The Best and Worst Dressed Reality TV Stars 2012

Toddlers and Tiaras. What Not to Wear. Big Rich Texas. Project Runway.

The Best and Worst Dressed Reality TV StarsReality TV is full of big fashion, big closets, and ridiculously big egos, but it’s shockingly short on distinctive style. While many of these people have hair and fashion stylists on retainer, it’s amazing how many of them dress exactly the same. Same hair, same clothes, same makeup, same designers. As 2012 winds down, I deconstruct the fashion reality TV landscape to name my best and worst dressed reality stars – and show you what you can learn from them.

Let me start by saying that I only reviewed U.S. reality shows. If you don’t live in the States, keep reading, because you’ll see the same kinds of things on the shows in your country. I also didn’t review every show. Some didn’t interest me , others couldn’t hold my attention. In the end, the shows that drew me back again and again featured big lifestyles, big fashion, and/or big personalities who lead interesting lives outside of reality TV.

That said, it’s not just about the clothes.

If you look deeper – and I realize I may be the only person on the planet to use the words “deeper” and “reality TV” in the same sentence – you’ll discover that reality TV offers one of the most fascinating case studies in socioeconomics ever revealed. It’s like armchair anthropology. With cocktails.

Because if you pay close attention, you’ll learn everything you need to know about how to succeed and fail in life. The skill, discipline, and tact required to build and sustain multi-million dollar businesses. The big egos and temper tantrums that destroy promising careers. The “know it all” attitudes that keep people broke. It’s all there on reality TV.

It’s also here on my best and worst dressed lists.

In a genre where being self-centered, badly behaved, and outrageously dressed are practically job requirements, it’s easy to see how people limit their own success. Of the few who refuse to fall for the bait, it’s easy to see why they succeed.

The Best Dressed Reality TV Stars

All of the best dressed reality stars have lots in common: they know which styles work best on them, they dress well consistently, they know what’s appropriate for different occasions, and they have a distinctive style. The ones who made the cut include:

Cynthia Bailey
The Real Housewives of Atlanta (Bravo TV)

Cynthia Bailey has been modeling for 20 years and owns The Bailey Agency School of Fashion in Atlanta. She’s tall, thin, stunningly beautiful – and the most uniquely dressed woman on reality TV. A dramatic with an eye for color, she mixes high and low fashion like nobody else, and can rock clothes from Target with couture from Tom Ford seamlessly and with equal finesse.  Born in Alabama, she was modeling by 18, and has worked with some of the best photographers and stylists in the world – and it shows. Everything she wears is carefully thought out; it’s like watching a fashion magazine come to life. She changes her look regularly, and always wears occasion-appropriate apparel – even to her own surprise wedding vow renewal ceremony on the beach! No stilettos on safari or cleavage in church for her. She’s easy on the eyes and the ears – a rarity on RHOA – and has a gentle Southern manner that’s warm and welcoming.

Cynthia Bailey
 Photo courtesy of BravoTV.com

 Lisa Vanderpump
The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (Bravo TV)

Lisa Vanderpump has been a restauranteur for decades and currently owns two of the most popular restaurants in Los Angeles, Villa Blanca and Sur. Born in England and raised there and in the South of France, she was trained as an interior designer and has done the interiors for all of her restaurants.  Her signature style is classic romantic. She prefers a handful of silhouettes in a handful of colors, which she finishes with expensive shoes and the most dazzling jewelry on television.  We’re talking Elizabeth Taylor, Duchess of Windsor dazzling, the kind movies stars borrow for the Oscars.  Lisa knows what works for her as surely as she knows how to launch a successful restaurant, and she sticks with it with little variation. Watch and learn.

Lisa Vanderpump
Photo courtesy of BravoTV.com

Mauricio Umansky
The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (Bravo TV)

Mauricio Umansky is handsome, dashing, and debonaire, and the best dressed man on reality TV. Owner of The Agency, a luxury real estate firm in Beverly Hills, Mauricio seems to be an amazing husband, father, son, and businessman. He also dresses impeccably. Whether it’s because of his Latin roots or years of dealing with wealthy clients – or both – he nails the dress code every time in beautifully made clothes that fit him well. Kyle Richards really is one of the luckiest girls in Beverly Hills.

