The majority of people know that some reality tv shows aren't all that real. And just to prove it, these people who were on reality tv shows as young children/ teens dish all the behind-the-scenes secrets. And they didn't hold back!
Content has been edited for content purposes.
"When my sister was 13 she was invited onto a TV show in Hong Kong that followed kids/teens living a day in the life of a particular occupation. She was asked to work in a bakery.
On the day of the shoot, she was up and ready super early, but the crew arrived two hours late. They later edited this to look like my sister had slept in.
At the bakery, they specifically asked her to swap out sugar for salt, and knock over a stand of baked bread, all for the camera. In both instances, she questioned why they wanted her to do this and they said, 'It’s just for the camera.'
She was portrayed like a really incapable teenager, all for the drama, and from that day (I was 11) I knew never to believe what happens on reality shows."
"I was on the 'Long Island Medium' in 2013. Theresa came to my house to do a private reading, and it was voted on as one of the best readings of the season.
The problem was, she was full of it. The production crew was awesome folks, and not to mention I was borderline blacked out at three in the afternoon for the reading, but you wouldn’t be able to tell watching it. The episode was called 'Diving Right In', and she addressed my father's passing in 2010. She pulled on my heartstrings and I cried my eyes out. I’m 18 months sober now.
My mom actually found out that the producer of the show went to the same high school as me and my mom loved the show and emailed them, giving them my name and high school on Long Island.
I was a very prominent high school baseball player on the island, and if you googled my name at the time a bunch of stuff would come up, especially if you googled my name and high school specifically. Anyway, they were scheduled to arrive around 10:30 a.m. until they told me they’d be a little late. It turned into three or four more calls saying the whole crew got hung up, and they’d be there around three in the afternoon.
I was nervous already as it is, and them pushing it back did not help. So I got wasted.
The stuff Theresa hit on could have been googled fifteen minutes before she got to my house, and if you went on my Facebook, there was stuff about my dad everywhere, as people loved to talk about him, share pictures, swap stories, and reminisce.
The amount of stuff she got wrong compared to what she got right was about 85/15, although the editing would show my face at certain times after she said something that made it look like I reacted to what she said right then and there specifically.
As I said, I was borderline blacked out, but I wasn’t officially blacked out, and I remember the entire thing. If you’re just an innocent observer, the reading is honestly very touching and will probably get you to let out a tear, but it was mostly fabrication. They wanted me to do a follow-up episode about six months later, and they aggressively pursued me to be on 'Behind the Reading', which was to show any and all mental and emotional progress I’ve made since Theresa's visit."
"A girl I went to school with was on 'My Super Sweet Sixteen.' She was always quiet but well-liked and the kids on that show were usually monsters so we were curious about how the episode would paint her.
There was one scene where she was checking in on a vendor and they said something might not be finished in time for the party. She didn't have a meltdown or anything but she said something dramatic like, 'Oh no! That's going to ruin my whole birthday party!'
After the episode aired her friends who were with her said they did a couple of 'takes' because her first reaction was like, 'Oh, that sucks. Thanks for letting me know.'
The crew wasn't supposed to straight up say, 'Let's do another take' or anything, but the friend and family were encouraged to 'hype up' the birthday girl to get more reactions.
One of her friends said something like, 'Let's go talk to the owner and tell him we need this by the 10th' or something.
The girl said, 'Why? He knows his business is going to be on TV, I'm sure they're doing their best.'"
"I worked with two people who were on 'Teen Mom' (a grandmother and a granddaughter). The granddaughter was the teen mom, and they told me that the directors would intentionally set up stuff that would cause drama and then start filming.
For example, the directors had them go out to lunch and told the grandmother something she didn't know yet and filmed their argument for drama, knowing she would get upset that the granddaughter hadn't told her before (even though she was planning to). It was really dumb, unnecessary drama for TV. But apparently, the baby got tons of scholarships and support from the show which was why they did it in the first place, so they said it was worth it."
