The 23 Most Successful Reality TV Show Contestants

Though many contestants have a hard time getting another break after appearing on a reality TV show – or breaking the stigma their reality show appearance may have earned them – some haven’t had that problem.

All of these successful former reality TV contestants figured out how to harness the momentum from their break and, eventually, use it to fuel their future success. The craziest part: Some of them didn’t win big or stand out on their show. Yet they were able to learn from the opportunity and go on to become some of the wealthiest and most notable modern entertainers.

For this list, we subjectively judge reality TV contestants by a mix of financial and artistic success.

Alanis Morissette

Alanis Morissette performs at KAABOO in San Diego, California, in 2017.Amy Harris / AP Photo/Invision

Show: “Star Search”

Year: 1990

Estimated net worth: $45 million

You, you, you oughta know that this singer first appeared on TV on the classic hit show “Star Search” in 1990.

Before the rise of streaming and expanded TV options, “Star Search” was arguably one of the biggest network TV singing competitions. Though she didn’t exactly sound like the strong-willed grunge goddess she would become, the momentum from the show was enough to propel her career

Britney Spears

Britney Spears performs in Buffalo, New York, in 2002.David Duprey / AP Photo

Show: “Star Search”

Year: 1992

Estimated net worth: $215 million

Another iconic star to first shine on “Star Search.” Britney Spears would go on to mild fame with “The Mickey Mouse Club” after her reality show audition.

But when she hit song “...Baby One More Time” came out, she would skyrocket to the highest levels of fame. It would stay that way more or less throughout her career, including as she continues to create new music and has a successful Vegas residency.

Justin Timberlake

Justin Timberlake performs during halftime Super Bowl in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 2018.Matt Slocum / AP Photo

Show: “Star Search”

Year: 1992

Estimated net worth: $230 million

Justin Timberlake’s career spans almost every kind of entertainment. But you might not know what a powerful entertainer he’d become just by watching the little kid in a cowboy hat sing on “Star Search.”

Like other ‘90s singing children who went on “Star Search,” Timberlake would become a member of “The Mickey Mouse Club.” He first reached musical fame as a member of NSYNC. He was able to launch his own successful solo career after that band began losing momentum; he churned out hit after big hit.

His charm seeped through in sketches on “Saturday Night Live,” and it became pretty obvious he had some acting chops as well. Now he can basically do whatever he wants, including, you know, halftime at the Super Bowl, if he feels like it.


Usher attends a ceremony honoring him with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles in 2016.Richard Shotwell / AP Photo/Invision

Show: “Star Search”

Year: 1993

Estimated net worth: $180 million

The young singer’s major TV debut came on “Star Search,” too. His singing abilities combined with his awesome dance moves made him immediately popular and continue to make him a fun entertainer to watch.

And, maybe because he was on a talent scouting program himself, he knows how to scout talent. In 2009, with the help of a talent manager who found him on YouTube, Usher began singing with the future superstar Justin Bieber, whose career he’d help launch and manage for many years.

Christina Aguilera

Christina Aguilera sings at the American Music Awards in Los Angeles in 2013.John Shearer / AP Photo/Invision

Show: “Star Search”

Year: 1990

Estimated net worth: $160 million

At a very young age, Christina Aguilera already had unbelievable vocal abilities. She showed those off on her TV debut in 1990.

A couple years later, she worked her way through a familiar path. She joined “The Mickey Mouse Club” and then moved on to a successful solo career.

Though she continues to create popular music, she’s also been a judge on a relatively young reality competition, “The Voice.” She’s also taught voice online in a MasterClass, and even has her own line of perfumes.

Emma Stone

Emma Stone arrives at the Academy Awards in Hollywood, California, in 2012.Chris Carlson / AP Photo

Show: “In Search of the Partridge Family”

Year: 2004

Estimated net worth: $28 million

She’s now an Academy Award-winning actress. Before she was that, she was a popular comedic actress.

But before she was that, Emma Stone went by Emily Stone and performed a charismatic and delightful rendition of Meredith Brooks’ iconic ‘90s song “Bitch” as part of a reality TV singing competition show back in 2004.

Jon Hamm

Jon Hamm arrives at the premiere of "Million Dollar Arm" in Los Angeles in 2014.Richard Shotwell / AP Photo/Invision

Show: “The Big Date”

Year: 1996

Estimated net worth: $30 million

While plenty of people who debuted on reality TV faced rejection, few were as personal as Jon Hamm when he was rejected during a dating show back in 1996.

His “fantabulous” TV debut didn’t impress the lady he was trying to win a date with. But years later, a different debut on what would become a runaway hit show “Mad Men” would impress plenty of ladies and fellas alike.


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