Mauricio Urmansky with Kyle Richards
Photo courtesy of BravoTV.com

Bethenny Frankel
Bethenny Ever After (Bravo TV)

Bethenny Frankel turned her fledgling cooking career into a nine-figure income with her diet books and Skinny Girl cocktails. A fan favorite since her first reality TV stint on The Apprentice: Martha Stewart (2005), Bethenny may have a jaw-dropping potty-mouth, but she also has a distinct approach to fashion: clean lines and simple silhouettes. If she’s not wearing a form-fitting sheath in a solid color, it’s typically casual sportswear that skims her figure without detracting from what made her famous: her one-of-a-kind personality.

Bethenny Frankel
Photo courtesy of BravoTV.com

Tabatha Coffey
Tabatha Takes Over (Bravo TV)

Tabatha Coffey started styling hair as a teen in her native Australia. After honing her skills to a very high level, she was soon traveling the world working photo shoots and runway shows. The fan favorite contestant on Bravo’s Shear Genius in 2007 , she made such a big impression that she was soon offered her own show in which she takes over struggling salons and businesses and sets them on the path to profitability. Her style is unique and no-nonsense: short platinum hair paired with neck-to-toe black, plus a pair of chic black heels. It’s distinct, intimidating, and head-turning – just like Tabatha. She “tells it like it is,” doesn’t care if people like her, and fires people who don’t pull their weight. Imagine was she could do for the U.S. Post Office. Or the government.

Tabatha Coffey
Photo courtesy of BravoTV.com

Bill Rancic
Guliana and Bill (Style Network)

Bill Rancic was thinking about going to law school when he got bit by the entrepreneurial bug. He started an online business from his apartment in the mid-1990’s, and went on to become the first winner of The Apprentice with Donald Trump in 2004. Since then, he’s become a prominent real estate developer in his native Chicago, a popular business and motivational speaker, TV host, author, and reality TV star. His style is classic elegance, and he looks amazing whether he’s wearing a tuxedo, a sports coat, or a t-shirt and jeans. He’s a “manly man” who takes cares of himself without obsessing about how he looks.

Bill and Guiliana RancicPhoto courtesy of Glamour.com

Mary McDonald
Million Dollar Decorators (Bravo TV)

Mary McDonald is an interior designer who creates stunning rooms for high end clients from her design studio, Mary McDonald, Inc.  She also exudes effortless chic whether she’s traveling, partying, pitching clients, or laying carpet. She dresses like she decorates: classic dramatic. Rumored to be the model upon whom the Will and Grace character of Karen is based, Mary often clashes with clients – and even fired one whom she felt had bad taste – but her confidence translates into amazing rooms and a unique personal style. Like all the people on this best dressed list, Mary knows what works for her and sticks with it.

Mary McDonald
Photo courtesy of BravoTV.com

Tim Gunn
Project Runway (Lifetime)

Tim Gunn started teaching at Parsons The New School for Design in 1982 and became the chair of fashion design in 2000. With his keen eye and extensive knowledge, he’s been guiding Project Runway contestants since the show debuted in 2004. He left Parsons in 2007 to become the Chief Creative Officer of Liz Claiborne (now Fifth & Pacific), write books, and star in his own makeover show. While he prefers a dapper, “old school” style for himself, he can still conceptualize and give advice on currents trends with equal ease. He’s a knowledgeable, valuable mentor.

Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum
Photo courtesy of RealityTea.com

Now you may think this selection is a little “tame” fashion-wise. No outrageous outfits, no copious displays of flesh. Guess what? They would never have had the careers they do if they’d dressed like that. Wild clothes are off-putting, except in the music industry (and sometimes even then!). All of these people know that. They dress within specific parameters of modesty and appropriateness, while still injecting a personal sense of style.

Are they on the cutting edge of fashion? No. Are they fashionable? Yes. Do they appeal to a wide variety of people? Yes. Who do they put first? Their audience.

