Of all the plum jobs in Hollywood, hosting a reality TV show seems to be the plumiest. With Ryan Seacrest scoring a $45 million three-year contract for his American Idol gig, we started wondering how in the world do people score a job that sweet? Do you need to know how to make a mean grilled rat to host Survivor? Is there a heartbreak quota that must be met to host The Bachelor? These ten hosts prove that all you need is a few Hollywood connections, a good resume, and killer luck.
1. Andy Cohen, Bravo: As silly and whimsy as Watch What Happen’s Live host and Real Housewife-wrangler Andy Cohen may seem, he’s anything but. He’s actually an Executive Vice President at Bravo. Cohen graduated from Boston University and started his career as a producer for CBS. At Bravo, he’s had a hand in almost every hit program from The Millionaire Matchmaker to Tabatha’s Salon Takeover (including an Emmy win for Top Chef Season Six). Today he works double duty producing and acting as the voice of reason for Bravo’s host of wacky pseudo-celebrities.
2. Tom Bergeron, Dancing with the Stars and America’s Funniest Home Videos: With a voice that seems made for announcing winners of mirror-ball trophies, it’s no wonder Tom Bergeron’s career started (at the tender age of seventeen) as a radio personality in his hometown of Haverhill, Massachusetts. He steadily worked his way up to become a success in Boston’s local TV scene. His big break came in 1998 when he became the host of Hollywood Squares and then onto AFHV, which scored him the sequin-clad gig of host on Dancing with the Stars.
3. Alison Sweeney, The Biggest Loser: An LA native, Alison Sweeny had her TV debut at the age of five in a Kodak commercial. Sweeny got her biggest break in 1993 when she landed the role of Sami on Days of Our Lives and has been there ever since. During her public struggle with weight in the 1990s she said, “I was absolutely pressured by an entire industry to lose weight.” Her struggles helped her pen the book The Days of My Life (So Far). The frankness and candor she had about her battle with weight helped her land the coveted role as host of The Biggest Loser in 2007.
4. Ty Pennington, Extreme Home Makeover: Pennington’s passion for woodworking started during his childhood in Georgia. After earning a degree in graphic design, he launched into a lucrative modeling career. While he dabbled in set design, his biggest break was as a host on TLC’s Trading Spaces. That gig led him to the role of host on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition of which he’s said, “The one thing about our show is some pretty incredible things can happen when people come together and help people in need.” What’s hotter than a dude who can strut his stuff while doing your dry wall and helping the underprivileged?!
5. Padma Laxmi, Top Chef: Indian-born, Padma Laxmi was spotted by a modeling scout in a bar in Madrid, Spain while studying abroad. She travelled the world as one of the first international Indian supermodels and forayed her reputation into a successful acting career. When dieting to lose the thirty pounds she gained for a role, Laxmi wrote a low-cal ethnic cookbook, which launched her career on the Food Network. An eight-year marriage to renowned author Salman Rushdie (twenty years senior to Laxmi) skyrocketed her to fame; “I was a published author and an actress before I met my husband. I can’t help who I fell in love with,” says Laxmi. She won the gig as Top Chef host in 2006.
6. Chris Harrison, The Bachelor and The Bachelorette: Harrison began his career as a sports reporter in Oklahoma City. He moved to LA in 1999 and landed the job as host of HGTV’s “Designer’s Challenge.” In 2001 he became host of ABC’s hit romance/reality series “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette.” While we can’t see anything not to love about his high-paying job interviewing sexy singletons, Chris says, “Part of what I love about this job is being on the road, meeting new people and seeing new places."
7. Jeff Probst, Survivor: A Wichita, Kansas native, Probst launched his career on the local news in Seattle. He graduated to be a host on FX and of Rock and Roll: Jeopardy and Access Hollywood. In addition to his TV expertise, he’s also a director. His film Finder’s Fee was hailed at local film festivals. He landed Survivor in 2000 and the rest—as they say—was history. Probst’s uncanny ability to squeeze information from Survivor castaways is unparalleled. It’s no surprise he won the inaugural Emmy for Outstanding Reality TV Host in 2008 for Survivor.
8. Julie Chen, Big Brother: A USC-graduate, Julie Chen started working CBS Morning News while she was still a student. Upon graduation, she began her broadcasting career at ABC News, where she produced Nightline. Her big break was in 1999 when Chen became the anchor of two CBS early-morning programs, CBS Morning News and The Early Show. She landed the Big Brother gig in 2000. Today, she doubles duty as host of The Talk and Big Brother.
9. Phil Koeghan, Amazing Race: New Zealand native, Phil Koeghan rose to celebrity status as the host of Spot On in his homeland during the 1980s. A near-death experience at the age of nineteen turned him into a thrill-seeker and made the big move to Hollwood where he worked on various programs including Miss World and The Early Show. He landed The Amazing Race in 2001 and admits that one episode pays more than an entire years salary at Spot On. He says, “Amazing Race is, without a doubt, the toughest hosting assignment I’ve ever had in my career; it’s certainly been the most rewarding.”
10. Ryan Seacrest, American Idol: Often called the most hard-working man in show business, Ryan Seacrest started on radio at the age of sixteen. From working at ESPN as a college student in Georgia to starting in LA at a $15-per-hour radio gig, Ryan’s talent quickly rose to the top. One of Seacrest’s first employers, Merv Griffin, told the New York Times that Seacrest’s energy “just baffled me. I couldn’t keep up with him . . . He had this spiky haircut, and we knew all the little girls in the audience would love him, and they did.” With an endorsement like that, it’s no surprise that American Idol is the most watched show on TV with Seacrest hosting since is 2002 debut.
Photo source: Wikimedia