily shut down the entire season will certainly go down as a dramatically shocking moment in Bachelor history.
Adrianne Curry was another reality TV pioneer of sorts, strutting her stuff and winning the very first season of America’s Next Top Model back in 2003. And while not all winners from the show have gone on to find fame and fortune (though most do pretty well for themselves, TBH), fans just couldn’t get enough or Adrianne. Cast in the fourth season of VH1’s The Surreal Life, she managed to navigate the awkward situation and her peculiar roommates while also falling in love with fellow contestant and former Brady Bunch actor, Christopher Knight. By 2005, the two had scored their very own reality show, My Fair Brady, which followed their relationship up until Knight proposed to Curry during the season finale. The couple eventually filed for divorce in 2011, but Curry’s career is still thriving, moving from reality TV to taking on the gaming and cosplay world.
There have been plenty of memorable contestants who have appeared on Project Runway. Frankly, it’s the perfect platform for people who are wildly creative in everything they do, which is one of the reasons the show has always been one of our faves. But when Christian Siriano appeared on season four of the fashion-related series, we knew we were watching someone special. He became the show’s youngest winner ever, merely 21 years old when he took home the $100,000 prize (intended to help him start his own label) along with a fashion spread in Elle magazine and a 2008 Saturn Astra. Not too shabby! These days, his label is certainly successful, a favorite among celebs and earning millions of dollars each year.
Richard Hatch was one of the first reality TV contestants to earn fame during the very premiere season of Survivor way back in 2000. While the genre was still fresh and fans eagerly tuned into to see a group of strangers stranded together on a deserted island, Hatch navigated the brand new TV landscape and managed to come out on top, $1 million richer (which happened to earn him some legal trouble, convicted just two years after the show for attempting to evade taxes) as well as earning himself a spot as one of the original TV contestants that fans will surely always remember. He attempted to redeem himself by appearing on Survivor: All Stars, but was voted out before he could claim his second million dollar prize.
First appearing on the very inaugural season of The Bachelor when it premiered in 2002, Trista made it until the very end, but was sent home when Alex Michel proposed to Amanda Marsh. Trista was such a fan favorite, that an entirely new show was created just for her and her continuing search for love. Thus, Trista became the OG Bachelorette. Finding her happily-ever-after with Ryan Sutter, the pair were paid $1 million by ABC for the rights to air their wedding, a three-episode special simply but aptly deemed Trista & Ryan’s Wedding. Watched by over 26 million viewers, it earned a spot as one of the most-widely viewed episodes in the history of reality television. Talk about memorable!
It’s easy to forget that Kelly Clarkson first stepped onto the stage and in front of the eyes of the reality TV-watching world while on American Idol. Winning the very first season of the show way back in 2002 (yep, 15 years ago), she narrowly beat out fellow fan favorite (and curly haired cutie) Justin Guarini. Sparking a career full of super peppy songs that have kept us singing along throughout the years, Kelly Clarkson will always be among the most memorable reality TV contestants.