Keep that in mind as we review:

The Worst Dressed Reality TV Stars

While the best dressed stars have developed a distinct style, the worst dressed just don’t think that deep.  Some couldn’t care less how they look.  Others only think about how they look. Attention is the name of the game for them, and nothing is off-limits.  Skin, sparkles, wigs, loud trumpets – if someone might look, they’ll put it on.  Here’s who made the worst dressed list:

June Shannon
Here Comes Honey Boo Boo (TLC)

June Shannon is the mother of frequent beauty pageant winner, Alana “Honey Boo Boo” Thompson. She dutifully takes Alana to dance class, dress fittings, and hair and makeup sessions, and is her daughter’s #1 fan. But she’s also a complete mess. I am totally mystified by why June is interested in the pageant circuit – and where she learned how to coach Alana to so many wins – when she doesn’t care one wit about how she looks herself. She says she can “look good” when she wants to, but she can’t be bothered most of the time…including for national television.  Anyone else find this crazy?!  How many more titles might Alana have won if June taught her daughter by example instead of by what not to do?

June Shannon
Photo courtesy of TLC.com

Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi
Jersey Shore (MTV)

Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi became a pop culture phenomenon as soon as Jersey Shore hit the air. With her wildly teased hair, heavy makeup, and outrageous clothes, she’s adopted the worst trends of the last 30 years as her signature style.  Add in some expensive “bling,” and you’ve got one mixed up mess.  The “Snooki” was the best-selling Halloween costume of 2010, and the hair “bump” became popular again because of her. Why is beyond me. I watched Jersey Shore once for about 10 minutes to see what all the fuss was about, and haven’t been back since.

Nicole "Snooki" PolizziPhoto courtesy of RealityTea.com

Olivia Blois Sharpe
Tracy DiMarco
Jerseylicious (Style Network)

What do you get when you cross big egos and small minds with a Jersey “Sense of Style?” Jerseylicious. I’ve only watched this show a few times because Olivia and Tracy look so ridiculous and they’re always operating in “mean girl” mode. You know that old Coco Chanel advice, “When accessorizing, take off the last thing you put on?” Well these girls need to take off the last TEN things they put on. The rings, the bracelets, the shoes, the earrings, the wigs, the makeup, the spray tan, etc. Why these women are giving fashion advice – and more unbelievably, why others are actually paying for it – escapes me. When your jewelry covers more than your clothes, you don’t know how to dress. Period.

Olivia Blois Sharpe  Tracy DiMarco
Photos courtesy of RealityTea.com

Asa Soltan Rahmati
Shahs of Sunset (Bravo TV)

Big egos and small minds also run amok on Shahs of Sunset. Self-centered, superficial, materialistic, with lots of family drama, this show is a complete train wreck – which explains its popularity. While nearly everyone on the show could use a makeover, “Persian Pop Priestess” Asa Soltan Rahmati needs one the most. I get that she’s trying to show her artistic side, but she makes the same mistake many artists do: she believes that being creative gives her license to dress as outrageously as possible. Then she wonders why potential clients question her fees. It’s because her “style” is too off-putting to most people – too many fabrics, textures, and accessories all at once. Most of her clothes don’t fit well, she mixes cultures and eras without success, and when she goes all out with the exotic eye makeup and headgear, it’s just too much to take in. You have to close your eyes to concentrate on what she’s saying because what she’s wearing is just too distracting. NEVER a “best dressed” scenario.

Asa Soltan Rahmati
Photo courtesy of BravoTV.com

Kim Zolciak
The Real Housewives of Atlanta (Bravo TV)

Of all the scantily-dressed, attention-seeking blondes on reality TV, Kim Zolciak takes the worst dressed prize. I thought she was just vying for camera time the first time I saw her, but she always dresses that way. Her Frederick’s of Hollywood wardrobe is always too short, too tight, too low cut, and always inappropriate. Then there’s the over-the-top wigs and makeup. Add flashy accessories, a distracting amount of Botox, and one of the foulest mouths on reality TV, and like all the others on the worst dressed list, I fail to see her appeal. I enjoy watching RHOA for the most part, but tend to change the channel when Kim is on.  She’s too much.

