A former America’s Next Top Model star has laid bare the brutal reality of life as a reality star – claiming that she didn’t earn a single cent for her time on supermodel Tyra Banks’ hit talent series.
Brittany Brower, 41, opened up about her own experiences on season four of the reality series, which saw budding models going head to head in the hopes of securing a modeling contract, while calling on her fellow reality starts to unionize amid the ongoing SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes.
Her comments echo those made by Real Housewives of New York star Bethenny Frankel, who has called for a ‘reality TV reckoning’ and argued that stars should receive residuals for the shows they appear in.
Branding reality stars the ‘mules’ of the entertainment industry, Bethenny also argued that it’s high time that they are no longer exploited by networks and streamers.
Now, speaking exclusively to DailyMail.com, Brittany has lent her voice to Bethenny’s rallying cry – while opening up about the ways that she believes she was exploited by the reality TV industry.
Brittany also exposed the bleak aftermath following her stint on the program, divulging that she struggled to find work and that she still faces issues to this day because of her appearance on the show.
Taking a stand: Brittany Brower, 41, wants reality stars past and present to be given residuals
Supportive of strike action: Brittany has made her feelings known after Real Housewives of New York City alum Bethenny Frankel called for a union for reality stars
As a result, she is seeking for changes to be made within the industry to better protect reality stars, including residuals for past, present, and future talent.
‘I would like to be retroactively paid for these networks using my image all over these streaming services,’ Brittany told DailyMail.com.
‘People are constantly sending me emails saying they’re watching my season. I’m like great, I’m so glad the show still has a following and its still making money, but I get absolutely nothing from it. It’s just such bullsh*t.
‘We do all these things, we put our lives and reputation on the line and then they don’t give you anything. The fact they’re still showing my stuff… We’re putting ourselves on the line and we’re the ones getting attacked, and for what cost?
‘Yes, we signed up for it, I just want to be compensated for it.’
Referring to the first time she appeared on Top Model, before returning for All Stars in 2011, Brittany revealed: ‘We were not paid. We were paid zero.
‘We received a per diem for our groceries which was just a few hundred dollars, but when we went to a restaurant, we had to pick up the bill.’
For her appearance in All Stars, Brittany did make it clear that she received $1,000 per episode to go towards bills.
Although she admitted that she was in a better position than some of her fellow contestants as she was living with her parents before filming and didn’t have to pay rent while filming, she recognized that some of her co-stars struggled.
‘I was fortunate that my parents helped me out. Other people didn’t. One of our girls had a child, an actual kid she left for a few months in hope to make a better future for her child.
‘You think about the people who are moms and dads and they’re doing these things, humiliating themselves and just hoping that it’s going to lead to something different and at least make some money off it.’
Throwback: Brittany competed in Cycle Four of America’s Next Top Model in 2005 and finished in fourth place
Bleak beginnings: The model struggled to make ends meets after first appearing on the show and receiving no pay
Better rights: Brittany wants fair pay for reality stars and hopes that bigger named stars will join the fight
After appearing on Top Model, Brittany moved to LA in the hope of finding work, but she was still struggling to make ends meet despite her exposure.
‘I was gunning for a career afterward,’ she recalled. ‘I got some bookings, sure, but I must be honest, some things I wasn’t able to book because I was on Top Model and the designer didn’t want that kind of look. It wasn’t all positive.
‘I moved immediately to LA after the show with a credit card that I was actually maxing out. I was in more debt than when I started. I was making enough so I could pay off my bills and my rent.
‘People think that you do this stuff and you’re going to make some money from it… not enough to really live and survive. I think that’s what the issue is.’
‘It would have been nice to be able to come up for air and hit the ground running without having to get broke on a credit card,’ Brittany continued. ‘I went through a depression. I was buzzing and hopeful, but then another season started and things calmed down.
‘I was in LA having fun and probably drinking more than I should have been doing and eating cheap food because I couldn’t afford it. I was trying to stay afloat and stay in the game. I 100 per cent gained weight and then my whole plan started to dwindle.’
DailyMail.com has contacted UPN, The CW, and Tyra Banks for comment.
Brittany noted that strike action from the unscripted reality programming space is important now more than ever because of how the genre will be impacted due to the WGA and SAG strikes.
If the industrial action continues, its expected that there will be a heavier push towards producing unscripted and reality shows.
‘This is the perfect time to make change happen,’ she said. ‘Like, ok, you want us to pick up the brunt of television right now? You want reality stars to be the TV? Well then pay for it.
Leading lady: Tyra Banks created and starred as a judge on America’s Next Top Model
‘Isn’t it kind of backward that we’re making nothing and reality shows are getting the highest ratings? If you’re going to use us and exploit us, you better be paying us.
‘It’s crazy we’re in 2023 and there’s zero protection for reality stars. We’re not asking to be making what Brad Pitt makes, we’re literally just asking for enough to make it fair.’
RHONY alum Bethenny recently called upon huge stars from shows such as The Kardashians and Vanderpump Rules to also join the fight, and Brittany agrees that having household names will help bolster the cause.
‘We need those bigger names and bigger people from the big shows to stand with us and try to make a change,’ she added.
‘I’m under no illusion, nobody’s going to care if I go on strike, but the more of us, especially those who have a name and a voice, and can speak out loud, then I think it will start to gain some traction.
‘I think it’s mostly so important for all those people who don’t even know they’re going to be in reality yet. It’s such a big deal for these future reality stars. This is who needs to be protected, as well as hopefully getting some retroactive compensation.’
While Brittany appreciated her time on Top Model and has no regrets over her appearance, she is hoping that she will one day get compensated via residuals.
‘Yes, we signed up for it, but I just want to be compensated for it. I had a blast on the show. I’m glad I made good TV for you guys, but I’ll take my check now.’
It’s been almost a fortnight since major industrial action by SAG-AFRA, which represents around 160,000 across the US, started.
The union failed to agree new contracts with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) and united with striking members of WGA, which began industrial action on May 2.
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