There are several ways a person can break into Hollywood. Whether it’s auditioning for an upcoming blockbuster film or starring in an independent film, making it into the entertainment industry has never as easy as of late. And, one of the widely attainable entertainment formats that are introducing several new faces, who have become Hollywood celebrities, is reality television.
This highly popular, unscripted type of television programming documents a series of situations and actual occurrences of a particular setting. It highlights personal drama and conflict to an extent that is not featured in the typical television series or documentary shows.
Reality television slowly emerged during the early 1990s with the Dutch television series, Number 28. This reality series featured a group of strangers meeting for the first time. Their reactions were documented and this became the show’s main platform.
Reality TV has gained notoriety for bringing out some of television’s most controversial topics and personalities. It has received ample amount of criticism mainly because of its exaggerated and warped perception of reality that is broadcast to its audiences.
However, reality TV also introduced to us some of the world’s most talented individuals, who have now established respectable reputations in Hollywood.
Meet the Hollywood celebs who started out as reality television stars below:
1.) Emma Stone
Reality Show: In Search of the New Partridge Family (2004)
Credited as Emily Stone, this ‘Partridge Family’ alum first charmed the world in the reality competition entitled In Search of the New Partridge Family in 2004. The VH1 reality show was in search of new cast members, who will portray the modern Partridge Family.
Stone auditioned for the part of Laurie Partridge in the show, where she showcased her singing chops.
The supposed new series, which was titled The New Partridge Family, had a contemporary spin to the classic musical series which sadly did not make it past the pilot stage.
Although the series never materialized, it helped garner considerable attention for Hollywood actress Emma Stone. After her stint with the reality show, she began to bag roles in television series like Malcolm in the Middle, Medium and Drive.
Her film debut came in 2007, when she co-starred alongside Michael Cera and Jonah Hill in the movie Superbad. After this, Stone began to appear in such films as The Rocker (2008) and The House Bunny (2008).
It was her starring role in the 2010 film Easy A that launched her acting career into the spotlight though. Her performance in the film garnered her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy. Her other notable projects include roles in movies like Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011), The Help (2011) and The Amazing Spiderman film series (2012-2014).
Her latest onscreen performance was in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s film Birdman and this garnered her a Screen Actors Guild (SAG), Golden Globe, BAFTA and Academy Award nominations for Best Actress. Her most recent endeavor was starring as Sally Bowles in the Broadway remake of Cabaret, for which she performed until February of this year.
2.) Nene Leakes
Reality Show: The Real Housewives of Atlanta (2008) and The Celebrity Apprentice (2011)
Before Nene Leakes’ name went mainstream in the reality show The Real Housewives of Atlanta, she did some minor work in in the TV series The Parkers. She also played a minor role in the film The Fighting Temptations that starred Cuba Gooding Jr. and Beyonce.
However, it was her participation in the reality show The Real Housewives of Atlanta that cemented her name as a rising TV personality. It was her sass and her smart tongue that earned her quite a reputation in the show, in which she starred for over six seasons.
In between filming the reality show, she co-wrote a book with Denene Milner titled Never Make the Same Mistake Twice. After her stint with the show, she parlayed into scripted television and played the sassy secretary Rocky Roades in the NBC comedy The New Normal. She was later cast on Ryan Murhpy’s Glee during its third season.
By 2011, she joined The Celebrity Apprentice, where she had a highly publicized feud with fellow contestant Star Jones. In 2013, she starred in a The Real Housewives of Atlanta spin off called I Dream of Nene: The Wedding, which showcased the wedding preparations for her re-marriage to husband Gregg Leakes.
Aside from co-writing a book to designing her own fashion line, Leakes has currently signed up to join the cast of Cinderella on Broadway.
3.) Jennifer Hudson
Reality Show: American Idol (2004)
Despite suffering from a shocking and early elimination in American Idol, this did not stop Jennifer Hudson from going after her dreams to be in the industry.
Shortly after American Idol, she signed up with Arista Records, under which she released her self-titled album. Hudson later joined the star-studded cast of Beyonce, Jamie Foxx and Eddy Murphy as Effie White in the movie adaptation of the Broadway show Dreamgirls. Her performance as Effie White earned her 29 awards, which included Golden Globe Award as Best Actress in a Supporting Role.
In 2008, Hudson’s mother, brother and nephew were killed in a shooting. Hudson went out of the public eye for three months before resuming work. She then resumed her appearance by performing during the Grammy Awards, in American Idol and during Super Bowl XLIII.
