More and more young people would rather seek reality TV fame than pass their exams. Recent research done by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) showed that one in 10 students would drop out of school just to be on TV. The message seems to be clear: appear on television and gain instant fame and fortune - it's that easy.
Big Brother was the first reality TV programme to push ordinary people into the limelight. Love it or loathe it; you can't hide from the show. Admittedly, I am a Big Brother addict, but when the show is over, it amazes me that some contestants manage to get jobs in high places without experience or qualification. Some of them even get the house, car and celebrity boy/girlfriend to go with it! It's no wonder that so many young people aspire to this glamorous, exciting life, especially when it seems to be handed out on a plate.
Earlier this year, Celebrity Big Brother winner Chantelle Houghton proved to the world that ordinary girls can make it big - and get their own Ordinary Boy. Before the show began, Chantelle was actually a part-time make-up sales assistant-cum-Paris Hilton lookalike. After her win, she was was given her own TV programme, Chantelle's Dream Dates and column in a magazine. Don't get me wrong, I was glad that she won, but I'm not convinced that it's right or fair that she got all of this without any presenting or journalism experience.
When ex-air steward Brian Dowling won the second series of Big Brother in 2001, he made it clear that he would love a job in presenting, despite having no experience as a television presenter. But like Chantelle, Brian bagged his dream job, presenting SM:TV Live and his own TV show, Brian's Boyfriends. He also narrated The Salon and even got a small part in a Footballer's Wives spin-off series. Again - is the message that no training is needed for acting anymore?
2002 winner Kate Lawler walked out of the house and straight into a job as a DJ on Capital FM, and TV presenter on the Channel 4 show RI:SE, even though her previous job was as an IT consultant. Kate also (briefly) got herself a footballer and was engaged to Real Madrid defender Jonathan Woodgate until 2003.
Next up: Jade Goody, who got especially lucky from appearing on BB. She only came fourth, but has done much better than winner Kate Lawler. I think that Jade is wicked, and has definitely become a professional in her own right: she now has her own beauty salon, "Ugly's", and is a professional beautician. But she probably wouldn't have been able to achieve or afford what she has without her success in Big Brother.
I don't believe that being in the public eye means that you should be given jobs that take regular people years to get qualifications in, and work very hard to get. I would say to any young wannabe Big Brother contestants not to overestimate the impact it will have on your life: sure, there are Chantelles and Jades out there - but we're now on the seventh Big Brother series and 70 stars have not emerged. Your chances of getting onto a reality show are very slim: the likelihood that you'll emerge a celebrity is even slimmer. You're more likely to win the lottery. So make sure you get your qualifications and good exam results first: that really will help get you into the job you want to do. If it's TV fame you're after, study drama or theatre studies, broadcast journalism or media. Once you have your degree, you can appear in as many reality programmes as you like... at least then you won't get bad-mouthed for it!
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