It seems like one of those days for unsettling stories about people on reality TV. The extremely sad news about Big Ang and her struggle with advanced cancer. The news that Lex McAllister, a contestant on The Bachelor had committed suicide, making her the second contestant from Jake’s season to take her own life. And then someone sent me a link to a gut wrenching story written by the daughter of another former reality TV personality about how it affected her childhood. It’s something any parent who goes on a reality show should read.
Take a minute to read a few of the excerpts from that story, and at the end I’ll post the link to the entire picture with even more distressing details (that identify the author’s mother.)
“When I think of my mother, I picture someone beautiful and strong. A single parent, sexual abuse survivor, gay rights advocate, and a fearless defender of those she loves. My mother has a big heart, and I am grateful for the sacrifices she made to provide for my sister and me. I admire her for overcoming great odds.”
“I’ve already been accepted to an Ivy League graduate school on full scholarship. While higher education might not be a prized commodity in the reality show universe—at least, it wasn’t on my mother’s show, with characters being blatantly dismissive of the need for college—it is something my family values. One day, I hope to be a medical professional. I already know what the job entails, because I was born with a rare heart condition. I had my first heart attack at age nine and since then have spent the years in and out of doctor’s offices. You didn’t see this on television, but everyone knew about my condition behind the scenes—which of course didn’t stop producers and housewives from terrorizing my mother in front of my face. There were lots of things you never saw, both onscreen and off.”
“Imagine if all of the arguments you’ve had in your life were filmed by a stranger, and they took out the worst things you said, edited it together, and then presented the footage on TV to define your character. Would you say that characterization was accurate? Anything that is produced, and edited in this manner, is fictitious by default, but unlike an actor, my mother didn’t have the advantage of hiding behind a character, not to mention that the term reality forms a perception that is impossible to overcome when the viewers aren’t aware of what goes down behind the scenes.”
“My mother can’t find work because of the preconceived notion America has about her. Since she left the show, my family has fallen on hard times. In the end, we had no choice but to run. We packed a few suitcases and left. Overnight, I left the only home I’d ever known for a nondescript apartment in an anonymous town. We didn’t have furniture, so we slept on blow-up mattresses. I worried about my grades. I missed three weeks of school as my mom desperately searched for an educational institution where I would receive more respect and protection.”
Take a moment to go to the site where I read the essay to discover who the author is. And then come back here and share your comments. This is a conversation we don’t have enough of around here.