Reality TV's Bruised Reputations

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PHIL HAN / ZUMA PRESS

Omarosa from the 2004 season of "The Apprentice".

Pop artist Andy Warhol famously, and prophetically, opined that "in the future everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” For some of the cast members on television’s ever-multiplying number of reality shows, those 15 minutes aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be. These contestants signed onto reality shows for the fun and adventure. Instead, they claim that viewers were left with an impression of them that was anything but real.

Evan Marriott, the lumberjack look-alike who feigned being heir to a $50 million fortune on Fox’ Joe Millionaire” in 2003, wanted the $50,000 offered by producers but says he came off looking “dumb as a doorknob” after a reporter tracked down a girl from his hometown who didn’t remember him too fondly. “People thought I was the village idiot,” says Marriott, who has since steered clear of television and is back working on construction projects.

Although he chalks it up to the race for ratings, Marriott says a number of scenes in “Joe Millionaire” were altered in the editing room. When contestant Sarah Kozer finds out that he’s not a millionaire in one of the final episodes, the camera pans to a look of disgust on Kozer’s face. But that footage had been filmed hours earlier in response to a different situation, says Marriott. In another scene, Zora Andrich — who Marriott ultimately picked — angrily gets out of the hut tub when several other contestants barge in on her tub time with Joe Millionaire. That also didn’t happen that way, says Marriott.” I got out of the hot tub at the same time with her.” As for the love Marriott and Andrich supposedly felt for each other? “We were over a day after the show was over,” he says. “I wasn’t into her and she wasn’t into me.”

Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth says she knew what she was in for when she watched a screening of the first episode of “The Apprentice” in 2004. Omarosa, who has since dropped her entire last name, threw a party to celebrate the show’s premiere, but says she was shocked and horrified to see herself portrayed as stern and hostile. And that was just the beginning. “I felt good when I left the show. I had done well and thought I had the respect of my cast mates,” says Omarosa. “After watching the first episode I knew there was trouble brewing.”

When Victoria Fuller and her husband, Jonathan Baker, joined the cast of CBS’ “The Amazing Race” they never imagined she would come off as an abused wife and he as a bullying husband on national television. But footage of Baker aggressively yelling and pushing people around, including his wife, made him one of the most vilified characters on reality television — and turned Fuller into TV’s number 1 victim. “People felt sorry for me, which made be angry,” she says. “I’m a strong independent woman. ”Even so, Fuller concedes that she and Baker made the mistake of venting their emotions and “pushing each other’s buttons” when the cameras were rolling.” Watching was pretty scary,” she says. The worst part was seeing Baker become an object of public ridicule and scorn. "People really hated Jonathan, and that was disappointing," she says. "He's a great guy and has great friends. And we’re pretty secure with who we are.”