"I was on a dog training tv show when I was eight-ish. The idea was that the dog trainer came in and helped our family integrate our new puppy into our household, to give us training tips and advice.
The whole thing was basically bogus. The 'trainer' came to our house for maybe 30 minutes tops and gave us extremely basic advice. The producers also told us we had to get changed and pretend that he was visiting us three months later after he gave us the advice, and how it had made our life better. It was so dumb because our puppy was clearly the same age in the 'before' and 'three months after' shots and my family aren't actors, so our reactions were really fake.
One of the producers also made me say, 'I love you, [dog's name]!' while hugging him for about six takes.
It was a really small TV show in Canada that ran for maybe three seasons in the late '90s.
His advice, in the end, was good, just really basic. I remember him telling my parents that the kids needed to spend quality time with the dog to bond with him and to give us responsibilities like picking up his poop and taking him for walks. He also mentioned that the kids should spend five minutes a day petting the dog and talking to him.
In the end, it wasn't harmful advice, but it wasn't exactly groundbreaking either."
1. "I was on Wife Swap when I was 10 years old. My family had to switch with a farming family and we were supposed to be the ‘city family’ even though my family and I lived in the suburbs. There were plenty of quotes taken out of context as you’d expect. They also incited plenty of drama. I was framed as addicted to video games, so they took my Xbox and Gameboy color for the week. A few days in, one of the crew members came in with my Gameboy and said, 'Look I found this,' and handed it to me. It shouldn’t be surprising that they sent the woman staying in our house into my room to ‘catch me in the act.’
To be honest not much has really changed in my life except getting snap chats of my 10-year-old face when my friends catch the reruns. For anyone who was curious about how much money the show gave us. The initial amount was 20k bucks, but after taxes, it came to around 15k bucks as others had expected."
2. "My uncle and his family were on an episode of 'Wife Swap', while we were invited over for a family holiday dinner (we had thanksgiving at their house each year anyways). It was a very weird experience, we signed our souls away in papers before being cued to enter their house (I was in about one second of the episode, walking in their doorway). They then had the adults in the dining room for some very staged dinner shots, while the kids just sat quietly in the living room bored out of our minds for hours.
Uncle hated the experience as they coercively coached them towards certain behavior, and made my sweet little cousin out to be as if she was a demanding spoiled brat, which she was very much not, but they’d give her lines to yell at her mom and stage arguments between them and whatnot. Weird stuff and about as far from reality as it could be."
3. "Back in 2005, my parents re-did my sister’s room to look like a horse’s stable - we lived on a few acres and had two horses so she was ‘horse girl’. My mom sent photos to a Home and Crafts magazine and ended up getting into a special edition about cool kids’ rooms.
A few weeks later we got a call from ABC wanting us to be on 'Wife Swap.' We weren’t super serious about being on the show, but they offered us 50k so we at least heard them out.
They interviewed my mom and dad over the phone, who got the sense that they had taken us for a super redneck family and we were hoping to swap us with a city family or something along those lines. In reality, we’re a pretty normal group. My dad is a pharmacist, my mom drove a Lexus at the time and would probably have loved a few weeks of city life.
They interviewed my sister as well - I never talked to them. I was sick when my family did the initial photo shoot for the magazine and the 'Wife Swap' folks weren’t too interested in me.
All in all, we could tell they were just looking for extreme people from different walks of life to churn as much drama as possible. They didn’t find that with my mom and we didn’t make the ‘cut’. Pretty glad we didn’t end up going through with it!"
"My friend in middle school was on an episode of 'Super Nanny.' He told me that everything was already planned out and staged. At the end of the day, he got to meet his NBA idol Dwayne Wade. The next day of school, he came in wearing Wade branded clothes and shoes Wade had given him. I also knew my friend was not truly being himself in the episode, he was usually a pretty quiet, shy, respectable kid. At the end of the episode, I remember them showing him beating Wade in a one-on-one basketball game. If that isn’t scripted, then I don’t know what is.
As far as I’m concerned, nothing really changed for his family."
