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Celebrity Culture and the American Dream

by Karen Sternheimer

Would you pay to see reality show participants in person?

Promoters of “Reality Rocks Expo” are hoping fans will pay $35 to meet people who have appeared on shows like Celebrity Rehab, The Real Housewives, Survivor, and a variety of other programs this weekend at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

There’s nothing new about paying admission to get autographs and meet famous people—its some of the workshops at the expo that are most interesting.

For an additional $25, attendees can attend workshops to learn to “Create, Produce and Pitch your Reality TV Show,” “Brand Yourself: Using Social Media to Advance Your Career in Reality TV,” and meet casting directors.

One workshop in particular stands out: “How To Become A Host/Reality Star – Parlay your 15 minutes of Reality Fame into a Career.”

As I write in the last chapter of Celebrity Culture and the American Dream, so-called reality programs can create the impression that we all have a shot at a career, just for being us. At a time when unemployment has remained stubbornly high, the price of admission and a workshop may seem like a legitimate investment in a career that could potentially pay off big.

As a 2010 Forbes magazine article detailed, a handful of reality stars have been able to cash in big, but as the magazine reported in 2007, most do not. The glut of reality stars means that paychecks for personal appearances have declined for all but the top stars. Some might also become infamous and have trouble finding work after their FIGURE 1.215 minutes are up.

Besides the financial long shot, being on a reality show might have a personal toll, as making one’s private life public can have a downside.

In my research of celebrity fan magazines, one thing remained consistent throughout their century of publication: the promise of a better life. Reality TV also offers the promise. But does it really deliver?

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