Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How Being A Reality Show Contestant Really Works


What Will It Be Like Once I Get On?
Chef Gordon Ramsay tells off a contestant on 'Hell's Kitchen' but she's not taking it. Long hours of shooting and short hours of sleep contribute to the drama of reality TV shows.
Chef Gordon Ramsay tells off a contestant on 'Hell's Kitchen' but she's not taking it. Long hours of shooting and short hours of sleep contribute to the drama of reality TV shows.
FOX via Getty Images)

Each reality show is unique, but all will do one thing: Require you to sign a lengthy contract. Reality show contracts typically include language saying you can't sue; that it's not the production company's fault if you get injured (physically or mentally); that you may be subject to an invasion of privacy and that the show may portray you in any manner desired. Especially beware the latter; your slightly flirty nature may turn into a depiction of you as a raging nymphomaniac.

Contestants can expect many sleepless nights. Elsie Ramos, a past participant on "Hell's Kitchen," told The New York Times she logged no more than five hours of sleep per night during the show's month-long shooting. On "The Bachelor," lots of liquor is provided to amp the drama. "If you combine no sleep with alcohol and no food, emotions are going to run high and people are going to be acting crazy," added Erica Rose, a "Bachelor" contestant, to the "Times." Other shows may have you participate in challenges that can be physically or mentally grueling, or just plain gross. (Think of the bug-eating challenges in shows like "Survivor" and "Fear Factor").

Reality shows often require you to be incommunicado with family and friends, to up the stress level. Perhaps more dispiriting, if you're in an elimination-type show and get the boot, you typically can't go home. If you did, people would know you didn't win. So you're often sent to a vacation spot to wait out the show's conclusion [sources: Cooper and Dehnart, Wyatt].

Be prepared to discover some manipulation once on the show as well. Episodes are often creatively edited to tell the story the producers want to tell. One past contestant on "The Voice" wrote on Reddit that her auditions, recording sessions and interviews were all recorded well before the show, which then made it look like they were recorded the same day. (One trick: She had to keep wearing the same clothes.) So, the "blind audition" wasn't all that blind.

While all of this information may seem like one big reason to forget the thought of being a contestant, plenty of past participants say they'd happily sign on again, despite everything. Whether the show furthered their career, enabled them to explore more of the world, led them to their soulmate or was just plain fun, the sometimes-challenging conditions were worth it [source: Wyatt].