What I Learned From Being Filmed on a Reality TV Show

Are reality tv shows real? I was on a reality show in college.  Here’s what I learned from being filmed on a reality tv show.

Reality shows often star flashy housewives, and people living large.

Thrift, resourcefulness, and hard work ran in my blood. As a teenager I was a soccer referee on the weekends, a babysitter, and waited tables. Working hard doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time. At age 16 I saved up enough cash to pay for a three week trip to Europe.

Plus, being frugal didn’t mean I had bad style. It just meant that instead of spending $200 on a homecoming dress that I would only wear once, I found one equally as nice, but on clearance for only $20.

Here’s how I ended up being filmed on a reality tv show.

 The summer before I started college at age 18 I drove halfway across the country for an internship. It was direct sales. As in face-to-face….err… pretty much door-to-door. The gig was 100% commission based so that only reinforced the connection I had between work and money. If I didn’t work, I didn’t get money.

I worked over 80 hours a week hitting the pavement in 100 degree weather.  

My first summer my sales were so- so.

The next summer my sales improved.

Then it clicked.

My third summer selling, I was a top sales rep in the entire company. My sales grew and so did the company. The company was an Inc. 500 company, meaning it was one of the 500 fastest growing companies in the nation.

Or as Drake says, started from the bottom now we’re here.

The company started filming a reality show called “The Prodigy: Opportunity Knocks,” to showcase the inside life of door-to-door sales reps.  Since I was a top sales rep, I was on the show.

Here I am with the host of the show, Matt Gallant who was previously the host of Animal Planets, The Planets Funniest Animals.

What I Learned From Being Filmed on a Reality TV Show

I was on top of the world.

The company offered me a car bonus to pay $500 a month towards a car. I did what a lot of people do right when they start making money. Instead of paying off student loans I had, I bought a car.  Not just any car, a brand new Mercedes Benz. The frugality that I had went out of the door.

I deserved this, right?! I did work hard. I had a down payment and then took out a loan in my name to pay $560 a month for 60 months. The company provided most of the money each month for the car.

What could possibly go wrong?

That was in 2007.

Just months later the company went bankrupt.

I realized very quickly, that I didn’t want to just look rich and have fancy things. I wanted to actually build my future.  I was studying Finance on campus and then read anything I could get my hand on about money. I realized that what happened to me, happened to most of America.

People go from having no money and debt, to then making money, and then just taking out more debt.

Oh yes in case you are wondering, are reality shows real?

No. NOT AT ALL. What I learned from being filmed on a reality tv show is that most everything is staged.

The camera crew and director often stopped what was going on and re-filmed segments. Plus if you think about it, how can they film scenes from multiple angles without showing other the other cameras?

They can’t.

I learned that most scenes, especially at the end where they announce the winners, are filmed at least two to three times in reality tv shows. They have to refilm on reality tv shows to show contestants from multiple viewpoints without seeing other cameras.

And it became clear very quickly who the producers wanted to win the show.

We are bombarded with images from “reality” shows and reality shows are not real.

Reality shows portray financial independence and wealth by showing assets, like mansions and luxury cars.

But that is only one part of the picture.  What you see though isn’t what you get.

What are their liabilities?  What do they owe on those items?  Often it ain’t pretty.  In Touch magazine reported nearly a dozen of Real Housewives are bankrupt or are in financial distress.

So the moral of the story and what I learned from being filmed on a reality tv show is that true financial independence is not based on appearances.

Unfortunately it took me starring on a reality t.v. show that never aired to go back to my modest ways.

Love Carly

epic guide to managing money

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