"About a thousand years ago, Fox had a reality series called 'American Gladiator,' which was a little bit similar to those ninja warrior obstacle course shows. Anyway, being a lowly Public Relations intern, I was sent to the convention center in (major Midwestern city) because 'American Gladiator' was holding auditions and they needed bodies to help. So there were basically a bunch of different fitness tests and people who scored above a certain cut point got sent long even further in the process.
I saw some pretty well-trained athletes coming through there. There was this one guy though who had dressed for the part but was not remotely athletic. But he had this 'Sammy Hagar' surfer fitness look about him. He ran his set for me—a fellow intern and I were basically timing 50-yard dashes.
I spotted one of the producers watching the lines of people waiting to run their dash and they spotted this 'Sammy Hagar' lookalike.
The producer pulled me aside and said, 'Hey, you see that guy who looks a little like Sammy Hagar? Whatever he scored, send him through.'
He ran with a guy who was super in shape and missed the cut score by like one second. Sammy Hagar was a good three to four seconds behind and everyone on lone lost their minds when they saw me reject the actual athlete and send along the guy who would look good on TV.
I have never trusted a reality show since then. That was about 1990/91. They’ve always been phony."
1. "There used to be a 'home makeover' show that had five different designers that would get their own episode on a rotational basis, and my mom was one of them.
For one of her episodes, she actually did a makeover of our own house as she was selling it. She made my brother and I stay with her for the week of filming (parents are divorced), which I thought was weird, but whatever. She roped my teen brother into making some art for the show, so he got his little bit of fame, and I just hid in my room the whole week.
I remember I thought I had caught my mom alone, and we had a conversation where I expressed how uncomfortable I felt with people in our home, and why did I have to stay that week at her house, as there was no 'arrangement' ever on which house my brother and I stayed. Anyways, some camera guy snuck up on us and filmed the whole thing (without me knowing), and then asked me if I could repeat myself, but be more 'mad' at my mom. I felt so violated.
Also the fact there were four mid-20-year-olds hanging out right outside my bedroom the whole week (I was 16/17). That was just so creepy now that I think about it years later."
2. "My family was on a family version of 'Trading Spaces' on TLC when I was a kid. I was too young to actually be on the show but I got to be behind the scenes and obviously saw the results. The cast was really cool and nice, really down-to-earth and upbeat. Things weren’t necessarily staged but obviously, there were certain tasks they were given to complete (putting together furniture and whatnot) and I think they prompted my family to play up their reactions to the final product. The room we got remodeled ended up pretty ugly and dysfunctional, but the experience was pretty fun altogether and made us closer with our neighbors."
3. "A neighbor down my street was on 'Extreme Makeover: Home Edition' when I was a kid. It was pretty cool to see all the buses driving by our house. My girlfriend (now wife) and I walked down to check things out a couple of days out of the week when they were there. It was really interesting to see what went on behind the scenes. The well-known 'Move that bus!' scene took several takes. I wasn’t close to this neighbor's family but a friend of mine who was best friends with one of the daughters and was able to meet all the cast at a meet and greet at our local Applebee. They said that Ty was a complete prick. And most of the other cast members (designers) weren’t far behind him in the prick department. But yeah, I’m sure it comes as no surprise that that show was very staged. The very real part of it however was that they actually built the house in a week. But yeah, a bunch of the scenes that seem very genuine was shot in many many takes."
"My family was the focus of a reality special/documentary because at the time we had the most documented autistic kids in one family (Our record was six but I don't know if it has been topped by now). It mostly showed scenes of our family out of context, or with a different interpretation of what was actually happening. There was one scene of our whole family out to dinner, and the camera focused on me sobbing at the table with a dramatic narration going something like 'This girl can't control her autism' but I wasn't having a random meltdown. I was sobbing because my severely autistic non-verbal little brother wouldn't sit still and I just wanted us to be able to eat and get the shot. It didn't help that we were the center of attention with the whole place gawking at my hyperactive siblings and our big camera crew. I had a lot of meltdowns as a kid, but it didn't sit right with me that the narration chalked it up to a random autistic outburst instead of considering why I was so upset. Plus there was footage of an eight-year-old me pathetically crying somewhere out there so that was nice to think about.
