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Top 10 Reality TV Show Scandals

VO: Lisa Yang
You can’t possibly expect reality TV to run without any scandals do you? Even the most wholesome shows like TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting have been hit with their fair share of controversy, most notably, Josh Dugger’s sex scandals, Paula Deen’s racist scandal, The infamous Toddlers and Tiara’s pretty woman costume and Kim’s split from Kris Humphries.

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Top 10 Reality TV Show Scandals

As the saying goes, reality bites. Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Reality TV Show Scandals.

For this list, we’re looking at the most outrageous reality TV scandals that happened on and off-screen.

#10: The Pretty Woman Costume
“Toddlers and Tiaras” (2009-16)

In season 4 of this often-criticized TLC series, 3-year-old Paisley was dressed as Julia Roberts’ character, Vivian Ward, from Pretty Woman. Even in an industry frequently accused of sexualizing young girls, this was controversial, prompting other pageant moms to accuse Paisley’s mother, Wendy Dickey, of going too far. In her defense, Dickey stated that she thought it would be funny rather than provocative. Despite the backlash, this pageant princess, now a preteen, has moved on to small roles in TV and movies. In a series rife with controversy, this remains one of the most talked about moments.

#9: Kim and Kris’ Marriage & Split
“Keeping Up with the Kardashians” (2007-)

All eyes were on this Kardashian sister when she married basketball player Kris Humphries on August 20, 2011. Only 72 days later, Kim caused a whole new media frenzy when she filed for divorce. What followed was a high profile split perfect for the tabloids, with Humphries asking for an annulment on the basis of fraud rather than a divorce. Some news outlets even accused Kardashian of using the marriage as a publicity stunt. After a long and public legal battle, Kim and Kris finalized their divorce in June 2013. With Kanye West as hubby number 3 however, Kim’s quickie marriage is a distant memory.

#8: Rozlyn’s Affair with a Crewmember
“The Bachelor” (2002-)

This dating show has seen more than its fair share of controversial contestants, but none quite like Rozlyn Papa. The single mom appeared on bachelor Jake Pavelka’s season, and was thought to be a front-runner. But only two episodes in, host Chris Harrison sent her packing. The reason? She allegedly had an off-camera affair with a crewmember. The staffer was fired, and while Rozlyn tried to reason with Harrison, the host simply wasn’t having it. Even though the other women reported seeing inappropriate behavior, Rozlyn still denies they were anything more than friends. But as we all know, there’s his side, her side, and the truth.

#7: Jon and Kate’s Divorce
“Jon and Kate Plus 8” (2007-09)

With twins and sextuplets, the Gosselins were reality royalty. But in 2009, their show and picture-perfect family fell apart. Kate filed for divorce after ten years of marriage, launching a bitter custody battle that continues today. Rumors of Jon cheating circulated, but were never confirmed. As of early 2017, Jon continues to seek joint custody to replace his current limited visitation rights. While Jon has kept a low relatively profile in recent years, Kate and the kids are still on TV. Clearly, the divorce hasn’t been easy, especially on the children. Only time will tell if this famous family ever makes amends.

#6: Paula Deen’s Racism Scandal
“Paula’s Home Cooking” (2002-12)

Her Southern charm and hearty cooking gave her millions of viewers, but she also made headlines for less wholesome reasons. In 2013, Paula Deen was involved in a lawsuit with a former employee. In her deposition, Deen admitted to using the N-word from time to time, and allegedly discussed throwing a plantation-style wedding for her brother, with black male servers. This understandably didn’t sit well with the Food Network and some of her sponsors, who soon dropped her. Deen has since made a modest comeback, appearing on Dancing with the Stars and a new show called Positively Paula, but her brand, unsurprisingly, took a major hit.

#5: Teresa & Joe Go to Jail
“The Real Housewives of New Jersey” (2009-)

The Real Housewives franchise is all about the drama – just ask Kenya and Porsha. While Porsha was arrested and released for assault, Jersey housewife Teresa Giudice wasn’t so lucky. In March 2014, Teresa and her husband Joe pleaded guilty to multiple fraud charges. That October, Teresa was sentenced to 15 months in jail, while Joe was sentenced to 41 months. After eleven months in prison, Teresa was released in December 2015. As of 2017, Joe is still behind bars, but is scheduled for release in 2019. As this reality couple proves, all that glitters is not gold.

#4: The “Turkey Slap” Incident
“Big Brother Australia” (2001-08; 2012-14)

This reality franchise has no shortage of bad apples. In Big Brother 15, Aaryn Gries and other contestants faced backlash over their bigoted comments. But the show’s Australian version saw arguably the biggest scandal in franchise history. During a live-streamed episode of Season 6, Michael Cox allegedly rubbed his penis in Camilla Halliwell’s face while Michael Brie held her down. Both men were booted from the house, while Camilla went on to place runner-up. Australian Prime Minister John Howard was so upset by the incident that he called (unsuccessfully) for the show’s cancellation. Clearly, what happened in the Big Brother House didn’t stay there.

#3: The Murder of Jasmine Fiore
“Megan Wants a Millionaire” (2009)

Real estate investor Ryan Jenkins reportedly placed third on this dating show, but only three episodes aired. The day before VH1 pulled the plug, Jenkins was charged with the murder of his wife, Jasmine Fiore. The model’s badly beaten body was found in a suitcase. Because Jasmine’s teeth and fingers were missing, she could only be identified by the serial number on her breast implants. Jenkins however, never lived to stand trial On August 23, 2009, he was found dead of an apparent suicide in a Canadian hotel - a tragic end to an all too real and horrific story.

#2: Mama June’s New Boyfriend
“Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo” (2012-14)

Not so long ago, Honey Boo-Boo and her family were TLC staples. All that came to an end in 2014 however, when Mama June reportedly started dating Mark McDaniel. McDaniel is a convicted child molester and registered sex offender. Even worse, it came to light that one of his victims was Honey Boo-Boo’s older sister, Anna. Unsurprisingly, TLC axed the series. While no longer working with TLC, Mama June continues to live as a reality star, with her series, Mama June: From Not to Hot airing on We TV, an AMC Networks channel. As of 2017, Anna is estranged from both her mother and sisters.

Before we get to our #1 reality TV scandal, here are a few honorable mentions:

Amber Portwood Goes to Jail and Rehab
“Teen Mom” (2009-12; 2005-)

Dog Uses the N-word
“Dog the Bounty Hunter” (2004-12)

Tarek & Christina’s Messy Divorce
“Flip or Flop” (2013-)

#1: Josh Duggar’s Sex Scandals
“19 Kids and Counting” (2008-15)

Some things are simply too real, even for the controversy-loving world of reality TV. On the outside, Josh Duggar was a devoted husband and father. Then it was revealed that he had molested five underage girls, including his own sisters, during his teens. He was later implicated in the Ashley Madison scandal in August 2015, revealing that he’d been a member of the dating site, aimed at married men and women looking to have an affair, from 2013 through 2015. Josh has since gone to rehab for his sex addiction and has reconciled with his wife Anna. Here’s hoping that’s all the skeletons his closet has to offer.

Do you agree with our list? Can you name any other major reality TV controversies? For more scandalous top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to MsMojo.


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