Exposed: The (Really) Scary Truth Behind Reality TV Contracts

Valeria Nekhim

real housewives of new jersey season 5 gallery episode 515 11 Exposed: The (Really) Scary Truth Behind Reality TV Contracts

While it’s no secret that reality TV stars will go to great lengths in the name of fame, a new report claims they get stripped of virtually all their legal rights in the process.

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Judging by an unsigned contract for “Real Housewives of New Jersey” obtained exclusively by, the stars of the hit Bravo show have to agree to 17 stringent terms that take the “real” out of reality TV.

Prior to shooting, the unpaid participants must consent via an “appearance release form”that the show’s producers can spin any story line as they see fit.

By signing the thorough contract, participants essentially acknowledge the production company isn’t legally to blame if they’re injured, defamed, or have “personal, private, surprising, disparaging and embarrassing” details of their life aired. And here’s the kicker—it makes no difference whether those details are lies.

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And not only do The Housewives essentially sign away their lives for the duration of the show, but the eerie terms prevent them from ever talking about the show and what happens behind-the-scenes. It also states that footage of them may be “exploited throughout the universe at any time, in perpetuity … without any compensation to me whatsoever.” Yikes!

To top it off, the contract bans participants from filing a lawsuit, and forces them to pay a $50,000 fine if they violate any of the deal’s terms and conditions. Essentially, the production company is the puppet master and the show’s stars marionettes, except these are real people we’re talking about, who, as the contract explicity states , “acknowledge and agree that a significant element of the consideration I am receiving… is the opportunity for publicity.”

While it’s certainly hard to feel bad for former ‘Real Housewives Of New York’ star Bethenny Frankel, whose reality TV beginnings spurred a million-dollar cocktail empire and a daytime talk show, not every woman featured on Bravo has such a success story. So, we have to ask: Do you think we should we feel bad for the ladies who—in exchange for being featured on television— give up their legal rights, including the right to have final say over their outfits and makeup, or are they doing it to themselves? Weigh in below!

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