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TV's 5 Most Enterprising Reality Stars


The talent quotient among this lot isn't particularly high, but in reality-TV land, talent isn't necessary to attain business success.

MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL Like death and paying taxes -- OK, fine, just death -- reality stars have become an unavoidable fact of life. At this point, it would take a zombie apocalypse to wipe them out. And even then, Bravo (CMCSA) would manage to ink a six-season contract for "The Real Undead of Orange County."

With a collective skill set that maxes out at binge drinking, cat fighting, and producing enough offspring to make a baseball team (minus one), the talent quotient among this lot isn't particularly high. That is, until they're invited on another reality show to learn how to tango.

But in reality TV land, there's an inverse correlation between aptitude and success -- and that success translates far beyond the small screen. Somehow it's been parlayed into the unlikeliest of arenas: the business sector. Corporations are falling all over themselves to sign these celebutantes to endorsement deals, and some of the most seemingly incompetent among them are writing books and hawking their own branded product lines.

Check out Minyanville's list of stars who, for better or worse, have gone from show business to business, business.

Teresa Giudice
Never mind that, when speaking, Teresa Giudice can't string more than two sentences together, the Jersey "housewife" is a New York Times bestselling author three times over. Using the first year on the Bravo series to achieve her table-flipping infamy, Giudice wasted no time cashing in and churned out an average of one Italian cookbook per subsequent season -- even if she wasn't the one at the keyboard.

When appearing on Celebrity Apprentice, Giudice was criticized for glaring weaknesses, especially concerning creative tasks. "I could be a writer," she defended. "I just finished my third book. I have a ghostwriter. So I could get my writing done, no problem."

And maybe that's true. After all, she's proven herself a wordsmith with a "fabulous" flair for the portmanteau. She titled her latest book "Fabulicious!", launched a branded online boutique called TG Fabulicious, and released a bottled mixed bellini product called -- yep, you guessed it -- Fabellini. While making decisions about fashion and libations may be more in her wheelhouse, let's just hope someone else is crunching the numbers.
Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi
Here's another laughing stock who laughed herself all the way to the New York Times bestseller list. A cable-bred celeb who first achieved fame for getting socked in the face on MTV's (VIA) Jersey Shore, Snooki's shockingly stupid thoughts have filled the pages of two novels and a style guide, courtesy of Simon & Schuster, Inc. (CBS).

Apparently the leopard-printed-bouffant-topped-human-bottle-of-Orangina look is a real hit with the kids because Polizzi has fashioned a mini empire -- including signature sunglasses, handbags, shoes, perfume, and self-tanner -- out of her personal style. Happy Feet owner Pat Yates told CNN that all it took was one tweet from Polizzi to her three million followers, about the debut of her new Snooki slippers, to crash his company's website server.

You don't have to be Mark Zuckerberg to make a killing in the tech sector; Polizzi is living proof that you scarcely need the IQ of a gnat. A partnership with Apps Genius (APGS) landed her Snooki's Match Game for Facebook (FB) and the Snookify Me! photo-editing mobile app -- with a contract for up to eight more branded apps and games.

It used to be that you had to be able to do a 360-dunk in basketball in order to get your own video game. Now you just need to be a 24-7 drunk.
Kim Kardashian
Poor Bruce Jenner. For all his accomplishments, he's now known the world over -- not as a gold medal Olympic champion, a race car driver, or even Officer Steve McLeish on CHiPs -- but as the clueless and castrated stepfather of the living embodiment of a Sir Mix-a-Lot video.

In 2007, Kim Kardashian was just a socialite with a leaked sex tape. Within three years, she was a household name and the highest paid reality star in Hollywood. In fact, her home network E! Entertainment, loved her so much, it threw her an $18 million publicity stunt, er, wedding.

Today, under the 31-year-old's belt, are more business ventures than you can shake an obscenely large pair of buttocks at. She's shilled for, among many others, Skechers (SKX), Kotex (KMB), Muscle Flex VATA athletic wear, Carl's Jr., and QuickTrim. She has also co-founded an online shoe company, and slapped her name on clothing collections for Sears (SHLD), bebe (BEBE), and QVC (LMCA) -- as well as skincare and tanning products, a perfume line, and fitness DVDs.

Within another "like, five years," America may be keeping up with her political career. Maybe it was the Botox injections talking but Kim Kardashian has threatened Glendale, California, with a run for its mayorship in 2017. The minor detail that Glendale's citizens don't actually elect their mayor needn't be an issue.
Bethenny Frankel
In 2005, Bethenny Frankel, neither homebound nor married, still somehow managed to land a spot on the Real Housewives of New York City. Maybe her snarky quick and rapid-fire one-liners had Bravo overlooking the fact that her singlehood and career as a natural food chef would preclude her from being cast in the series. That is, if the show was to be at all true to its title. At least she lived in Manhattan.

Two Bravo spin-offs, a Fox (NWS) daytime TV show, a low-calorie cocktail line, and an acquisition for said cocktail line by Fortune Brands' Beam Global (BEAM) later, the former "housewife" is now worth an estimated $25 million.

Of course, Frankel has the obligatory hallmarks of reality-show fame like making the New York Times Bestseller List and releasing an exercise DVD, but her spirits are her real bread and butter. According to a report from beverage industry consulting group Technomic, Frankel's SkinnyGirl was the "fastest growing brand of spirits in the US last year, posting a 388% sales increase."
Donald Trump
Unlike his reality-star ilk on this list, The Donald wasn't a product of his TV show. By the time The Apprentice premiered on NBC in 2004, he'd already been well-versed in the art of getting cameras trained on him for some 30 years.

Throughout the ups and downs of his real estate career -- including four separate bankruptcies and his own personal bank bailout -- Trump was always proficient in one thing: shameless self-hype. "He was intelligent and gifted in some respects but perhaps none more so than his extraordinary use of the media and promoting himself," casino magnate Steve Wynn said of Trump. "Nobody seemed to have been able to understand or put his finger on how to manipulate that better than him."

That comment came from Wynn way back in 1990. In addition to 12 seasons of his own reality show, Trump has since published books, bought beauty pageants, put his puckered mug on everything from bottled water to cologne, and sort of ran for President of the United States.

Trump's $2.9 billion net worth wasn't earned from real estate he actually owns. The overwhelming majority of Trump properties are merely license deals. A case study in reality TV if we've ever seen one, Trump made his wealth not by building things but by creating the image that he had.
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