One and Done
How not to be the first contestant kicked off a reality show.
But VH1 understands the ratings power of the loudmouth; who among the channel's viewers wouldn't want to watch a plus-sized Omarosa gone ghetto? Kim, who had already done a turn on an ABC reality show called Fat March, had honed her beeyotch skills to fine precision. And she seemed to appreciate the VH1 mentality. In this clip, fighting for survival before the judges, she delivers a stirring monologue about the failures of her teammates. The judge named Capricorn was clearly impressed—and she and her fellow panelists couldn't help but let Kim stay.
Lesson 9: Everyone loves a comeback story.
The Project Runway producers surely passed the champagne several times after that first, fateful week of Season 5. Stella lasted through eight more episodes, redeeming her false start with a series of interesting designs: Her black leather Olympic parade outfit would have looked a lot smarter than the blazers Ralph Lauren sent down the Beijing track. Better yet, she became one of the season's most intriguing characters, expounding on the virtues of leather, pounding fabrics with a hammer in the workroom, and rolling her eyes like an overworked nursery-school teacher if anyone complained. "Who knows how a personality is going to develop?" says Mock, the Top Model casting director. "Who they are on Episode 1 is definitely not who they are at the end."
By the time she was eliminated earlier this month, Stella was acting as if the show had outlived its usefulness to her. "I think my ego was way too big to be here anyway," she said cheerfully, after accepting Heidi Klum's auf Wiedersehen kiss. Though she won't be the winner, Stella will be remembered as one of this season's stars. A bad first episode doesn't mean a contestant can't make a comeback. But if you want a shot at post-reality fame, you first have to make it past Week 1.
Joanna Weiss is an Op-Ed columnist for the Boston Globe and author of the novel Milkshake.
Still from Survivor: Gabon © 2008 CBS. Photographs on Slate's home page of: Jerry Tam by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images; Sonja Christopher by Kevin Winter/ImageDirect; Jeffrey Ross by Ethan Miller/Getty Images; Stephanie Horn by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images.