Andy Warhol famously decreed that everyone would get their 15 minutes of fame, but that's just simply not enough for you. No, you want an entire television season of it, preferably followed by a reunion special, talk-show appearances, a spin-off, and a romance with a Brady kid on an upcoming season of "The Surreal Life."
You want to be a reality star, and with programs like "American Idol" and "The Apprentice" topping the TV ratings consistently, the timing has never been better. Well, get your notebook ready and slap a mailing label on that demo tape, Mr. wannabe-Evan Marriott, because today is your lucky day: Below, we offer up some dos and don'ts on how to become a reality star, as suggested by those who've been there:
SELECTING YOUR PERSONA:
DO: That person in the mirror whose teeth you brush every morning won't cut it. Think about reality-show clichés (the jock, the slut, the conniving con artist), and select the one you can fit into most easily. "Do the figuring out of who you are," advises Richard Hatch of "Survivor" Season One, "then get on the show."
DON'T: Be yourself. Real people are boring. "Be dramatic, be controversial," says Katrina Campins of Season One of "The Apprentice." When crafting your reality-show persona, keep the qualities in mind that have made past reality stars interesting to you: their energy, their heart-wrenching backstories, their propensity for causing scandal through arguments or shameless flirting. Normal people can be watched, for free, at any neighborhood Starbucks; you'll need to encourage your inner spaz.
FINDING YOURSELF A SHOW:
DON'T: Stand on a street corner, hitting on passersby and/or engaging them in shouting matches. This will only get you arrested.
DO: Keep an eye on sites like Reality Blurred or The Fishbowl -- both top sites for tracking reality-show news. Also, be sure to bookmark the Craig's List TV/film/video page in your area and the individual pages for your favorite shows, so you can be a part of the next cattle call.
FORMING YOUR STRATEGY:
DON'T: Burn yourself out with controversy in the first few episodes, but don't allow yourself to become a dispensable secondary character either.
DO: Remember that no matter how friendly the people around you may seem, they'd sell you out in less time than it takes Simon Cowell to select a T-shirt. "Always remember to look out for Number One," insists Rob Cesternino of "Survivor," Season 6. "Don't worry about making friends, don't worry about what people are going to think of you, just go ahead and do whatever it takes." Ruthlessness wins; you can always reveal your humanity in the morning-show interviews the day after the final episode.
FILTERING YOUR WORDS:
DO: Bait other contestants into saying and doing things that will make America despise them, even if it's by accident. "You film so many hours of footage," says Campins. "I filmed for 15 weeks, and I had one fight with Omarosa [Manigault-Stallworth], and yet the one thing you see time and time again was that. The producers said it was one of the best fights ever on national television, and I never thought it would make it on." Two years later, Omarosa remains one of the most detested characters in the reality universe, while Katrina is remembered by "Apprentice" fans as a sympathetic innocent.
DON'T: Allow yourself to be baited. No matter how infallible you view your opinion on gay marriage, abortion or Hitler's legacy, keep it to yourself.
CHOOSING A PLAYMATE:
DO: Select a fellow star that America will love, and love you with. "I think that a lot of reality people are like, 'Well, I'm a little bit famous and you're a little bit famous,'" says Cesternino, "'and 0.2 plus 0.2 equals 0.4 [of celebrity], so why don't we try to take your little flame and my little flame, and see if we can make a spark?'"
DON'T: Try to pick up the host. Even if you really do think you might be of the sex that interests Ryan Seacrest, that Trump's hair is sexy, or that Jeff Probst could come to love another as much as himself, hitting on the big guy makes the audience view you as the equivalent of the high-school girl in the front row wearing the short skirt.
GETTING BACK AT THE OUTSIDE WORLD:
DO: Be sure that, like any true star, you remind everyone in the real world that you are now one step above them. "Revenge is what happened on 'Big Brother' 4," says former show-star Nathan Marlow. "My girlfriend messed around on me, and that was the weekend before I went on 'Big Brother,' and in the first week I hooked up with Ally from our show. I pretty much did it on national TV just to get my revenge. That was for her; I got revenge in front of 18 million people. She was really [ticked off] the next time I saw her."
DON'T: Forget to conspire with your co-star on a porn tape that can be "leaked" to the media when your reality fame starts drying up.
MAINTAINING YOUR POST-SHOW FAME:
DO: Make yourself the big fish in any pond you find yourself in. "It's so funny when you get a lot of reality people in the same room together," says Marlow. "Everybody blows up their chests and starts bragging about how their show had more viewers than yours. Everybody tries to one up each other." While congregating with other reality stars, on post-show interviews or events, always make sure the cameras stay on you; outrageous outfits help.
DON'T: Judge not, lest ye be judged. "You know what we always get offered," says "Survivor" Season One star Jenna Lewis, shaking her head, "and I don't know how reality TV stars tie into this, but we're always offered to judge beauty pageants. I don't know how, because we are the dirtiest people on TV, but they always ask us if we want to judge beauty pageants. I haven't ... yet."
Larry Carroll is a reporter for MTV News and a pop-culture junkie. His
writing has appeared on sites like CountingDown, FilmStew, E!Online and IGN Film
Force. His merciless review of the film "Drumline" continues to draw
hate-spewing e-mails from marching band devotees who resent his comment,
"There's a reason why people go to the bathroom during
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