When Tracey Jewel fell, quite deliberately, onto our radar – in all her white wedding dress, bride-ready glory – she was a woman of odd jobs.
She was a writer, author, blogger. She sashayed onto our screens as a Married at First Sight contestant with a few broken relationships in her wake, a child in her care and a career that didn’t quite have the momentum to break into the mainstream media.
On that same screen, tradie Ryan Gallagher found his way with a direct line of communication to a prime time audience, his blasé, no-fuss charisma and easy laugh winning him legions of fans across the country.
Both found themselves the stars of the highest-rating TV show of 2018, with 2.6 million people tuning into the final episode, which is, objectively, a lot of eye balls.
Less than two months later, and a curious couple things have happened.
Tracey has an agent, Max Markson, and is releasing her third book This Goddess Means Business. She’s going on tour in Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Some of the events are already sold out, while others only have only a few tickets left.
Ryan, too, has management. In the immediate aftermath of the show, like riding a momentum-stuffed wave all the way to the shore, he jumped straight into a national comedy festival tour. He made people laugh on the show, so sure, it made sense. The series favourite planned shows in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide. In fact, some were so popular, he added a few more. Another in Sydney, one more in Perth.
Somewhere across the strange land that is reality television sits the likes of Anna Heinrich, Sam Frost, Sam Wood, Tim Robards, Snezana Markoski and Keira Maguire.
It is reported Heinrich works part-time as a criminal lawyer. The rest of her week is spent endorsing products, working beside brands and leveraging off a powerful social media following to maintain consistent work and cash flow.
Frost, meanwhile, landed a gig after her tenure on TV on radio, before breaking into acting. Wood launched 28 by Sam Wood; Robards launched The Robards Method. Markoski, too, is far more than the lifestyle blog she launched in the wake of the show airing, partnering with shoe brands and car dealerships as her own source of income.
The idea that reality stars leverage off their short-lived, intense fame is certainly not new, but the era they’re doing it in certainly is. Being a reality star is no longer just about night club appearances, the occasional sponsored post spruiking vitamins (#health, #ourbodiesareourtemples) or 15-minutes of fame extended by free brunch on Saturdays.
If they’re clever, it’s a job that can eclipse their pre-fame careers.
These days, building a social media following with the intention of becoming an influencer is hard. Just ask the influencers themselves; most of them are buying their followers. We know this, of course, the New York Times wrote about it. Locally, we know this because influencer-aficionado Chloe Morello did her own kind of exposé. After wading in the influencer waters for the last few years, brands are quietly realising their money may not always be best spent on a social media star with a dubious following.
It’s an over-saturated market, with everyone at the behest of mysterious, ever-changing algorithms.
And so, perhaps we’re coming full circle, because fast fame can’t just be found on Instagram anymore. Even then, if it comes, it’s certainly not the golden ticket to a lasting career in the public eye.
Reality stars have what can be seen as weeks-long job interviews in front of a nation, where we decide, bluntly, if we like them or not. If we do, well, it’s all systems go. Grab a manager, announce an e-book. Get working.
If you’re clever about it, it may just work. Just ask Tracey Jewel, who went from Married at First Sight to a book to sell-out audiences in the shortest of time.
Because in an era punctuated by distrust in influencers and authenticity as its own buzzword, serious and credible fame can come from cleverly timed stints on TV.
Would you ever consider going on reality TV?