Celebrities no longer need to pull outlandish stunts to regain the public’s attention. All they need to do is get themselves a reality show and they’re back in the spotlight, for better or for worse. For some this tactic has worked well, for others…not so much.
Check out these 15 celebs who tried to use reality shows to save or reignite their careers. See who succeeded and who failed.
Photo: Mindy Small/FilmMagic
When her 5th studio album met with lackluster sales, Brandy was determined to come back stronger with her next album effort. The breathy R&B singer definitely did that with a little help from reality TV. Norwood and family starred in their own series Brandy & Ray J: A Family Business which was a hit for VH1 for the two seasons it ran between April 2010 and February 2011. During the filming of season two, Brandy also appeared on Dancing with Stars, becoming a fan favorite. She went on to have recurring roles on TV shows 90210, Drop Dead Diva, and The Game, all contributing to the success of her sixth album Two Eleven, which hit number three on the US Billboard 200, and number one on the Billboard US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart upon its October 2012 release.
American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino debuted her reality series Fantasia For Real in January 2010. The show focused on the singer’s struggle to regain control of her personal life and her career. It certainly worked for the latter goal, premiering to 2.3 million viewers and becoming VH1’s highest rated show in its 2010 lineup. The series gave her a new launching pad for her music. She released her third studio album Back to Me in August 2010, one month after season one of her show ended, and one month before season two began.
After Diddy fired her from girl group Danity Kane, Aubrey O’ Day set out to prove she could make music on her own merit and her own terms with a more sexual appearance. What better way to do that than having her own reality show? All About Aubrey debuted on Oxygen in 2011. The show centered around O’Day’s journey as a solo artist, creating her debut album.
This Public Enemy player had no desire to enter the foray of reality TV on The Surreal Life, believing that the show was for celebrities who passed their fame, but after some persuasion from MC Hammer, Flava Flav decided to join the cast in 2004. He went on to have his own reality shows called Strange Love and Flavor of Love which reintroduced the rapper back into the mainstream. During the second season of Flavor of Love, he released his first solo album.
After his run as the ever endearing Screech on the ’90s hit show Saved by the Bell, Dustin Diamond’s career went cold. In an attempt to revive it, he did what any struggling actor would do: released a sex tape and went on the reality TV circuit, starring on shows like The Weakest Link, Celebrity Boxing 2, Celebrity Fit Club and Hulk Hogan’s Celebrity Championship Wrestling. Though, we can’t exactly say it was a successful attempt.
G-Unit’s first lady never quite hit as a solo artist. Her debut album Olivia released in 2001 on J Records was only a mild success. She dropped two singles under G-Unit between 2004 and 2007 but failed to succeed due to poor promotion, prompting her to leave the label, which caused her second album to be shelved. The Jamaican and Cuban songstress became a cast member of VH1’s Love and Hip-Hop in March 2011 in attempt to carve out a place for herself. The show chronicled Olivia’s search for a new record label and coincided with the release of two singles. The first “December” peaked at #76 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Chart.
Actor Tom Sizemore, who has become infamous for his substance abuse, starred in his own reality series, titled Shooting Sizemore. The show followed Sizemore as he attempted to beat his drug addiction and pull his career back together. Shooting Sizemore only lasted eight episodes and the actor slipped back into his drug abuse. It wasn’t until he appeared on Dr. Drew’s Celebrity Rehab in 2010 that he kicked his addiction and began to salvage his acting career.
When J. Lo joined the judging panel on American Idol season 10, many speculated that it was just a strategic move to revive her career. If that was her intention, it certainly worked. To coincide with her debut as judge and her then-forthcoming album Love?, Gillette Venus named her their Global Ambassador, L’Oreal Paris appointed her Global Ambassador and face of several of their brands, and she released the single “On the Floor,” which became her highest charting commercial single as a lead artist.
Andrew Dice Clay
Andrew Dice Clay was a wildly popular comedian in the 1980’s. His brand of humor includes rather crude and shocking jokes. In addition to his successful standup comedy career, he was also featured in movies and TV shows, but in the late ’90s his comedy schtick began to seem outdated and the The Diceman was no longer in demand. In 2007, he launched his own reality show Dice: Undisputed on VH1, documenting his attempts at making a comeback but the show only lasted seven episodes.
Photo: Prince Williams/FilmMagic
K. Michelle first received recognition in 2009 with the single Fakin’ It (featuring Missy Elliott) and went on to release two official singles “I Just Can’t Do This” and “How Many Times” before leaving Jive Records in 2011. Still not very well known in the business, K. Michelle was cast in the first season of Love and Hip-Hop: Atlanta in June 2012, which gave her a significant boost in popularity. The singer recently signed with Warner Bros. and is working on her studio album Rebellious Soul.
Back in the ’80s, Corey Feldman could do no wrong. He was loveable and funny in movies like The Goonies, Stand By Me and The Lost Boys, but the hits just stopped coming in the ’90s and Feldman was relegated to B-movie status. To boost his relevance, he starred in season one of the first celebrity-driven reality series The Surreal Life in 2002 but the show only served to make Feldman into more of a joke. In 2007, he reunited with fellow ’80s idol and friend, the late Corey Haim for The Two Coreys reality show.
Southern rapper Rasheeda began her solo career in 2001. She has released six albums since then and is also one-half of the hip-hop duo Peach Candy with singer and Real Housewives of Atlanta star Kandi Buruss. Rasheeda has received much attention as a cast member on Love and Hip-Hop: Atlanta but has yet to parlay it successfully in music.
After parting ways with Motley Crue in 1987, Vince Neil set off on a solo career. Neil was met with moderate success but his finances began to wan along with Motley Crue’s popularity so he reunited with the band in 1997. Neil appeared on season one of The Surreal Life in 2002. Solo once more, he embarked on a new reality show journey called Remaking Vince Neil, which chronicled his attempt to reinvent his career in 2004.
The once-wildly successful Toni Braxton hasn’t seen a mainstream hit in years. Instead, her career has been plagued by bankruptcy, but all that has definitely changed since Toni and the sisters Braxton got their reality show The Braxton Family Values in 2011. The show has become a hit–though not of the music variety–hoisting Toni back into the spotlight. She released a new single “I Heart You” in 2012, which peaked at number 1 on the Billboard Dance/Club play chart. She is now working on a new album.
Bret Michaels hit big as the frontman of ’80s glam rock band Poison, but was able to find new life in the entertainment industry even decades after the band’s heyday thanks to reality TV. Michaels starred in reality dating show Rock of Love with Bret Michaels in 2007, which led to his successful greatest hits compilation album Rock My World. He went on to appear on and win Celebrity Apprentice 3 in May 2010 and star in his own docu-series on VH1, gaining further attention prior to the release of his most successful solo album Custom Built. The album reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Independent Albums and Top Hard Rock Albums charts.