Reality Show Reject: The Effect of Reality TV on Contestants
How a Stint on a Cancelled Reality Show Became a Life-Changing Journey.
"You're completely exhausted and emotionally drained. This is what all the excitement was about? Then you realize the enormity of your experience and it HITS you. You've just allowed a production and film crew to tape and reveal you, while you spill your guts to thousands, maybe millions of people! What have you done?At the same time, a feeling of complete jubilation and victory! It's done!"
So How Did You Get to This Place, Anyway?
You hear about all kinds of Reality shows nowadays: who got booted, who stayed in the game, who quit. Since I'm held in bondage by the dreaded 'confidentiality agreement', all I can discuss are my feelings about it. So here's how it feels to become a Reality Show Reject.
Once you're called, nothing is ever the same. It's like that totally unexpected call from the guy you thought didn't know you existed. BOOM! Out of the blue, you're suddenly thrown into a conversation you never dreamed would take place.
"Hi, this is Sally in casting! We looooovvve you!"
Gush, gush, schmooze, schmooze......
Then you realize the casting agent is not with Survivor. Rats! What a disappointment!
"Tell us all about yourself.....we want a 3 minute video tape mailed immediately!" says the agent, speaking in that "oh so unforgettable" California accent. (I bet they made fun of my accent).
After you're contacted, it becomes a game of 'hurry-up-sit-back-and-wait'. At the same time, you're wondering, "Are they going to pick me? Oh, man, I messed up my video....I wasn't forceful or funny enough". Then you go through a period of anxiety that's equal to waiting for that guy to call you again. You know... the guy you thought didn't know you existed. At this stage, you've already experienced surprise, disappointment, excitement, and utter anxiety. Just wait for what comes next.
The Day Arrives When You Are Told You Made It!
"Congratulations, you've made the semi-finals!"
You scramble to get everything mailed by the totally ridiculous deadline. More videos, contracts, and background checks. Good grief, like they don't already have enough information! The casting department constantly reminds you: "Remember, MUM's the word! Don't tell anyone!" (Oh, agony!)
Then, a week later, another call:
"You've made the finals! You're coming to Los Angeles!"
Now the real apprehension begins. You've got to figure out how to convince your employer you need a couple of vacation days, immediately, without telling them why. So, you have your first expense-paid trip to Los Angeles and you can't tell a soul about it, with the exception of those family members who signed the appalling 'family member confidentiality agreement'.
Then, whoosh! You're off to Los Angeles to the official hotel hide-out for reality show contestants, wondering if it's really happening or if it's another manifestation of your overly-active imagination, combined with a little obsessive-compulsive disorder. Now you're feeling really important and valued! Taped interviews, physical exams, psychological profile testing.....pretty significant stuff; and you don't even have to foot the bill! The boost of euphoric adrenalin you get from the attention is enough to sustain a Prozac-induced state for a month. Once you realize it's really happening, you notice you've lost five pounds and haven't even taped your episode yet! Geez!
After you return home, you're still on a 'high' from your flurried trip. The phone rings and you answer it.
"You're in! You're on the show!"
Finally! Who cares that it's not Survivor? You're on! You were never picked for anything in school, now you're chosen for a Reality Show! This is too cool.
A Contestant On A Reality Show!
So, let's talk about what my feelings were at this point. Uneasiness, worry, elation, misgiving, fear of the unknown, and what else? Frustration. Yeah, that's right. (Here comes that wretched 'confidentiality agreement' to haunt me). Not being able to discuss my impending excursion was pure torture! But, oh baby, I made it on the show!
After another flurried trip to Los Angeles, the day arrives to tape the episode. At this point, you're feeling giddy and silly; laughing hysterically one minute, serious and focused the next. You hear the words, "Contestant on the set!", and your heart pounds. You try to remember it's reality TV. It's the only day in your life to be a star, so you figure you better get INTO the role. Time for the drama queen personality to take over...oops! The producers remind you, "This is Reality, stop acting." So, you go through your endeavor and step into a zone you've never been before: a participant in a reality show! Once it's over, it's over.
Reality Show After-Effects
Post traumatic stress kicks in immediately. You teeter between having feelings of overflowing confidence, to spells of breaking down and weeping. Is this the price you pay for becoming a reality show contestant? As the weeks and months fly by, your life completely changes. Nothing is the same as before. Nothing. You eagerly wait for the show to air. Life begins to settle back to normal, but you still have this thing hanging over your head, this altering, life-changing experience that totally transformed you. Yet, you can't share it with anyone; you're bound by the ghastly 'confidentiality agreement'! It isn't fair! Finally, the post-trauma symptoms alleviate and you wait in anticipation for an air date.
After several months of patiently waiting, I stumbled upon an article that said the show had been shelved by the network. Just like that, they canned it, after spending all that time, effort, and money. I was disappointed, angry, and insulted at the same time. Had I become so narcissistic that I thought the production company and network owed me something? Surely not, I was expendable to them, finished, used up. But what about my experience? It belongs to me and nobody has the right to take it away. Unfortunately, they do.... Hollywood isn't known for it's fair business ethic, so why should I expect more from them? Chained forever by entertainment legalities (and the bloody 'confidentiality agreement'), I became nothing more to them than where I ended up: collecting dust on the cutting room floor somewhere in Hollywood, a forgotten contestant with an amazing story to tell, forever changed.
Reality Show Reject
I've earned my title of Reality Show Reject. Maybe I should be a little kinder to myself and change it to 'Reality Star Wannabe', but that would sound a bit self-centered, don't you think? Whatever way you look at it, the experience was worth it all. No kidding. How many people can say, "I was a star for one day in my life!" I don't know about the other contestants, and I certainly can't speak for them, but I'm totally changed from the experience. It pushed me to the brink of my limits and I'll never forget it. How has it changed me? This is the honest truth: It made me realize that my goal and purpose in life is to motivate, encourage, and enthuse others to overcome obstacles. My feelings now? Disappointed, but satisfied; I got the victory, anyway. It's as simple as that. It's a great place to be, both spiritually and emotionally. That's exactly how I feel about becoming a Reality Show Reject.
No "Rights" for Reality Contestants?
- TV Contestants: Tired, Tipsy and Pushed to Brink
In this article, an outside source discusses the "right"s of reality contestants, or lack thereof, concerning confidentiality agreements and gueling work days while taping.