Just because you started out on reality TV doesn’t mean you’re doomed to remain a reality TV personality forever (unless you’d like that, in which case, you do you, bro). However slim, it is possible to escape that shadow, but there are caveats. You just have to a) have starred in a reality show so long ago that people couldn’t even tweet about it, b) have kept such a low profile on your reality show that people don’t remember you, or c) have starred in a show so forgettable that people didn’t watch it long enough for you to leave an impression. Just like these 10 celebrities you didn’t know were on reality TV before they got famous. Check out more from VH1’s month-long Keepin’ It Real reality TV package.
Jamie Chung, The Real World: San DiegoGetty Images
If you can’t remember Jamie Chung in The Real World: San Diego, that’s a good thing. Unlike the rest of the cast, her story line was pretty low-key, only involved in some minor boy drama here and there and stumbling upon Frankie’s (RIP) bloody knife. Yes, Jamie was the cast member who discovered Frankie was a cutter, and tried to help her through it. But kudos to Jamie for keeping her liquor down. We’d say there’s a direct correlation between Chung’s successful acting career (Big Hero 6, Sucker Punch, The Hangover Part II and III) and the fact that she was never wasted beyond belief and/or arrested on live television (unlike her other roommates).
Emma Stone, In Search of the Partridge FamilyGetty Images
Before Emma Stone was the loveable, funny, can-do-no-wrong-besides-play-an-Asian-character-in-Aloha Emma Stone we know now, she was absolutely gunning for her big break. At one point in her life, she thought that big break would come as a member of VH1’s Partridge Family reboot. Unlike other auditions, this one came in the form of a televised competition, where Stone (then 16 and known as Emily Stone) belted out “We Belong” against a fellow contestant in hopes of becoming the new Laurie. Suffice it to say, she lost. But clearly fate had way better plans for her.
Josh Henderson, Pop Stars: Scene 23Getty Images
Josh Henderson’s a familiar face. He’s been around for awhile. Some would say he broke out on Dallas, some would say Desperate Housewives, and others with exceptional recall would say Step Up. But those with the memory of an elephant would say Pop Stars Season 2. Yup, the WB reality show that tried to launch the co-ed pop group Scene 23. And yes, Henderson was one of the chosen five. The group only produced one album—the series’ soundtrack album—and never commercially released any hits. However, there is a music video for “I Really Don’t Think So,” if you’re feeling especially masochistic.
Lucy Hale, American JuniorsGetty Images
Before Pretty Little Liars skyrocketed her to fame, Lucy Hale was out here trying to be the next Britney Spears or something. In 2003, the then-13-year-old competed on American Juniors (watch her adorable/awkward audition), an American Idol spinoff that only lasted one season. Unlike Idol, Juniors’ mission was to create an S Club 7-like pop group, which Hale was eventually voted into. The group, which kept the tragic name American Juniors, disbanded in 2005. But ain’t no thang for Hale—her singing days were far from over. She dropped her debut country album, Road Between, last year.
Matt Lanter, Manhunt: The Search for America’s Most Gorgeous Male ModelGetty Images
Before Matt Lanter turned heads on the 90210 reboot, he was just another pretty boy trying to get noticed. His method? Manhunt. If it sounds to you like the show’s a competition for the next Chippendale’s star, it’s not. Unfortunately. Rather, it’s Bravo’s male answer to America’s Next Top Model (before it included dudes). Lanter didn’t win, but that didn’t stop him from becoming a teen heartthrob anyway.
Heather Morris, So You Think You Can DanceGetty Images
Now best known for her work as the adorable Brittany S. Pierce in Glee, where she was a low-key math genius, Heather Morris was easily the best dancer on the show. She began dancing at the age of 9 but looked to make her big break on the second season of So You Think You Can Dance. She failed to make the top 20 by a vote of 3-2. Not discouraged, she eventually became a backup dancer for Beyoncé in 2007. With Beyoncé, she got to rock the stages of the American Music Awards, SNL, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and Today.
Nicole Scherzinger, Pop Stars: Eden’s CrushGetty Images
Better known for her work with the Pussycat Dolls, where Scherzinger served as lead singer, she was already a girl group veteran. On the first season of WB’s Pop Stars, she got her first taste of the limelight as she was picked over hundreds of girls to form the band Eden’s Crush. The band had one single to its name, “Get Over Yourself,” and appeared on Sabrina: The Teenaged Witch.
Scherzinger seems unable to keep away from reality star life, having won Season 10 of Dancing with the Stars, and serving as a judge on the UK version of The X Factor and for one season on the American X Factor.
David Giuntoli, Road Rules: South PacificGetty Images
David Giuntoli, who plays Detective Nick Burkhardt in Grimm, wasn’t always a successful actor. Once upon a time, he needed to pay off some students loans, especially if he was going to try and rough it to become an actor full-time. Enter Road Rules: South Pacific, where he was introduced as the friendly guy who brought his guitar.
Kesha, The Simple LifeGetty Images
This one is a bit of a mind-blower. Kesha, who wakes up in the morning feeling like P. Diddy, was in fact on The Simple Life. You remember The Simple Life—it was Paris Hilton and bestie Nicole Ritchie trying to live like poor people do. We doubt you remember the time Kesha was on the show with her family. In fact, Paris and Nicole were trying to set Kesha’s mom, Pebe, up on a date, along with Kesha there to veto any guys.
Kesha even stayed in touch with Paris and went to a party at her house! Where she threw up in a closet….
Jon Hamm, The Big DateGetty Images
Jon Hamm, star of Mad Men, hilarious guy, and all-around stud, was once on a dating show called The Big Date. And, spoiler alert, he did not win. In fact, two women (probably regretting every decision they’ve ever made now) passed up on the chance to go on a date with THE Jon Hamm at the age of 25. Talk about an outrage. If time travel exists, plenty of women would travel on back to 1996 to have their chance.