reality tv

"I bought a crocodile." How 7 reality TV winners spent their prize money.

Signing up for reality TV is certainly not for the faint of heart. But it does come with some undeniable perks.

Aside from the Instagram fame and teeth whitening endorsements, a few lucky contestants get to walk away with some pretty sweet prize money (we’re talking in the six-figure range).

But while some contestants choose to spend their money on a car, a house or even a crocodile (yes, really), the cash doesn't always last long. 

In fact, a few have spent all their winnings in just a matter of years. 

Watch: An honest reality TV job interview. Post continues below. 


Video via Mamamia.

From The Block to Big Brother, here's how different reality TV winners have spent their prize money.

Jack Vidgen, Australia’s Got Talent.

Jack Vidgen was just 14 years old when he won Australia’s Got Talent in 2011. 

At the time, the younger singer walked away with a whopping $250,000 in prize money. 

But 10 years later, the money is completely gone. 

"I wanted to buy my mum a car, so that was a pretty big chunk out of it," Jack told New Idea in 2019.

"I grew up poor with a single mum, and at some points she was working three jobs, working her a** off just so we could eat. So I’d never seen that much money in my life."

Jack on Australia's Got Talent in 2011. Image: Channel Seven. 

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The now 24-year-old also used the money to fund his music career in the US.

"I don’t think people realise how much it costs to upkeep pursuing a music career, especially with the level I got to," he explained. 

"I funded it myself going across to LA and that costs a lot of money. If you think about all the transfers, the cars, the flights, it all costs money."

"It [the prize money] funded my career."

Jess Eva and Norm Hogan, The Block.

While Jess Eva and Norm Hogan missed out on winning The Block in 2018, they did find themselves $209,000 richer thanks to the profit they made from their property. 

Unfortunately, within two years, the money had all dried up. 

"It's all gone," Jess confirmed on Triple M’s Moonman in The Morning last year.

The couple spent their entire prize money on swimming pools for friends, gambling and a kind act for a stranger, among other things. 

"The first thing we bought was two above-ground pools, and we handed them out to our friends like lollies," she explained. 

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The money also went to a big bet at the tennis and helping a stranger who they came across on a community Facebook board. 

"When you come from nothing you’ve got nothing to lose," said Jess. 

"If everyone can’t enjoy it together, what is the point of living?" 

Tess and Luke Struber, The Block.

Tess and Luke Struber took home a massive $730,000 when they won The Block in 2019. Unfortunately, the couple said they weren't able to spend the money on what they had planned last year because of COVID-19.

"We tried to go back to normal life then all of this coronavirus stuff happened just as we were gonna pull the trigger on a few big calls, so we've kinda just been chilling out," Luke told 9Entertainment last year.

"We haven't really touched any of our prize money to be honest," said Tess. "We paid off a few debts like my car, but nothing else really."

And the couple have no plans to blow it all away. 

"It's definitely changed our lives, I mean, obviously the money that we won is just going to set us up for the rest of our lives and we want to spend it wisely — we're not going to blow it or anything like that." 

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In the meantime, the couple have plans to buy a block of land and build their dream house in Cairns. 

Tim Dormer, Big Brother.

Tim Dormer walked away with $250,000 when he won Big Brother in 2013. 

Six years later, he told Punkee that he still had some money left over. 

"Believe it or not I still have some [prize money] left in the bank," he said in 2019. 

"I literally had $20 left in my bank account when I started the show, so the $250k was a whole new lifestyle for me."

"I gave $50k of it away, including $10k divided up amongst the other 20 housemates in my series to choose to give to charities of their own or keep for themselves, it was a cruel experiment of my own and some did actually keep it!"

But while many spend their money on a car or a house, Tim bought a crocodile. Well, technically he sponsored it. 

"One of the wildest things I spent [the money on] was buying a crocodile off Terri Irwin, it was actually a large donation to sponsor a tagged wild croc in support of my hero Steve’s conservation research of wild crocodiles."

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Regina Bird, Big Brother.

Fan favorite Regina Bird pocketed $250,000 when she won Big Brother in 2003. Unfortunately, It didn't take long for the entire prize money to disappear. 

In 2014, Reggie said she spent the majority of her money responsibly on her mortgage in Tasmania, and then $20,000 more on her divorce.

"I left everything to [ex-partner] Adrian and moved to Sydney. I couldn't get a job for about two years after the show because no one would take me seriously. I spent all the money I had left on rent, and getting ripped off by that a***hole who made out he was a TV producer," she told the podcast Not Here To Make Friends.

She gave more than $40,000 to a man who claimed to be a television producer to help fund the pilot of a travel show she would star in.

"I thought it was legit. He said he didn't have money and asked to borrow five grand and another five grand and then it all snowballed."

Reggie on Big Brother in 2003.Image: Getty. With her $250,000 prize money gone, in 2014, Reggie found herself on a disability pension and surviving fortnight to fortnight. Three years later, she had a brush with homelessness after facing eviction from the home she had lived in for five years.

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These days, she works for an online platform called StarShell, which helps protect students from cyber bullying. 

She also told the podcast that her kids ask about her Big Brother prize money.

"The kids go, 'Oh, mum, didn't you win all this prize money with Big Brother?' And I do wish in hindsight I didn't do the things I did, but I didn't know. I was living, and I lived life. I wish I had more guidance."

Aleisha Cowcher, Big Brother.

Aleisha Cowcher has been careful with spending her $450,000 prize money after winning Big Brother in 2007.

"I’d never had money so I was very cautious," she told Mamamia last year.  

"I just put it in the bank and let it earn interest. And then I ended up buying a hair salon and a house and a car."

"I think I definitely spent it wisely, and it’s set me up for where I am today."

Aleisha in 2007. Image: Getty. 

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Aleisha even went back to work as a hairdresser after the show. 

"People used to come into the salon and be like, ‘Oh, is this all you are? Is this all you got?’ I’d be like, ‘What do you mean? I’ve got my own business. This is pretty good!"

Jericho Malabonga, Australian Survivor.

After winning Australian Survivor in 2017, Jericho Malabonga decided to put his $500,000 prize money towards a house.

"It wasn’t enough to leave my full-time job, but it was awesome to set myself up and get into the property market" he told News.com.au last year. 

He also took his fellow castmate Luke Toki and his family to Disneyland after Luke promised he'd take his family if he won the show. 

Jericho on Australian Survivor. Image: Channel 10. 

Jericho also still works as a flight attendant, the same job he had before Survivor.

"It’s pretty cool when passengers recognise me, but I try not to name-drop myself. After a year or two from my season, it’d be more ‘Oh, you look familiar…’ I’d say ‘Oh, maybe you fly often?’ One lady was so persistent, saying she recognised me from somewhere. Finally 10 hours later I said ‘Well, I’m from Survivor.’ She goes ‘No, that’s not it.’ It was so embarrassing! Never again!" he laughed.

What would you spend your prize money on? Let us know in the comments below. 

Feature Image: Nine/Seven/Getty.