reality tv

'Blacklisted and broke.' The harsh reality of trying to find work after appearing on TV.


With a reality TV appearance comes a public profile and an increase in Instagram followers, but this does not always translate into financial success.

What you gain in followers and #sponsored activewear can be offset by a loss of a real-life job and money security.

Just ask Apollo Jackson, who we first met on Sophie Monk’s season of The Bachelorette.

The Quicky ask what life is really like after reality TV. Post continues below audio.

He later appeared on Bachelor in Paradise and now boasts an impressive 196,000 followers on the ‘gram, but that number has not translated into dollars.

“The last few months have challenged me intensely,” Apollo wrote in an Instagram post alongside a photo of his own inspirational quote.

“Works dried up, I’d had just 2 paying gigs this year, my phone, subscriptions both entertainment and work cut off for the last few months, my stage show I worked my ass off for 6 months on only sold 11 tickets so I had to cancel it.

“Training for my first MMA fight I tore the ligaments in both arms and ruptured one of the tendons, unable to afford a dentist [so] a nerve exposed broken tooth has made me unable to sleep most nights while I’ve worked my butt off developing new skills and chasing work, applying for jobs that I had no luck getting.

“Everything I’d been working on for 8+ months had been rejected, shut down or a failure.”


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His struggle is not an isolated case: money woes can often hurt former reality stars, especially as many leave their ‘normal’ jobs to appear on television.

Tully Smyth, who appeared on Big Brother in 2013, told Mamamia her transition from reality TV back to the ‘real world’ was a struggle, both emotionally and financially.

She had not gone into the experience thinking about how it would impact her career. “Influencers” were not a thing in 2013 like they are now.

“Career wise, it was tough. I often refer to it as a ‘double-edged sword’. Obviously a show such as Big Brother gives you great exposure and I was lucky enough to experience so many amazing opportunities I would never had been offered, had I not been on the show.


“At the same time, there were some pretty huge gigs, dream jobs, I would have given my left arm to do, that I lost out on because nobody was even looking at reality TV contestants. Nobody took us seriously. They still don’t!”


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She recalled missing out on a TV presenting position, despite receiving positive feedback, having a relevant journalism degree and a passion for music and pop culture, because management were “not looking at anyone from Big Brother”.

“I was blacklisted,” she said. “It sucked. It was a slap in the face.”

Tully said appearing on reality TV meant she was “constantly swimming upstream” when it came to finding employment.


“You’re suddenly judged based on the TV version of yourself. The heavily edited, curated-for-entertainment version of yourself.

“You’re suddenly on the back-foot immediately when you meet someone. Even if they didn’t watch the show, chances are they’ve read an article about you. Or their wife/son/friend/co-worker has an opinion on you. I always felt as if I was having to prove myself, convince potential employees that I WAS in fact intelligent. That I DID have substance. That I WANTED to work hard.”

She wanted anyone who considered going on a reality TV show to remember their appearance would be with them for life.

“In two, five, 10 years down the track you will still be ‘Tully From Big Brother‘, or whatever show it is. That label doesn’t go away. So you’ve got to be comfortable with that.”

Like Apollo, Alex Nation is a familiar face for her appearances in The Bachelor franchise. In June 2018, she shared an Instagram post saying she had returned to full time work.


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I’ve been trying this “balance” thing. I usually love a challenge but lately this one has proven quite difficult. I’ve gone from spending almost all of my time with Elijah to working full time, getting home at 7 just in time for bunk bed snuggles and doing readers. I’m exhausted. I miss him and crave the time I had with him when I was working sporadically and doing sponsored posts for ponstan(LEL). The reality is for me, sponsored instagram posts weren’t sustainable enough and I really wanted a full time job/career. So I went out and got it and I fucking love it! I know my struggle isn’t unique, most mothers/parents and just humans in general struggle with balance. So, feel free to provide any hot tips and advice. I’d hugely appreciate it! Ex oh ex oh.

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“The reality is for me, sponsored Instagram posts weren’t sustainable enough and I really wanted a full time job/career,” she wrote.

In the United States, even some of the most high-profile reality stars have faced financial problems and struggled to find stable employment.

Jon Gosselin, of Jon & Kate Plus fame, has struggled to make ends meet since his divorce and the end of their TV show.

“I lost all my money. I lost everything,” Jon said during an appearance on The Steve Harvey Show in 2016. He has has since waited tables, installed solar panels and DJ’d to pay the bills.

Kimberly Davis appeared on the UK version of The Apprentice because she thought it would be an asset to her CV.

“Before the show I ran a successful business, but ever since appearing on it, I’ve had to work much harder for jobs and really persuade people to work with me rather than relying on my credentials alone. I have to say, ‘Please don’t hold it against me’. I was so proud to be on it, and it turned out to be an embarrassment,” she told Cosmopolitan in 2018.