Reality stars seemed to explode in popularity in the early 2000s. Shows like The Bachelor and Jersey Shore became nearly inescapable, taking over our televisions and ruling the tabloid headlines.

Unfortunately—or fortunately, depending on your point of view—reality stars don’t stay famous forever. At some point, the “reality” part of the equation kicks in, and the public turns its attention elsewhere.

We looked at some of the biggest names in reality TV from the past few decades, then asked the obvious question: What happened to them when the cameras stopped rolling?  

1. Honey Boo-Boo (And The Rest of Her Clan)

Why were they famous? 

If you missed the early 2010s, Honey Boo Boo was a spaghetti-slurping child beauty pageant star, and for a few years, she was incredibly (and inexplicably) popular. She debuted on TLC’s controversial reality series Toddlers & Tiaras, a show about child beauty pageants that, for some reason, exists.

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By 2012, Honey Boo Boo—whose real name is Alana Thompson—had her own series, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. Critics said that the show exploited the young Alana, promoted unhealthy eating habits, and furthered offensive stereotypes of rural people. Viewers didn’t seem to care; at the show’s peak, one 2013 episode drew 3.2 million viewers, breaking ratings records and drawing massive audiences to TLC. 

Alas, that show was canceled after reports surfaced that Alana’s mother, June, was dating a convicted child abuser. June denied the relationship, but TLC stood firm on the cancellation. 

What happened next?   

For a while, things seemed to be going well for the Thompson clan. In 2017, they returned to the air on WEtv’s Mama June: From Not to Hot, another reality show centered on June’s attempts to restart her romantic life after losing a significant amount of weight.

This year, things haven’t gone so well for the Thompson clan’s outspoken matriarch. In March 2019, Mama June was arrested on drug-related charges when police responded to a domestic incident involving her boyfriend, Geno Doak. For the last few months, the now-13-year-old Alana has been reportedly living with her big sister Lauryn (nicknamed Pumpkin). 


“Hey guys, as you know, you’ve seen the stuff out in the media and our family is going through a rough patch,” Lauryn said in a statement aired before an episode of Mama June.

“But this year alone we have had a lot of happiness. And when my mom and Alana were out in California and everything seemed good. Then the next couple months rolled around and things took a turn. We’re sharing our story in hopes that it helps another family and I sincerely want to thank our fans for always being there and loving and supporting us.”

At this point, WEtv hasn’t canceled Mama June, and, per a report in International Business Times, Alana and Lauryn are teasing a new reality show. If you’re a fan of the Thompson clan, you’ll probably be able to find them in some form for the foreseeable future. If you’re not a fan…well, they’re not going anywhere for the foreseeable future. 

2. Natalie Suleman (Octomom)

Why were they famous?

In 2009, Suleman gave birth to octuplets. She was only the second mother in the United States to accomplish the feat, and she became famous overnight, appearing on various talk shows and documentaries. She was suddenly a household name—which was a mixed blessing. At the time, the 34-year-old Suleman was living on public assistance, and she had six other young children. 

As the story grew, the Medical Board of California revoked the license of the physician who gave Suleman IVF treatments. Suleman also gave a bizarre interview to In Touch Weekly, saying that she “hate[s] babies, they disgust me,” and expressing regret for her pregnancies.


Tabloids published stories criticizing Suleman, characterizing her as mentally ill and negligent. In 2013, she checked into rehab to treat an addiction to prescription medications. Around that time, she retreated from the public spotlight.

“I was pretending to be a fake, a caricature, which is something I’m not, and I was doing it out of desperation and scarcity so I could provide for my family,” she told The New York Times in 2018. “I’ve been hiding from the real world all my life.”

What happened next?

Now 44, Suleman maintains a mostly low profile. She lives in a three-bedroom townhouse in Orange County with her 14 children, and she’s focused on maintaining a healthy lifestyle—which means refusing book deals, tabloid interviews, and the high-profile public appearances she’d embraced in the early 2010s.  

“I have PTSD from all the reporters coming in over the years,” she told The New York Times. “I would take whatever I could back in the days, and I would let them in. I was spiraling down a dark hole. There were no healthy opportunities for Octomom. I was doing what I was told to do and saying what I was told to say. When you’re pretending to be something you’re not, at least for me, you end up falling on your face.”

Suleman gave several interviews in 2019 when the octuplets celebrated their 10th birthday, but she says she’s entirely focused on raising her kids.

“It was very irresponsible and reckless to try to have another [child] when I was struggling taking care of six,” she told 7News in Australia in June 2019. “… I made these poor decisions. I don’t regret my children, any of them. I don’t know what I’d do without any of my fourteen kids. But I was so desperate, and so I sold out my character.”

3. Nicole Polizzi (Snooki)

Why were they famous?

From the day it first aired in 2009, Jersey Shore was a bonafide cultural phenomenon. The MTV reality series followed eight New Jersey residents as they spent their summer at a beach house in Seaside Heights.

Of course, critics hated every second of the show, describing it as lowbrow, superficial, and possibly racist—but, again, audiences didn’t really care about those criticisms. The first season’s finale drew 4.83 million viewers, and fans kept showing up in big numbers for the series’ six seasons.

