Look, no one is out here pretending like reality TV shows are ~prestige television~, but there’s no denying that it has given us some of pop culture’s biggest stars. Without shows like Keeping Up with the Kardashians, American Idol, and Star Search, celebs like Kelly Clarkson, Kim Kardashian, and Christina Aguilera wouldn’t be the household names they are today.
Like, even freakin’ Beyoncé, blessed be her name, owes part of her career to her stint on reality TV. (Confused? Stay tuned.) Meanwhile, there’s a whole fleet of celebs who I’m guessing you had no idea got their start on reality shows—like Pretty Little Liars‘ Lucy Hale, Emma ‘Casual Oscar Winner’ Stone, and even Mad Men’s Jon Hamm.
Basically, what I’m saying here is that reality television has produced some of the world’s faves, and without it, you—an adult woman—wouldn’t have a Harry Styles shrine in your house, Gigi and Bella Hadid might not be supermodels, and Kylie Jenner wouldn’t be a Lip Kit billionaire. On that dramatic note, here are 50 celebs who got their start on reality television, y’all.
1. Cardi B
Did anyone else watch Love & Hip Hop New York? Cool, then you’re well aware that Cardi B was the best part of that show. Cardi joined the cast in 2015—just two years before ‘Bodak Yellow’ came out.
2. Elisabeth Hasselback
You know Elisabeth Hasselbeck? From The View? Yeah, well, she started her career on Survivor wearing this cool tube top.
3. Meghan Markle
Life lesson: Going on Deal or No Deal could lead you down a life path that’ll end with a prince, a tiara, and a bunch of family drama.
4. Bella Hadid
Before she was a casual supermodel, Bella Hadid was a regular on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills due to her mom, Yolanda Hadid, being on the show. Thanks to RHBH, we saw the beginnings of Bella’s modelling career, plus her move to NYC!
5. Adam Lambert
Like so many celebs, Adam Lambert got his start on American Idol. Since then, he’s been nominated for a Grammy and gone on tour with Queen. Also, where do I get those boots, thx.
6. Camila Cabello
Camila Cabello got her start on The X Factor, where she ended up joining Fifth Harmony. Flash-forward to today and now she’s breaking records and making out with Shawn Mendes in random public places.
7. Christian Siriano
Christian Siriano got his start on Project Runway (he won, duh), and has gone on to dress major celebrities including Michelle Freakin’ Obama.
8. Emma Stone
Incredible things Emma Stone has done in her career: 1) Won an Oscar, 2) competed on In Search of The Partridge Family in 2003. I’m truly inspired, maybe there is hope for me after all.
9. Gigi Hadid
Much like Bella, Gigi was featured on Real Housewives thanks to her mom. And we got to see a *lot* of the beginnings of her modelling career. As someone who watched this in real-time, I’m shook.
10. Jennifer Hudson
Thanks in part to getting her start on American Idol, Jennifer Hudson is a casual Grammy and Oscar winner who has a star on the Hollywood Walk of fame. Get! It!
11. Jordin Sparks
Jordin won American Idol at just 17, and has gone on to sell millions of albums, win tons of awards, and—oh yeah—take over Broadway with Lin Manuel Miranda’s In The Heights. In other words, she hath killed it.
12. Lady Gaga
Didn’t know Lady Gaga got her start on reality TV? Well, ya do now. Not only was she on an episode of The Hills, but Gaga was also on an MTV show called Boiling Points. Love this for her.
13. Harry Styles
Daily reminder that Harry Styles is only famous because he auditioned for The X Factor whilst wearing an extremely skinny scarf and a cardigan. That is all.
14. Clay Aiken
First of all, no photo has ever been more pure and wholesome than this photo of Clay Aiken. Second of all, dude legit pivoted from American Idol to running for Congress. Honestly, I’m gonna go ahead and say what we’re all thinking: CLAY AIKEN 2020.
Never forget, Kesha was in an episode of The Simple Life with Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, where all three of them found Kesha’s mom a date. You cannot make this stuff up.
16. Lauren Conrad
Lauren Conrad is currently doing the whole lifestyle thing, but lest you forget her humble beginnings were on Laguna Beach and The Hills, during which she shed this unforgettable mascara tear.
17. Kelly Osbourne
Kay, so Kelly Osbourne was always kinda famous thanks to being Ozzy’s daughter, but she really becomes a household name thanks to her fam’s reality show The Osbournes, where she played the part of the sulky teen to perfection.
18. Katharine McPhee
These days, Katharine McPhee is married to David Foster and is busy living her best life as a Broadway star. But she got her start on ye olde American Idol back in 2006.
19. Maddie Ziegler
Sia discovered Maddie Ziegler (you know, from the ‘Chandelier’ video?) thanks to being a fan of freakin’ Dance Moms. Like, it could happen to you.
20. Kendall Jenner
Kendall Jenner is currently one of the highest-paid supermodels in the world. But for years, she was simply on Keeping Up with the Kardashians, and typically let her older sisters take the spotlight.
