×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Boy and girls in the brand

Road to the Emmys 2012: Reality, Non-Fiction & Competition Nominees

Tim Gunn describes himself as a “pauper educator” before the Emmy-nominated “Project Runway” turned him into an internationally known celebrity.

“The whole thing is so surreal. It happened six months after I turned 50 and suddenly, I’m standing on the threshold of a whole new life,” Gunn says. “There’s not a single day I don’t pinch myself and say, Tim Gunn, you are the luckiest guy in the world.”

For bad or good, reality television has turned many a previous unknown to a famous figure. For people like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, family money provides a cushion against the risks of entrepreneurial ambition. But for many others — like “Top Chef’s” Michael Voltaggio, “The Real Housewives of New York City’s” Bethenny Frankel and “Survivor’s” Elisabeth Hasselbeck — hard work, talent and innovation have helped turn their reality TV experience into careers beyond the thrust of reality competition.

For “The Bachelor’s” Melissa Rycroft, her first foray into reality led to one of the most embarrassing moments of her life.

Rycroft got the proposal from designated “Bachelor” Jason Mesnick in the show’s 2009 season finale, only to be dumped for the first runner-up in the reunion show that followed.

Suddenly, Rycroft went from hopeful bride to jilted lover. Instead of retreating from the spotlight, she took that exposure and parlayed it into a successful career as a TV host, correspondent and author.

In addition, Rycroft has just been named to participate in the all-star edition of the Emmy-nominated “Dancing With the Stars.” She’s now happily married, starring with her husband on the CMT reality series “Melissa & Tye,” and recently published a book, “My Reality.”

“Tye and I play the ‘what-if’ game all the time,” Rycroft says. “Reality TV has 100% changed my life. ‘The Bachelor’ was a stepping-stone to ‘Dancing With the Stars’ and a career where I was able to do everything in life I wanted. But I don’t think anything these days is handed to anyone.”

She worked hard to see opportunity after her public humiliation, and made the difficult decision to step back on the hot plate as a “DWTS” replacement just one week later. That decision led to a variety of TV hosting gigs and work as a “Good Morning America” contributor.

“You can decide if you are going to take that opportunity and run with it or just walk away,” Rycroft says. “I chose to use it.”

Few folks have catapulted so completely from obscurity to ubiquity as the “Mythbusters” Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage. Their images are used on everything from science kits to bobble head dolls. They have been featured voices on “The Simpsons” and appeared in cameos on “CSI.” And they have been parodied everywhere, including being, in Savage’s words, “the repeated joke on ’30 Rock.’ ”

“It wasn’t like ‘Jersey Shore,’ where we became overnight sensations,” says Savage. “But we slowly became part of the cultural lexicon.”

Hyneman is doing projects for the military and medical fields based on what he’s learned doing the show. But the ultimate benefit, say the two, isn’t the career opportunities — which have been substantial — but the fact that they’ve been able to inspire students to go into math and science.

“I’ll take the benefit of bringing more interest in science in exchange for the freedom to hide in my machine shop all day,” Hyneman says.

For his part, Gunn was the chair of fashion design for Parsons The New School for Design when the “Project Runway” producers tapped him just to get the designers talking in the workroom. In the first season, he didn’t even think he would appear on camera.

For the initial few years, according to Gunn, he didn’t get paid to appear on the show because he just folded it into his Parsons duties. But he did start streaming into the public consciousness. His phrase “Make it work” quickly found its way into the pop culture vocabulary.

“For 29 years I was living paycheck to paycheck,” Gunn recalls. “When I started appearing on ‘Project Runway,’ I wasn’t going to ask and they weren’t about to offer money. Then I got an agent.”

In 2007, he joined Liz Claiborne as its chief creative officer. He’s appeared in movies “The Smurfs,” and “Sex and the City,” played himself on series from “Ugly Betty” to “How I Met Your Mother,” designed a Barbie line that just hit the shelves, and penned his fourth book, “Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible” on history fashion, being published in September.

” ‘Runway’ made them interested in publishing a fashion history book,” Gunn says of “Project Runway” opening doors. “And ‘Runway’ led me to leave education and go into the real world of fashion and re-calibrated my own thinking about fashion.”

Road to the Emmys 2012: Reality, Nonfiction & Competition Nominees
Boy and girls in the brand
And the nominees are:
Reality Program | Competition Program | Reality Host | Nonfiction Program | Nonfiction Series
>

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • David Zaslav

    Steven Spielberg's 'Why We Hate' Is More Timely Than Ever, David Zaslav Says

    The political state of the world today has made the upcoming docuseries “Why We Hate” relevant in a way that its producers, Steven Spielberg and Alex Gibney, hardly expected when they began developing the project five years ago, Discovery president and CEO David Zaslav said Thursday. “Things are much more of a challenge and hate [...]

  • Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith. Jada

    Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith's Westbrook Inks Development Pact With Telepool (EXCLUSIVE)

    Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith’s new media venture, Westbrook Inc., has signed a co-development agreement for feature films, television shows and digital entertainment formats with German-based film and TV company Telepool. The move follows the acquisition of Telepool last year by Smith and Elysian Fields, a Zurich-based investment company. Westbrook, launched this year by [...]

  • Shane Gillis SNL Controversy

    Shane Gillis Makes First Stand-Up Appearance Since 'SNL' Firing

    Comedian Shane Gillis made his first public appearance Wednesday night since he was hired by “Saturday Night Live,” then fired from the show days later amid controversy over his use of racist slurs. Appearing on stage at comedy club the Stand in New York City, Gillis performed an 11-minute set that pulled no punches when [...]

  • AMERICAN HORROR STORY: 1984 -- Pictured:

    'American Horror Story' Recap: Welcome to 'Camp Redwood'

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched the season premiere of “American Horror Story: 1984” entitled “Camp Redwood.” Welcome back to “American Horror Story,” which in its ninth season travels back in time to the 1970s and 1980s to play in the slasher genre. Only one episode into the season, it already [...]

  • Connie Britton BlogHer Summit

    Connie Britton on ‘Friday Night Lights’ Remake: ‘You Need to Let it Go’

    Connie Britton opened up at a fireside chat Wednesday at the #BlogHer19 Creators Summit in Brooklyn by talking about one of her most beloved roles — Tami Taylor in the fan favorite series “Friday Night Lights.” When asked if a remake of the sports cult film and Emmy-winning TV show is in the works she [...]

  • Bob IgerSimon Weisenthal Gala honoring Bob

    Bob Iger Would Have Combined Disney With Apple if Steve Jobs Were Still Alive

    Disney and Apple are both launching their own streaming services come November, but Disney CEO Bob Iger says the two companies weren’t always on competing paths. In an excerpt from his autobiography published Wednesday in “Vanity Fair,” Iger revealed that Disney and Apple likely would have merged if Steve Jobs hadn’t died in 2011. “I [...]

  • The Mentalist

    #NotWorthLess: 'I Was Great and Deserve to Be Paid the Same'

    Women writers, producers and assistants across Twitter turned the hashtag #NotWorthLess into a trend Wednesday, shining a light on issues of pay inequality in the entertainment business. Sparked by screenwriter Adele Lim’s recent decision to walk away from the “Crazy Rich Asians” sequel in protest of being paid less than her male co-writer, dozens of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content