Hudson also had notable appearances in Sex and the City (2008), The Secret Life of Bees (2008) and Winnie Mandela (2013). She also won a Grammy Award in 2008 for her debut album Jennifer Hudson and was awarded her own star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2013.
This goes to show that Hudson has managed to establish herself as a powerhouse both in the entertainment and music industry, despite from her premature elimination at American Idol.
4.) Katharine Mcphee
Reality Show: American Idol (2006)
Katharine McPhee is one American Idol alum, who captured everyone’s attention with her singing prowess.
After AI, Mcphee signed on with creator Simon Fuller’s 19 Recordings Limited and Sony BMG’s RCA Records. In 2007, McPhee released her debut album Katharine McPhee, which debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart. The album’s single “Over It” was listed on the Top 30 and was certified gold in 2008.
In 2010, she released her sophomore album, Unbroken and this debuted at number 27 on the Billboard 200. Her latest album was released early in 2014.
McPhee later extended her artistic resume by establishing an acting career. This was a similar move done by her fellow American Idol alum Jennifer Hudson. Some of her notable movie appearances include The House Bunny (2008) and Shark Knight 3D (2011).
She also starred in the NBC series Smash (2012), which aired for two seasons. Her most recent TV role was in CBS’ Scorpion (2014).
5.) Julianne Hough
Reality Show: Dancing with the Stars (2007)
This professional dancer is known for her stint in ABC’s reality show Dancing with the Stars.
A two-time dance champion, Julianne Hough started out as one of the Million Dollar Dancers in ABC’s game show called Show Me The Money before she joined Dancing with the Stars. Hough subsequently returned to the show as a performer, before later becoming a permanent judge on the show.
The dancer has also ventured into the music industry and has released her first country album in 2007 to raise money for the American Red Cross. The song placed at No. 100 on the Billboard Pop 100 Chart. She later signed up with Universal Music Group Nashville’s Mercury Nashville Division.
Hough has also started making a name for herself in the acting scene, with several of her notable roles in movies including Burlesque (2010), Footloose (2011) and Safe Haven (2013).
6.) Jamie Chung
Reality Show: The Real World: San Diego (2004)
Jamie Chung first gained international fame, when she starred during the fourteenth season of MTV ‘s The Real World: San Diego. She later starred in its spin-off, Real World/Road Rules Challenges: The Inferno II.
The reality star later ventured into acting where she made minor roles in such television series as Days of Our Lives, CSI: NY and Veronica Mars. She also had a recurring role as Mulan in the ABC TV series, Once Upon a Time.
Her first minor role in a film was as a Hooter s girl in the 2007 comedy Now I Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.
Her first major role came in 2008, when she starred as the lead in the ABC Family miniseries Samurai Girl. This was later followed by a string of roles in such movies as Grown Ups (2010), Sucker Punch (2011) and Premium Rush (2012).
Chung also received critical acclaim in the 2012 independent film Eden, which is about human trafficking. Her latest movie was the 2014 Sin City sequel Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.
7.) Jacinda Barrett
Reality Show: The Real World: London (1995)
Jacinda Barrett also broke into the limelight as another Real World alum, when she starred in the MTV reality show The Real World: London.
This reality star started out her career as a model in Europe, right before she was cast for the reality show. Shortly after her stint with the show, Barrett attended the British American Drama Academy in Oxford. She later appeared in some short-lived television series like D.C. and Citizen Baines.
Her film debut came with the 1997 movie Campfire Tales.
Barrett’s cinematic resume include Ladder 49 (2004), Poseidon (2006), and The Last Kiss (2006), in which she starred opposite Zach Braff and Rachel Bilson. Her most recent projects include an appearance in USA’s TV series Suits and in ABC’s upcoming series Zero Hour.
8.) Analeigh Tipton
Reality Show: America’s Next Top Model (2008)
Before Tipton started making a name for herself in the entertainment industry, she was already an accomplished athlete in the world of figure skating. By 16, she completely retired from the sport to pursue modeling.
Her earliest modeling stint came when she signed up for I Model and Talent Los Angeles and then she was eventually cast and placed third on Cycle 11 of American’s Next Top Model.
After ANTM, she signed up with Ford Models in Los Angeles and Abrams Artists Agency. Some of her notable works as a model include gracing the covers of Spain’s Marie Claire, Seventeen and Maxim. She has then walked the runway during the Los Angeles Fashion Week and for fashion brands like Guess.
