Reality television generally delights in showing us the absolute worst of humanity. And we love it, of course. These days, most seasoned viewers are unfazed by the ill-advised and unsavory antics of the shows’ stars, but every now and then, a reality star manages to shock the public with some wild new scandal – be it sexual abuse, jail time, or blatant racism. Read on for some of the best of these moments…
20. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo
This spin-off of Toddlers and Tiaras was meant to be a fun little show about sassy kids and the bonds of family. However, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo took an unbelievably dark and upsetting turn when it was revealed that Mama June Shannon’s ex-boyfriend was a convicted sex offender. Not only that, but he abused Shannon’s own daughter, Anna.
19. Dog the Bounty Hunter
Duane “Dog” Chapman became America’s most famous fugitive-nabber in Dog the Bounty Hunter, which followed Chapman as he traveled around bagging escapees. Alas, he fell briefly from grace when a phone recording was leaked that featured him repeatedly saying the n-word. One might think that would be a career-ender, but no. He made his apologies and was soon back to chasing down criminals.
18. Phil Robertson
Duck Dynasty, which featured a proudly redneck family of duck-call makers, was A&E’s most popular program of all time and ran from 2012 to 2017. But there was a brief firestorm when head of the family Phil Robertson casually shared his incredibly homophobic beliefs in an interview with GQ. Robertson likened homosexuality to bestiality, and producers briefly excluded him from the show. But not for long. He was soon back, and the duck calls sounded once more.
17. Paula Deen
Paula Deen was once the shining star of the Food Network, with her grandmotherly schtick and southern drawl encouraging us all to use “more butter.” But that drawl turned from sweet to nasty after it was revealed that Deen was a fan of throwing around the n-word and was also accused of discriminating against staff. Her show was dumped, as were her deals with Target and Walmart.
16. Tarek and Christina El Moussa
Tarek and Christina El Moussa may have been masters of the fixer-upper, but when it came to their personal relationship, it appears there was no fix. The married couple were dogged by rumors of adultery, blazing marital rows, and one very odd story where Tarek rather mysteriously took off into the woods with a gun. Alas, the couple eventually called it quits, and their divorce became final in early 2018.
15. Real Housewives of New Jersey
Teresa and Joe Guidice insisted right up until the end that they were innocent, but the Real Housewives of New Jersey stars were ultimately exposed as the crooks that many suspected they were. After the pair were both found guilty of fraud, Teresa did 11 months in prison (then of course wrote a book about it), while Joe was given a 41-month sentence. So yeah, they’re both jailbirds, but at least Teresa isn’t a “prostitution w***e.”
14. The Biggest Loser
When it comes to reality show makeovers, the more dramatic the change, the better. But this actually proved to be the downfall of The Biggest Loser. When season 15 winner Rachel Frederickson made her grand reveal, having dropped a whopping 155 pounds, viewers were alarmed by her skeletal physique. It caused such an uproar that Jillian Michaels actually left the show, and many former contestants soon came forward with harrowing tales of what really went on to get them to drop the most weight.
13. Big Brother
In a show where contestants are filmed 24/7, you’d think you’d be on your very best behavior. Alas, as we learn time and again, many Big Brother contenders actually end up showcasing the very worst parts of their personality. Take the case of Aaryn Gries, who on season 15 casually let apparently homophobic and racist remarks fly from her mouth. CBS took some heat for airing the nasty comments, but the controversy made ratings soar so it’s doubtful the network was too remorseful.
12. Real Housewives of Atlanta
It was a reunion to remember when Kenya Moore and Porsha Williams joined each other on the couch for the Real Housewives of Atlanta reunion. Moore repeatedly taunted Williams by swinging a scepter in her face, and their screaming match soon escalated into a full-on wrestling bout. This saw both women on the floor being pulled apart by producers, while a stunned Andy Cohen looked on.
11. Farrah Abraham
Reality TV tends to chew up and spit out many of its stars, particularly the younger ones. Such was the case with Farrah Abraham, who found fame on MTV’s 16 and Pregnant. Abraham let the world watch her struggle to raise her daughter, then tried to cash in by releasing an album and having extensive plastic surgery. The result was frankly preposterous, and Abraham’s next time on screen was as an adult film star.
