Reality TV has come a long way from the classic game shows of the 20th century. Now, there’s a show for practically every phenomenon—whether you’re a teen mom, a hot 20-something looking for love or simply a member of the Kardashian-Jenner clan.
While some may argue reality TV requires no real talent, there are a number of actors who got their start by, well, being themselves on television. Cast into the limelight, some careers wilt and others shine. Here’s a look at eight stars whose reality roots launched them to TV and movie fame.
Reality-TV Stars Who Successfully Transitioned to Movies and TV
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the reality star, if there ever was one. The wildly popular series Keeping Up With the Kardashians, first airing in 2007, gained a cult-like obsession among fans and popular media and is one of the few shows where pretty much everyone involved got famous.
The Kardashians were already in the public eye after dad
Robert Kardashian, who died in 2003, helped defend O.J. Simpson in his 1995 murder trial. The subsequent marriage between mom Kris and former Olympic athlete Caitlyn Jenne r created a blended family ripe for reality-TV picking.
Kim’s fame, however, has extended far beyond her origins. Though she comes from a powerful family and would have lived a life of excess regardless, she runs multiple successful businesses including her shapewear company Skims, which is valued at $4 billion,
. She’s also ventured into acting … and is surprisingly good, judging by the new The New York Times reported in July American Horror Story trailer.
She’s appeared in a number of projects as herself, but in a twist is starring in
AHS’s new season, Delicate, which premiered Sept. 20. Related: Everything to Know About AHS: Delicate
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Kyle Richards reached reality-TV fame as an original cast member of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. The show premiered in 2010 and Richards has been featured in all 12 seasons, showing off the glitz, glam and drama of her life in Beverly Hills.
It would be more accurate to say that Richards' acting paved the way for her reality-TV career, however, and not the other way around. As a child, she appeared in several TV shows in the 1970s, and even had a recurring role on
Little House on the Prairie from 1975 to 1982. In ‘75, she made her movie debut alongside her sister in the Disney classic Escape to Witch Mountain.
Perhaps her biggest movie role came in 1978 when she played Lindsey Wallace in
Halloween—a role she reprised in the sequels Halloween Kills (2021) and Halloween Ends (2022). To her name are various other credits, including a stint on ER and some holiday movies.
"I love acting, it's what I've done all my life and to me, it's a lot easier than doing reality television because you get into a character, you remember your lines and you go home and leave it all behind at the end of the day,” Richards
told . “Reality television, it's your life and you can't walk away from it. You're being exposed and the audience is weighing in on your lives and your relationships with your friends and family.” Bravo’s The Daily Dish in 2012
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Jamie Chung’s career is a product of early-2000s MTV. She appeared on 2004’s The Real World: San Diego, where strangers are made to live together, Big Brother-style. She was also in the spinoff, Real World/Road Rules Challenge. But unlike many of her fellow cast members, Chung went on to do a string of movie and TV gigs and is still acting today.
In 2007, she landed minor roles on
Days of our Lives and I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry. She also played more prominent characters in 2009’s Dragonball Evolution and 2012’s Premium Rush. Some of her most recognizable work is as Mulan in the series Once Upon a Time and Ji-Ah in Lovecraft County. Related: 10 Actors Who Can Secretly Sing
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Johnny Knoxville (by the way, not his real name) is another MTV alum. In 2000 he co-created and starred in
Jackass, a prank series-turned-movie franchise. This brand of “stupid comedy” involved cast members performing dangerous and humiliating stunts—which translated to high ratings.
Knoxville’s MTV fame led to him being cast in 2005’s
Dukes of Hazzard. But his real success, his meal ticket, has always been Jackass, which has nine film spinoffs. Knoxville also stars in the new show The Prank Panel alongside comedian Eric André. >>> Sign up for Parade's Daily newsletter and get the scoop on the latest TV news and celebrity interviews delivered right to your inbox <<<
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Jennifer Hudson is best known for her prolific singing career, which started on the reality competition show American Idol. She competed on the third season and placed seventh—a surprising outcome in hindsight, given her major success after the show.
In 2006, Hudson received her first big break post-
Idol by being cast in Dreamgirls, alongside Beyoncé, Jamie Foxx and Eddie Murphy. For that, she earned an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, and a beautiful career was born.
Hudson has gone on to act in many more films and TV shows, including
Sex and the City (the movie), The Secret Life of Bees, Hairspray Live! and Empire. She’s also part of a very exclusive club of people who have been nominated for an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony).
What do you know, another MTVer!
Dax Shepard may not be thought of as a reality TV star, but he got his show biz start in 2003 on the Ashton Kutcher-created show Punk’d. The show lived up to its name by outrageously pranking Hollywood A-listers. Shepard, who was relatively unknown at the time, was the face/orchestrator of many of the pranks.
Punk’d, Shepard’s acting career picked up steam with minor roles in shows like My Name Is Earl and movies like Cheaper by the Dozen, Zathura and Baby Mama. In 2010, he was cast in NBC’s family drama Parenthood as one of the main characters.
Today, Shepard hosts the popular podcast
Armchair Expert. Related: Fans Go Wild Over Dax Shepard's Lap Dance at Wedding
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Heather Morris, best known as Brittany in the hit show Glee, began her career in 2006 on So You Think You Can Dance. Although she didn’t make it to the end, she was dancing for Beyoncé a year later and performed on the American Music Awards, Saturday Night Live, Today and others.
Dancing was also what led her to
Glee. She came on to teach the cast the choreography to Beyoncé’s Single Ladies, and ended up with a role as cheerleader Brittany Pierce. Her popularity with the audience cemented her as a regular.
Morris is still acting and has appeared in films and TV such as
Glee: The 3D Concert Movie, Spring Breakers and Raven’s Home.
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Julianne Hough, alongside her brother Derek Hough, started out as a professional dancer on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. The show brought on a cast of celebrities each season who would be paired with a pro dancer to compete against the others.
Hough was a big success in the dancing world, receiving three Emmy nominations for Outstanding Choreography and even winning one. She’s also proof that dancing can translate to the big screen. She appeared in 2010’s
Burlesque, starring Christina Aguilera and Cher, and featured in the films Footloose (2011), Rock of Ages (2012) and Safe Haven (2013).
Hough is set to co-host Season 32 of
Dancing with the Stars this fall alongside Alfonso Ribeiro. Next, Will Dancing with the Stars Be Postponed Due to the Strikes? View comments