21. Khloe Kardashian
Ya girl Khloé is currently running a super successful clothing company and you better believe it’s all thanks to her start on Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
22. Kim Kardashian
Obviously, though, no person on this list owes it all to reality TV more than Kim Kardashian. She’s arguably the most famous celebrity in the world thanks to
KUWTK Kris Jenner’s genius.
23. Kylie Jenner
Where to even begin with Kylie? This entrepreneur managed to take her platform on KUWTK and build it into a billion-dollar business. HER POWER.
24. Kourtney Kardashian
10/10 people polled would argue that Kourtney Kardashian owes her fame to KUWTK, right? Right.
25. Alanis Morissette
You, you, you oughta know that Alanis Morissette competed on Star Search back in 1990. See what I did there? Yeah, consider this my official apology.
Queen Bey also came up through reality TV thanks to Star Search, but please note she didn’t perform solo. At the time, Bey was part of a little known group called Girl Tyme, who ended up changing their name to Destiny’s Child.
27. Chris Hemsworth
Hello, what we have here is a rare photo of Chris Hemsworth getting down on Australia’s version of Dancing with the Stars back in 2006. Yes, he has hair tendrils, yes, he’s wearing flared pants, and yes, I am thirsty.
28. Britney Spears
Yerp, Britney also got her start on Star Search. To think she went from this to wearing double denim with Justin Timberlake and making all your other faves irrelevant is just wow.
29. Jamie Chung
Before she was in Once Upon a Time, you could find Jamie Chung on 2004’s The Real World: San Diego and its spin-off Real World/Road Rules Challenge: The Inferno II. What, and I can’t stress this enough, a career glow-up.
30. Jon Hamm
This is a video of Jon Hamm, heartthrob, with floppy middle-parted hair on a show called The Big Date. In case you’re wondering, no I’m not okay.
31. Kelly Clarkson
BEHOLD THE AMERICAN IDOL MOMENT THAT STARTED IT ALL.
32. Carrie Underwood
Documentary footage from when American Idol turned Carrie Underwood into a living legend and country music icon.
33. Hannah Brown
If calling Hannah Brown a real celebrity is wrong, I don’t want to be right. Either way, she obviously started out on The Bachelor and has since become a reality TV mainstay.
34. Tyler Cameron
If Hannah Brown counts as a celebrity, so does Tyler Cameron. Especially since he has his own Quibi show about building dog houses.
35. Wells Adams
Wells Adams might be The Bachelor franchise’s most famous contestant thanks to his impending marriage to Modern Family‘s Sarah Hyland and his sustained role as the bartender on Bachelor in Paradise.
36. Jordyn Woods
Since consciously uncoupling from Kylie Jenner (read: being ousted from the Kardashian family) Jordyn Woods has proven that her success has nothing to do with reality TV stardom. She’s launched a line of shapewear, has starred in music videos and TV shows (Grownish, anyone?), and recently debuted a fitness business.
37. Lucy Hale
Before she made it big on Pretty Little Liars, Lucy competed on American Juniors. Can’t get over how different she looks without her signature thick brows!
38. Paris Hilton
Paris Hilton was already famous thanks to, ya know, being a Hilton when The Simple Life came out, but pop-cultural scientists* tells us this is how her fame really popped off.
*Not a real thing.
39. Nicole Ritchie
Would everyone in America know who Nicole Richie is if it wasn’t for The Simple Life? Probably not. Meanwhile, did you know she’s about to star in her very own Quibi show?
Much like Camila Cabello, Normani got her start on The X Factor. Clearly, she outgrew the show and Fifth Harmony and is now killing her solo career.
41. Aaron Paul
Before he was doing the whole prestige TV thing on Breaking Bad, Aaron Paul was a contestant on The Price Is Right. This was the face he made when the price was, tragically, wrong.
42. Justin Timberlake
Before he joined NSYNC, Justin and his cowboy hat competed on Star Search and it was honestly the cutest thing ever. LOOK AT HIM!
43. Liam Payne
If it wasn’t for auditioning on The X Factor, Liam Payne wouldn’t have joined One Direction, and there wouldn’t currently be a poster of him over your bed in your parents’ house.
44. Louis Tomlinson
Same with Louis, but I’m honestly too distracted by his incredible hair swoop to even elaborate here.
45. Nicole Scherzinger
Nicole Scherzinger currently: judges reality TV. Nicole Scherzinger previously: competed on reality TV. Specifically, a show called Pop Stars where she slayed.
46. Miranda Lambert
A 19-year-old Miranda Lambert competed on something extremely patriotic seeming called Nashville Star in 2003, and honestly, I’m shocked because she looks just the same. Tell us your skincare secrets, Miranda!
47. Taryn Manning
Nothing to see here, just a photo of Orange Is the New Black star Taryn Manning singing Britney Spears during Pop Stars.
First of all, so sorry but it’s literally impossible to find a less blurry picture of this iconic moment: Usher making his grand debut on Star Search at just 13.
49. Christina Aguilera
Petition for Xtina to recreate this exact Star Search haircut immediately.
50. Zayn Malik
Kinda shocked by how Zayn looked the exact same during his X Factor audition as he looks now. Anyway, yeah, this show made him verrrrrrry famous and now he’s out here dating Gigi, so guess everyone wins!
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan US
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