Reality television is a complicated business. Some shows get immensely popular and springboard everyday people into celebrity stardom, but that fast track to Hollywood isn’t for everyone. However, there are those lucky ones who manage to build their brands, or expand their existing empires, based on their participation in America’s guilty pleasures. While some reality stars make little to no money at all—the average is about $5,000 a month—personalities who appear on popular shows like The Real Housewives franchise can make $8,000 and up per episode, and millions of dollars beyond their TV presence alone. It’s reported that the Real Housewives of New York racked in $75,000 per episode last season, while the Kim Kardashian and her family recently signed a deal worth an estimated $40 million for three more seasons of Keeping Up with the Kardashians. With millions of dollars floating around in the “real worlds,” BlackEnterprise.com Decodes the financial gain of some of reality TV’s most notable personas. —Starrene Rhett Rocque
Valentine gained popularity as the host of WEtv’s I Do Over, a series where she uses her wedding and party-planning skills to remake previously botched weddings. Valentine started her career in high school when she successfully planned a wedding for her cousin. By the time she started college, word spread about her uncanny abilities, and she eventually added interior designing to her skill set. Through the years, the internationally renown Valentine has had celebrity clients including Usher, Toni Braxton, Kelis, Lela Rochon and she is currently engineering the union of Evelyn Lozada and Chad Ochocinco. Average wedding and event planners can make anywhere from about $30-80,000 a year. But while Valentine’s net worth is under wraps, she revealed that at her status, her company’s percentage is 20% of the overall budget, and requires a $50,000 minimum fee for any project she takes on personally.
As with Omarosa in Season 1 of The Apprentice, whether or not Trump is winning depends on what you believe is his (and the GOP’s) objective. (Image: Getty)
PAT AND GINA NEELY
Pat initially entered the barbecue business in 1988 with his brother when they opened their first restaurant in downtown Memphis. They built up a solid reputation of excellent food and quality service, and by 1992 expanded to a second restaurant location in Memphis. By this time, Pat’s wife, Gina, joined the family business. After several media appearances and taking home the Memphis “Best of BBQ” title, the Neelys opened a third location in Nashville in March 2001. Following several appearances on The Food Network, Pat and his wife landed their own show, Down Home With the Neelys, in 2008, which became the highest-rated series debut in the five-year history of Food Network’s “In the Kitchen” weekend block. Four years later, with the show still airing, the Neelys continue make various media appearances. And with a couple of cookbooks under their belts, the family business has an estimated net worth of $1.5 million.
LA LA ANTHONY
Anthony (née Vazquez) got her start as a radio disc jockey and eventually achieved mainstream recognition as the co-host of MTV’s Total Request Live. After acting as the host for the laundry list of VH1’s reunion shows, La La delved into the reality TV world as the star of La La’s Full Court Wedding (2010), which later transcended to La La’s Full Court Life (2011), a series that chronicles her career and marriage to NBA star Carmelo Anthony. La La’s net worth is an estimated $9 million but she’s working on other ventures, such as her makeup line, Motives by La La and acting career, that should give her income an even bigger boost.
JUDGE GREG MATHIS
Judge Mathis, known for his witty humor and fair-balanced deliverance of justice, is a retired 36th District Court judge. His eponymous TV show has gained national popularity and created opportunities for various speaking engagements that cost anywhere from $7,500 to $15,000. His reality TV experience has also led to an appearance in Madea Goes to Jail, a novel, Street Judge, and an autobiography, Inner City Miracle: A Memoir. His estimated net worth is $20 million.
Scott-Young is best known for running Violator Management, a company responsible for the success of iconic artists like Missy Elliott, 50 Cent, Busta Rhymes, LL Cool J and more. However, after leaving Violator she created Monami Entertainment, an artist management company that doubles as the production company responsible for VH1’s hit show, Love & Hip-Hop, which is currently taping its third season. Her net worth is said to be $30 million.
Long before achieving success on TheReal Housewives of Atlanta, Burruss established herself as a veritable singer/songwriter and businesswoman, starting asone-fourth of ’90s R&B group Xscape. Now holding a net worth of $35 million, the entrepreneur juggles several businesses that transcend the music industry. She’s launched a line of sex toys called Bedroom Kandi, opened TAGS, a clothing boutique in Atlanta, continues to write music for popular artists and recently forayed into the TV world as executive producer for her own show, The Kandi Factorythat’s set to air on Bravo’s new lineup.
Before her foray into reality TV, Shaunie O’Neal was best known as NBA star Shaquille O’Neal’s wife, but the former Fox Film marketer and TV correspondent established her own identity once she began building her own entrepreneurial empire. She started in 2010 with the creation of VH1’s Basketball Wives, which became a breakout success. Eventually, O’Neal created her own production company entitled, Amirah Inc., and developed her second reality series, Football Wives before launching a shoe line with Chinese Laundry. With a net worth already estimated around $35 million, O’Neal should pad her pocketbook even further when she release her debut book, which she plans to release in the near future.
With more than 20 years experience in the music industry under his belt, Jackson is a Grammy Award-winning producer and former Vice President of A&R at Columbia Records, as well as Senior Vice President of A&R at MCA Records. However, it wasn’t until appearing as a judge on American Idol in 2002 that he was thrust into the mainstream’s spotlight. In 2008, Jackson dove into the TV production world, partnering with MTV to premiere Randy Jackson Presents: America’s Best Dance Crew,a popular dance battle show that features the best crews in the country. Nowadays Jackson has an estimated net worth of $40 million.