"I think if you have nothing else in life and that all you're clambering onto, is fame, I think it can ... twist you up pretty bad," said Marriott.
He eventually pulled himself together and invested what money he had not spent into his own excavation business. He's doing pretty well. But he lives in the afterlife of fame.
"It destroyed my dating life," he said, "because what people tend to forget is that I was portrayed as something on TV, but in real life that's really not me. So ... if I meet girls they think they know what I'm about or know about me and they really know nothing about me."
"It is the smallest fish bowl you'll ever be in," said Manigault-Stallworth. "There are no longer boundaries because you've been in everybody's home and everybody's living room every week and they feel they know you intimately, they feel like they can come up and say anything to you, they can ask you anything because they feel like you are public property now."
Reality television messes with contestants' heads. After merely auditioning for "Britain's Got Talent" and orbiting to International fame, Scottish singer Susan Boyle quickly ended up in the hospital suffering emotional exhaustion.
And there are ethical concerns, said Levak, who believes that if they were posed as scientific psychological experiments, "almost none of the reality TV shows would be approved in my opinion with human subjects' approval."
At the least contestants should be thoroughly vetted and most are. But Ryan Jenkins had a criminal conviction in Canada for beating up a girlfriend. "You put on somebody that is fragile psychologically and ... they are humiliated, they feel cornered, they feel trapped and they could fall apart," said Levak. "They could become severely depressed. It's possible that someone could become psychotic."
What cannot be predicted is how any contestant will handle fame. Manigault-Stallworth now volunteers at the Fred Jordan Mission on skid row in Los Angeles and she's entered seminary school. "We ask that you open our minds and our hearts to you dear Lord," she preached one afternoon to a roomful of homeless people. "Ya'll know I'll get in somebody's face in a minute, right ... but you have to take care of your brothers. We are our brother's keepers, right?"
She believes she's had a calling. "I want to become a child of God, which I know that I am, but moreover a servant of God."
She doesn't complain about her experience because it made her money, and allowed her to do things she might never have done. Reality television changed her life for worse, and for better, as it did for Joe the fake millionaire.
"You know what, I don't miss my moment of fame ... but I'm thankful I was a part of it," he said. "I was a part of pop culture, you know."
It was pop culture and it was fame, or what Manigault-Stallworth looks back and calls " The Illusion of Fame."
"The illusion of fame is that people will keep caring about you even after the show is over and the credits have rolled because they don't," she said. "It's your responsibility after you've been a part of these shows and you've had your 15 minutes to do something with that opportunity and not squander it."