Remember the steely young Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth from the original run of NBC's hit reality show "The Apprentice"? How about Evan Marriott, the construction worker who pretended to be a rich bachelor for Fox's one-season-wonder "Joe Millionaire"?
For both Marriott and the reality star known only as Omarosa, their 15 minutes on reality television took them from anonymity to instant fame. Marriott took his half-million dollar winnings and quit work, and Manigault-Stallworth continued to thrive on public verbal smack downs on a host of other reality television series.
"I knew what would bring great ratings," she said. "I knew what would entertain America. I knew they liked watching me, and I liked entertaining them and I profited from it."
But behind the scenes, the lives of reality stars tell less romantic tales. "I actually went into a depression," said Marriott. "I started drinking a lot. I'd wake up at 10, 11 o'clock in the morning and go to the bar and start drinking, 'cause I had nowhere to be."
What happened to Manigault-Stallworth, and what happens to any of the average Joes or Janes on reality TV is an interesting question after the sad reality of Ryan Jenkins from the VH1 show "Megan Wants a Millionaire."
After finishing the show last spring, Jenkins went to Las Vegas, met and married a 28-year-old bikini model Jasmine Fiore. Last month he was accused of her gruesome murder as he fled to his native Canada and later hanged himself in a rural motel room.
Looking at Jenkins' performance on the show, psychologist Richard Levak cringes. "He is a perfect example of his type. The glib, self-serving narcissist who is so full of himself and he knows how to manipulate a woman and he's not ashamed of it."
Levak has screened contestants for a variety of reality shows, including "Survivor," and says Jenkins is not the reality-show norm. He describes what he calls a "super normal" type -- confident and competitive.
"For the most part, the people who apply are sort of extroverted," said Levak, "[They] want to be in front of the camera, love to compete, love to perform, and don't mind being self-absorbed."
They tend to have the successes and failures of real life. Richard Hatch, the first winner of CBS' "Survivor" spent time in prison for failing to pay income tax on his million-dollar prize.
Then, there's Bethany Frankel, one of Bravo's "Housewives of New York" who now has a best-selling cookbook and a line of bakery products. "Everyone told me not to do it," she recalled. "And I mean every single person said it would ruin you."
It didn't ruin, but it certainly injured Marriott, who was uncomfortable with a fame he didn't think he'd earned. "It's not like I had the most rushing yards in a season or invented the world's longest-lasting light bulb, you know?"
As Manigault-Stallworth admitted, she thought she was a star long before anyone ever heard of her.
"I was always an outstanding person and an outstanding candidate at whatever I submitted myself to," she said. "So I was used to being the only one, or the first to attend college, the first to accomplish a certain thing."
Not everyone though, can handle fame cheaply won and easily lost. Some reality show contestants go on for years afterward, seeking the rush they felt with instant stardom.