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Reality TV Stars On Strike? RHONY's Bethenny Frankel Makes The Case

Hollywood's actors and writers are currently on strike to get a fair piece of the industry's online streaming revenue. As a result, Hollywood executives are doing what they've done in similar situations in the past: churning out more reality TV content while trying to sweat the strikers out. But at least one former reality TV star is questioning that status quo, and wondering if reality TV performers shouldn't form a union of their own.

The star, in question, is Bethenny Frankel. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Frankel, who previously starred in "The Real Housewives of New York," recently posted a video on her Instagram account suggesting that America's reality TV stars should also go on a strike similar to the one currently undertaken by SAG-AFTRA and the WGA.

"Hollywood is on strike, entertainers are fighting for residuals and no one will promote anything. Why isn't reality TV on strike?" Frankel asked. "During the last writers' strike, we were providing all the entertainment, and that's really when the gold rush of reality TV started."

Frankel revealed how much she was paid for her first season of the show

Reality TV show stars are not actors so they're not covered by Screen Actors Guild regulations dictating payment for residuals. "I have never made a single residual," Bethenny Frankel said in her Instagram video. "So, either I'm missing something, or we're getting screwed too."

Frankel is referring to one of the sad truths of the reality TV business, which is that one of the many ways it's cheaper than scripted TV is because even the top stars aren't necessarily entitled to residual payments. She revealed that she got a flat $7,250 for her first reality gig, and claimed that other top reality stars like Lauren Conrad and Kristin Cavallari of the MTV series "Laguna Beach" aren't getting any residuals from the show's continued afterlife on streaming. "We've always been the losers," Frankel said of her reality TV cohorts.

An unnamed source told THR that Frankel's characterization of the situation is inaccurate, claiming that reality TV stars can benefit in other ways that have nothing to do with residuals. "The castmembers use the platform to grow businesses and brands, and Bethenny did just that. She's still making plenty off of a show she hasn't been on in years by launching a podcast that's dedicated to the 'Housewives,'" the source said, basically making the argument that reality TV shows can pay their performers in exposure.

While a reality TV strike probably isn't very likely, Frankel at least seems ready to unionize.

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. To learn more about why writers and actors are currently on strike, click here for an up-to-date explainer from our Looper team.