Through the years, we were in talks to do a '10 years later' special, but by then my parents were divorced, my severely autistic siblings were in foster care due to my mom giving them up, and we were no longer a 'good' family to show on TV. Maybe someday I'll get to come forward publicly about the truth."
1. "When I was in high school in 2010, MTV's 'Made' came and did an episode. The kid they picked was just some random guy that no one really knew, but the episode made it seem like he was the weirdest, most hated kid in school. They made him into a rapper and he performed at a talent show. I was there and he didn’t even place, but on the episode, he 'won first' and was made to be the hero of the school. There was also this one part where it looked like a kid was walking through the hall saying 'You suck!!' to the 'Made' guy. In reality, he was yelling, 'Hey!' to someone else. After the episode, everyone forgot about it and the kid didn’t do anything with his new 'talent' for rapping."
2. "MTV's 'Made' went to my high school the year after I graduated and made two episodes. One was about a girl who I hadn’t met and the other was about an awkward guy who I knew really well because he was really good friends with my sister. His whole storyline was about how he’d never even been on a date before when he’d actually dated my sister for two years before filming, and she was pretty crushed by it. All the end goals that they made seem like a huge momentous deal were actually super casual school events that anyone could sign up for. Also, all the special industry guests the celebrity mentor brought in were just townies that happened to own some small business in the area that was semi-related to the goal."
3. "My absolute best friend was framed as the villainous older sister on an episode of 'Made.' The sisters have an amazing relationship but it didn't make for good drama. Mary always looked up to Lauren and being 16 and 19, of course, you think your sister is cooler and prettier.
They totally filmed my friend saying things like, 'You'll never be as pretty as me' for the drama.
I was at the mall with them about five years later and my friend was still getting serious shade from Forever 21 associates who recognized them. Also, she wanted to be 'Made' into a track athlete and they told her that it was too believable that she could be a track star, so they told her she could be a cheerleader. She was six feet tall, maybe 115 pounds at the time. It was brutal."
"When I was 14 in the United Kingdom, I was walking the high street of the city I lived in and a woman approached me and my friends.
She was from Channel Four or something and she asked me, 'Do you want to be on TV?'
I said, 'Not really.'
Then she proceeded to say I'd get 1000 (pounds) if I participated in a program called 'World's Strictest Parents. I wasn't doing anything bad at the time, just shopping with friends.
She went on to ask me and my friends, 'What's the worst thing you 'could' do at school? Would you throw a chair in the class or smoke a cig in the school bathroom for 1000 (pounds)?'
She kept pestering us about whether our parents would let us cause a 'small' amount of trouble at school for payment. One girl from my school must have later been approached by them as I saw her on the program a couple of years later acting like some crazy rebel teenager for the reels which was stupid as I never saw her acting like that in school before. It actually went on to shape her life pretty bad as a quick google of her name brought up all these cringe-worthy clips of her pretending to take illegal substances and shouting abuse at people. And based on her social media, it seemed to be a narrative that she took hold of and ran with after the show."
"My sister was adopted by my family when we lived in a Central American Country. We started fostering her when she was two weeks old, the only family she had ever known. The United States didn't recognize the adoption right away, so we had to jump through all kinds of hoops to get her a visa to visit. My aunt went to the newspaper, basically to tip them to the two senators from our state who had the information but didn't do much. The newspaper story became a television story.
Flash forward a few weeks, right before Christmas, we got word that the visa had been approved and my parents could pick her up on Christmas eve. Yay!
Television reporters came to film our 'reaction' shots to the news that my sister was finally going to be able to come home. I think we did four to six takes of my mom hanging up the phone with the news and hollering for me and my brothers to come downstairs to hear the news. We already KNEW the news when the cameras showed up, but they wanted to get reaction takes anyway."