Unlike most traditional celebrities, the launch pads of fame for these "reality" celebrities came relatively gift-wrapped. But, some say, the opportunity for a lifestyle of the rich and famous is what attracts them to begin with.
"These shows offer two things: the possibility for fame and the possibility for wealth. These are not hard sells in our culture," said Thompson.
Pitfalls and Perspective
Still, there are pitfalls to fame, even it lasts little more than 15 minutes. You might be recognizable, but then lose your privacy. There are long stretches away from home and loved ones. You become fodder for tabloid gossip.
And you can get sued. The Bachelor's Bob Guiney was sued last year by the show's producers, And Syndicated Productions — a division of Telepictures Productions — for alleged breach of an exclusivity clause in his contract for promoting his 3 Sides CD without permission.
A federal judge ruled in favor of Guiney in December, and while "Bob the Bachelor" considers the lawsuit a low point in his celebrity odyssey, he wouldn't trade his experience for anything. A longtime musician before his first appearance on The Bachelorette, Guiney wrote a book, What a Difference a Year Makes, frequently appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show and was able to expand the platform for his band, Fat Amy.
His Bachelor relationship with Estella Gardinier didn't last, but Guiney says he made many new friends — and found a new love, actress Rebecca Budig of All My Children.
"It [my Bachelor/Bachelorette experience] was pretty awesome. I really established relationships with a lot of people and also become friends with the producers and a lot of people at ABC," he said. "I was really awestruck by the outpouring of affection and support. … But the best thing that came from all of this is I got to meet Rebecca."
Guiney, who owned a mortgage company before appearing on The Bachelorette, also keeps his fame in perspective as he is currently touring with his band. "Just as quickly as fame comes to you, it can also go away just as quickly," he said. "That's why I keep my day job with my mortgage company."
The Reality of Reality TV
Reality TV and its stars seem like they're here to stay. Shows such as Survivor: All-Stars and The Apprentice are among the most watched shows in the most recent prime-time Nielsen ratings.
"I don't think it's going away," Thompson said. "My grandchildren and my grandchildren's children will not know a time without some kind of reality television."
Meanwhile, Glen Foster is trying to enjoy his initial taste of fame. He said he wanted to find that "special someone" on the show — and he has. He says he enjoyed his experience on The Littlest Groom and wanted to give the nation insight into the daily lives of little people. Foster said he did not feel taken advantage of, despite the surprise twist by the show's producers.
As far as his chances for everlasting stardom, Foster is encouraged by the success of Vern Troyer, who played Mini-Me in the Austin Powers movies and Peter Dinklage, the star of the film The Station Agent.
"I think little people are ready to make their footprints on the Hollywood Walk of Fame," he said. "Who knows?"
Maybe a star is born.