Tipton ventured briefly into television by appearing in The Big Bang Theory in 2008. Her film debut came in 2011 remake of The Green Hornet and in the movie Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011). Some of her other movie roles include Warm Bodies (2013) and Lucy (2014). Her latest movie project was a lead role in the 2014 movie Two Night Stand.
9.) David Guintoli
Reality Show: Road Rules: South Pacific (2003), Real World/ Road Rules Challenge (2004)
Grimm star David Guintoli is another MTV reality show alum, who first came out in the Road Rules: South Pacific in 2003.
His participation in the reality show helped him finance his college studies and upon the series’ conclusion, he decided to devote himself to a full -time acting career. Shortly after, he moved to Los Angeles and was able to make several guest appearances in shows like Nip/Tuck, Grey’s Anatomy, Ghost Whisperer and Cold Case.
His biggest role to date is the lead in NBC television series Grimm, which first aired on October 2011.
10.) Yaya Dacosta
Reality Show: America’s Next Top Model (2004)
Here’s another America’s Next Top Model alum, whose stint with the reality show forged a career for her outside the modeling industry.
Shortly after her appearance in ANTM, Yaya Dacosta’s career took off. Some of her earliest modeling stints after the modeling competition included appearing in advertisement campaign for brands like Garnier Fructis, Oil of Olay, Sephora and Dr. Scholl’s.
Her film debut came in 2005, when she starred in the film Take the Lead, which featured Hollywood actor Antonio Banderas. It was later followed by supporting roles in such independent films as Honeydripper (2007) and The Messenger (2008). In 2008, she also appeared in the soap opera All My Children as Cassandra Foster, the daughter of the character Angie Hubbard.
Her other notable roles were in such movies as The Kids Are All Right (2010), Tron: Legacy (2010) and The Butler (2013). In 2010 she also appeared on the cover of American Vogue, L’ Officiel and W.
Dacosta’s is set to be in upcoming bio pic about the late music icon Whitney Houston.
11.) Lucy Hale
Reality Show: American Juniors (2003)
Lucy Hale first appeared in the 2003 short-lived reality talent show called American Juniors. The show was conceived following the success of American Idol.
Hale was part of a vocal quintet that finished in the top 5. Right after American Juniors, she moved to Los Angeles to launch her musical career. During her pursuit, she began to audition for acting roles. Her first minor role came with Nickelodeon’s television sitcom Drake and Josh.
It was later followed by a series of TV appearances such series as Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide, The O.C., and How I Met Your Mother. She also appeared in two episodes of the Disney Channel show, Wizards of Waverly Place. She was also in several movies, which include Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants and A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song, where she played the lead role.
Hale is widely recognized for her role as Aria Montgomery in the ABC family series Pretty Little Liars. She eventually released her debut album entitled Road Between in 2014 under Hollywood records.
12.) Josh Henderson
Reality Show: Popstars (1999)
Step Up star Josh Henderson first came into the entertainment industry as a contestant on WB’s reality show Popstars, which served as a precursor to American Idol.
Henderson later pursued a modeling and acting career following his stint on the show. His initial break in the industry came with several guest appearances in several television series like Maybe It’s Me, Do Over, One on One, Rodney and 8 Simple Rules for Dating my Teenage Daughter.
These were later followed by his film debut in 2003 with the straight to video horror movie called Leeches. After, he appeared in the 2004 movie The Girl Next Door. Henderson is widely recognized for his role as Jenna Dewan’s boyfriend in the first Step Up film in 2005.
Henderson went on to bag leading roles for such movies as Fingerprints (2006), and April Fool’s Day (2008). He also made guest appearances in the television series 90210 and Crime Scene Investigation: CSI. His latest role was in the TNT revival of the television series classic Dallas, where he won critical praise for his role as John Ross Ewing III, the son of Sue Ellen and J.R Ewing. His performance garnered him the title of ‘the breakout star’ of the series.
Reality television has been regarded as one of the highest-rated television genres found in the today’s entertainment format. Its bold approach in giving people the most unique form of entertainment has given it quite a notorious reputation.
Despite what critics have to say, reality television has earned a place in today’s generation.Even with its mixed reception, it has also become one of the most popular choices of career paths for those who wants to make it break through into the industry. Whether it’s a show about partying or about living a sweet and fabulous life, it is without a doubt that reality television has redefined how real life go about.
Top Hollywood Celebrities Who Started Out in Reality TV by Marie Skillern