The breakout star was Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, an aspiring veterinary tech with a filthy mouth and a penchant for getting into fights. By the time Jersey Shore wrapped, Polizzi had become something of a cultural icon, and we say “something of” because we don’t really know what to make of her. Did people like watching Snooki because they actually liked her, or were they hate-watching her? Does that even matter? It was a strange time.

What happened next?

Polizzi’s still in the public eye. In fact, she never really left it: When Jersey Shore ended in 2012, she starred in the spinoff Snooki & Jwoww. She also appeared on Dancing with the Stars in 2013 and The New Celebrity Apprentice in 2017

“If [Jersey Shore fans] didn’t support us, we wouldn’t still be on the air, we wouldn’t have these opportunities,” Polizzi told USA Today in 2019. “Thank God our fans still love us and … they’re growing with us. They’re the best.”

Currently, she hosts How Far is Tattoo Far?, and she’s one of the stars of Jersey Shore: Family Vacation, a reality series that—well, it’s right in the name. It basically revisits the Jersey Shore stars as they raise their families.


On that note, Polizzi is now the proud mother of three children. She’s married to Jionni LaValle, and as she explained to Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest, they’re done expanding their family.

“I always wanted four and I always thought I’m gonna have four kids, but after I pushed [youngest child Angelo] out, I’m like, ‘I am done,’” she recalled. “And I just got out of my diapers. I wore those diapers for a while.” 

Snooki certainly has a way with words. In any case, she seems happy in front of the camera, and although she’s clearly focusing on her role as a mother, she’s still the same Snooki we fell in love with (or, uh, something).

4. Alex Michel

Why were they famous?

Michel was the star of the 2002 premiere season of The Bachelor. At the time, the show’s premise was groundbreaking: A group of women compete for the affections of a handsome bachelor—Michel, in this case. At the end of each episode, the bachelor would distribute roses, and the contestant who doesn’t receive a rose would leave the show.

In the final episode of the first season, Michel chose contestant Amanda Marsh as the winner. He didn’t propose to her, but they started a relationship, which ended several months later. Unlike many of the other stars of The Bachelor, Michel left the limelight almost immediately.

What happened next?

Michel briefly became a spokesperson for dating site Match.com, and according to E! News, he’s currently an executive at a media and technology company. He doesn’t seem to take interviews about his high-profile foray into reality television (or, if that’s not the case, nobody’s asking him for interviews).

“[The Bachelor] was a little overwhelming,” Alex Michel told PEOPLE in 2002. “It was like the most elaborate, well-financed dating service of all time.”  

According to The Bachelor host Chris Harrison, Michel was a “normal guy who agreed to jump into the unknown.” 

“He was brave to take it on,” Harrison told People.

5. Kate & Jon Gosselin

Why were they famous?

Jon and Kate Gosselin starred on TLC’s Jon & Kate Plus 8 with their eight children—a set of twins and a set of sextuplets. Viewers watched as they dealt with the struggles that inevitably crop up when you’re raising a small army.

Discovery Health featured the family in an initial special and aired the first two seasons of their show, but in 2008, TLC catapulted the Gosselins into pop culture relevance. The family seemed to revel in their fame, but Jon became somewhat withdrawn. He later claimed that the show’s production put a huge amount of stress on every aspect of his life.

“It is hard being on this side of the camera, and not just sitting here, that’s the easy part, but just going out in the world and trying to live your life,” he told E! News in May 2009. “People see your life as episodes, and you see it as a date on the calendar. We don’t have privacy at all. If I go out, people know I go out and photograph it and do everything they gotta do…That’s tough for me. I can’t be Jon, I have to be Jon and Kate Plus 8, which is a real hard thing for me. I still haven’t come to grips with it.”

Kate claimed that Jon changed overnight and that he began making “erratic purchases” with the money they’d earned from their series. In 2009, the couple filed for divorce. That led to a lengthy—and very public—legal battle.  

What happened next?

Jon and Kate Plus 8 kept airing under a new name, Kate Plus 8, until 2017. Under the terms of their divorce and subsequent custody battles, two of the kids live with Jon and six live primarily with Kate. This year, the 18-year-old twins, Mady and Cara, will head off to college.

Meanwhile, the couple kept trading barbs in the tabloids. On a 2017 episode of The Dr. Oz Show, Kate shamed her ex-husband for not being in his kids’ lives.

“They want a dad who’s there for them,” she said. “If I’m gonna be really honest, there was kind of the old Jon and the new Jon and none of us can quite understand, like, what happened there. So we struggled together. I mean, they coined it years ago—‘old daddy’ and ‘new daddy.’ That’s understandable, but, like, hard to kind of digest for all of us.”

For his part, Jon criticized Kate for keeping the kids from seeing him. In a 2016 interview, he said he hadn’t seen his son Collin in a year and a half.

“I can’t do anything,” he said. “It’s unfair of [Kate] to do that, considering she claims that she does her best for all my kids. Dah, dah, dah, drama. ‘I’m perfect.’ No one’s perfect, honey. Trust me.”