by Troy DeVolld
This year, I’ve given myself a great present for Christmas: A get-out-of-jail-free card when it comes to the recurring question, “What’s (name of reality celebrity) really like?”
Ask anybody who’s met a celebrity exactly once what they think of them, and you’re going to get an absolute answer based on a tiny interaction. That moment eventually crystallizes into a summary “great guy/gal “or “total jerk/bitch” response. That assessment somehow never takes into account the way the celebrity was approached, as the teller/hero of the story, the “toucher of the garment” as it were, always bases their evaluation on how they were received in that moment. Someone I know scared the living hell out of a television actress recently, literally running after her in a parking lot to vomit praise at her. The verdict on return? “What an unfriendly bitch.”
Nine times out of ten, everything I know about someone on a reality show comes from our limited interaction in a high-pressure environment or by way of my once-removed experience of viewing source material. During production, that reality participant is competing against other people for prizes or screen time while the show is trying to extract enough authentic moments out of them to achieve a great story. Most would probably agree that sitting in the passenger seat of a race car is the worst time to get to know a race car driver, as they’re kind of preoccupied with going really fast and not hitting a wall. It’s the same for reality stars when they’re on the clock, worrying about their image, agenda and performance.
Further, we’re not hanging out in the same places when the cameras drop, so I seldom see them outside of work until the wrap party.
Yes, there have been times when someone’s really been amazing or completely shown me their ass, but those moments remain between us as part of our process or become blind-item war stories among industry friends. I’ve had one late celebrity refer to me as a “passive aggressive Hollywood mother*cker,” and a few others that thanked me at the end of the process with a nice note or a kind word. Their perception of me is formed through the lens of their own experience with how we connected in our brief interactions, and I wouldn’t say they know me any more than I know them.
So, in that spirit, my new response to the question is just going to be a generic “Great guy/gal” or “I don’t really know them.”
Troy DeVolld is a longtime LB buddy and one of the masters of the reality TV genre. This article originally appeared on his Reality TV blog. And while you’re thinking about him, why not buy his book, Reality TV: An Insider’s Guide to TV’s Hottest Market?