Monday, August 06, 2007

The Tragedy of Bravo's Near-Fame

A great article from the New Yorker talks about the Near-Fame Experience, and how some have thrived off the reality fame while others are still trying to make ends meet.

For the contestants, the implicit promise of these shows is that they’re time machines, compressing the brutal urban mechanics of getting ahead—the political maneuvering, the grinding incremental labor—from a matter of years to months. The problem is that reality-show success is no substitute for real-world experience. “There is something a little bit cruel about all the attention,” says Ted Allen, the dignified cooking guru of Bravo’s Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and a recurring judge on Top Chef. “Because during the season you’re in one of the shows, you are famous for a while, and you get to enjoy all the fun of that. But you’re not someone who has any sort of expertise that’s going to keep you on television. There’s no certain road map for translating that kind of ephemeral success into a life of yachts and bling.”

The talented reality stars on Bravo's hits like Project Runway and Top Chef look like they have it made. They compete, they win, they get the hook up to set up their own fashion line or internship or whatever-the-hell it is. But looks can be deceiving.

People like Jay McCarroll (winner of Season 1, Project Runway) is practically homeless, living out of his tiny NY studio where he produces his designs. No bathroom, no kitchen. How is that possible after being the winner of this huge TV competition? Jay turned down the Banana Republic deal. Do you blame him? Well, according to Jay, it went something like this:

“A week after I won the show, I met with two ladies from Banana Republic at the top of the Soho House, which is like, big time,” he says. “And they were like, ‘Oh, we can give you numbers for factories to get your clothes produced.’ But that was totally not anything like what I needed. What I needed was someone to sit down with me and say, Here’s how you start a fashion label.

also..."After he won the first season of Project Runway, he discovered that the Weinstein Company would forever own a 10 percent stake in his brand—and he didn’t yet even have a brand—if he chose to take their $100,000 prize. He turned it down."

So, no, I don't blame him. All he knows is the design aspect. What good would it be to find a sweatshop to produce his clothing if he didn't have the know-how to market and get his stuff in the stores?

And what are his other choices if he can't run his own business? Pretty much put the designing aside and live up the reality fame by hosting parties and gigs where his name will bring people in. Sure that works for some people, but when he signed up to become "Americans Next Great Designer" he actually wanted to design.

“You get everything you’re promised from the show,” says Andrae Gonzalo (Season 2, Project Runway). “I am now a famous fashion designer. But that is so different from a successful fashion designer.”

Note - the New Yorker article is very long - but it takes an interesting deep look into the before (casting), during (taping) and after (the reality fame) of running a show on Bravo. Plus a little more about past contestants, hosts and executives of the network.

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Blogger Elad said...

It seems to me the Top Chef people are better off than the Project Runway people, because they get advertising for their restaurants through the show, whereas the Project Runway people are out-of-work designers looking for a break.

Still, if you can ride the fame of Project Runway to financial success, you can be VERY big, because so many people love the show. Jay's story is strange. I respect him for not giving in to the Big Scary Corporation, but if he's really broke, what's he been doing for the last four years??

August 06, 2007 4:48 PM  

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