Jennifer Hudson

Kim Kardashian, arguably the most financially successful reality TV star in the world, recently compared reality TV to rap music. “When rap first came out people didn’t understand it, they thought it was just a fad. But rap music is here to stay, and I believe reality shows have proven they are as well.” Reality TV first made an appearance in the top-ten primetime rankings in 2000 and has risen steadily ever since. There is no denying the popularity and cultural influence of shows like Jersey Shore, Big Brother, America’s Next Top Model, Keeping Up With The Kardashians–and the hits just keep on comin’! As well, there is no shortage of bona fide entertainment industry stars spawned from the reality TV stable. Elisabeth Hasselbeck placed fourth in the second season of Survivor, and has co-hosted The View for the past seven years; Laguna Beach alum Lauren Conrad is a successful author and fashion industry maven; Jesse James became famous through Monster Garage and married one of the most respected and successful actresses in the business, Sandra Bullock (he proceeded to screw that up big time); and Hef’s former special lady Kendra Wilkinson has evolved from a softball-playing teen pursuing a modeling career into nothing less than a ubiquitous presence in pop culture.

So, is reality TV for you? That depends on your career goals. If being a serious actor is your primary aspiration, maybe it’s not. In the real world (no pun intended) reality stars that make the jump to network TV and feature films are remarkably rare. Jennifer Hudson won an Oscar for her breathtaking performance in Dreamgirls, but that was a musical and drew largely on her tremendous singing talent. Julianne Hough scored the lead in 2011’s Footloose reboot, but as with Ms. Hudson, the material was tailor-made for the Daning with the Stars’ champion. Jacinda Barrett, former Real World: London cast member, has an impressive acting resume, but started her career as an international model. Indeed, save a few exceptions, reality stars tend to either get spin-off gigs based on their reality personas or they transition into hosting roles. So, if you’re happy to be a part of the entertainment business with all its marvelous capacities, and true acting isn’t your Holy Grail, then reality TV could be an opportunity to showcase your star quality and entertain the masses. (And maybe you can get in a couple of gnarly fights along the way!) On the other hand, if  your real goal is to act at the highest levels of the business, then you’d be wise to take a sober look at any reality projects that come your way.

Click here to see 10 Reality Alums Turned Successful Actors.

Click here to see Who’s the Worst Reality Star-Turned-Actress?