10. Jonny Fairplay
Jonny Fairplay most certainly did not live up to his name. The reality contestant tried a rather loathsome game tactic on Survivor: Pearl Islands, when he had a friend appear on the island to let him know his grandma had croaked. Granny Fairplay hadn’t really passed, of course, and it was later revealed to be a calculated move to garner sympathy from his fellow contestants. Classy!
9. RuPaul’s Drag Race
It’s odd to think that RuPaul’s Drag Race might ruffle feathers for being offensive, but even RuPaul – fabulous as he is – takes a sashaying misstep from time to time. The show came under fire for a game called “You’ve Got She-Male,” which the trans community felt resurrected a known trans slur. The game was subsequently dropped from the show.
8. Abby Lee Miller
Abby Lee Miller may be strict with her pupils, but she’s pretty lax when it comes to the law. The Dance Moms star was convicted of multiple counts of fraud and in May 2017 was sentenced to a year and a day in prison. However, she was recently released due to good behavior. Not only that, but she’s managed to shed 100 pounds and claims it’s the start of a whole new Abby. So, does this mean she’ll no longer berate eight-year-old children? Only time will tell!
7. Fixer Upper
Chip and Joanna Gaines, the stars of Fixer Upper, may have an “aw shucks” vibe, but – shocker – it seems they may not be as wholesome as they appear. Indeed, it was alleged that Chip rather craftily bought his former business partners out of their share of Magnolia Realty right before Fixer Upper took off. According to reports, Chip paid his two former partners a measly $2,500 each, just two days before HGTV announced the program as part of its line-up. The partners were none too pleased to be kept in the dark and subsequently sued Gaines for damages.
6. Sister Wives
America’s favorite show about polygamy follows the hijinks of Kody Brown and his quartet of wives. One might think this would be scandal enough for a reality show, but no, TLC took it to a whole new level when sister wife Meri became ensnared in a catfishing scandal with a noted scam artist named Jackie Overton. While Meri thought she was in the throes of an emotional online affair with a man, she was in fact emailing with a manipulative woman looking to score some swag.
5. American Idol, Frenchie
American Idol prided itself on being a wholesome show the whole family could enjoy. Hence, it was none too pleased when it emerged that season two contestant Frenchie Davis had once posed topless for an adult website. Davis was forced to drop out of the show, and fans were outraged. They were doubly outraged when, years later, nude photos of another contestant, Antonella Barba, surfaced, but she was still allowed to perform. Double standard, Simon!
4. American Idol, Abdul
American Idol judge Paula Abdul was at the center of a racy scandal back in 2005, when former contestant Corey Clark claimed that Abdul had seduced him and promised to help his career – all while Clark was competing on the show! (Clark was also 24 to Abdul’s 42, making the scandal all the more titillating.) Moreover, Clark then supplied the press with graphic details of their sexual encounters, though Abdul denies anything happened between them. And yet, as recently as 2017, rumors still swirled about their affair. Straight up now tell us, Paula; did it happen or not?
3. Chris Soules
In 2015 former Bachelor star Chris Soules was involved in a horrific car accident and later fled the scene. The deadly crash left Kenneth Moser – a 66-year-old war veteran – dead, and a panicked Soules did not wait for emergency workers to arrive. Police subsequently arrested him at his home, and he was later charged with leaving the scene of a fatal car accident.
2. Taylor Armstrong
Back in 2011, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills took a macabre and unexpected turn when the husband of housewife Taylor Armstrong took his own life. Russell Armstrong and his wife had been having difficulties – indeed Taylor had even alleged abuse – but it was still a shock when Russell committed suicide. Russell died three weeks before the season premiere, and for anyone who watched that season, knowing what was to come made for unsettling and somewhat controversial viewing.
1. Heidi Montag
Heidi Montag underwent a truly dramatic transformation during her stint as a reality star. She started out as Lauren Conrad’s wholesome buddy on The Hills, but then a young man named Spencer Pratt changed her fate forever. After Pratt, Montag’s image went from apple pie to Playboy pin-up, and she shocked fans by getting multiple plastic surgeries. And while Montag and Pratt are still together, they are no longer tabloid staples. Something we’re pretty sure the fame-hungry Pratt isn’t happy about.