Kim Zolciak
Photo courtesy of RealityTea.com

Yes, loud and over-the-top DOES get attention. But not for long, particularly if there’s little skill involved. This group puts themselves first – “I care about comfort, not fashion,” or “I have a designer handbag, so that makes me better than you” – which gets old, fast. Yes, you’ll see lots of “bling” from this group (except for June) – but other than Snooki, not a best-selling book, hot restaurant, or multi-million dollar deal among them.

Coincidence?

Hardly!

The Secret to Reality TV Success

The secret to success in reality TV is the same for success in any field. You need good:

  • Skills
  • Looks
  • Manners
  • Attitude

You need to be “the total package.”

All of the people on the best dressed list are. They were already successful before they went on television, and they’re using reality TV to play a bigger game by attracting more clients, bigger investors, and better, more lucrative opportunities. For them, it’s a stepping stone.

For everyone else, it’s the end goal – all they want is fame. They don’t care what tomorrow brings, as long as they’re famous today. Which is why they’re destined to become “one hit wonders.”

They aren’t the “total package.” They may have sufficient skills or looks or bad enough behavior to get them on a show, but once their “15 minutes of fame” is over, so is their lifestyle. Just ask Jon Gosselin, Heidi Montag, or Danielle Staub.

So what can you learn from all of this?

How you dress is important. So is what you know and how you act.

If you want a long, profitable career, do what successful people with long careers do: polish your skill set, dress well consistently, mind your manners, and have a great attitude. Become the “total package.” You’ll never end up on anyone’s “worst” anything list.

So…those are my picks for the best and worst dressed reality TV stars of 2012.

Do you agree? Disagree? Sound off below!

Diana Pemberton-SikesDiana Pemberton-Sikes in an image consultant and author who’s helped tens of thousands of women around the world look better, feel better, and have more confidence.  If you’re ready to join the ranks of the best dressed in your group, grab a copy of Wardrobe Magic to see how profitable dressing well can be.

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8 Comments

  • Carolyn Woods

    Reply Reply December 20, 2012

    Agree! But, what about the Kardashians?

    • Diana

      Reply Reply December 21, 2012

      What about them? Which list do you think they should be on? 😉

  • Cristina

    Reply Reply December 21, 2012

    Thoughtful comments and good observations by Diana! We have to agree.
    Ms. Vanderpumps Beverly Hills restaurant looks inviting – I live not far away and may go there to try it…

    • Diana

      Reply Reply December 21, 2012

      Hi Cristina,

      Glad you enjoyed the list! You should check out the restaurant – I bet it will be glamorous!

  • Yvonne

    Reply Reply December 24, 2012

    True!! I have faithfully read your write-ups and have been able to overhaul my image, based on your ideas. And it has impacted positively on my business

    • Diana

      Reply Reply January 2, 2013

      Glad to hear it, Yvonne. Thanks for sharing!

  • Claudia

    Reply Reply February 6, 2013

    Is it only me, or is there one difference in the bodies, too? To me it looks like the most important accessory for a badly dressed reality TV star is a certain body type – overly curvaceous, and a bit squishy, not necessarily overweight, but a bit heavy on secondary sexual characteristics. The well dressed people are rather on the athletic side. What is the secret? Do classic clothes just look clumsy on a decidedly sexy body, so the owners of these body type start to dress early in “sexy” clothing, which then pushes them towards a certain role in life? Or ist it personality, which make one half of the population work out and the other get boob jobs?

    • Diana

      Reply Reply February 7, 2013

      Hi Claudia,

      I think it’s a combination of body type, personality, and upbringing. Curvy girls get lots of attention early on, so if they’re insecure and suddenly find themselves the center of attention because of their bodies, it’s easy to wear form-fitting clothes to continue to turn heads. If they think a nice figure is the only thing they have to offer, it will set them on a very different path in life than if they think they’re smart. One is only concerned with the outside; the other uses the outside to enhance the earning power of the inside.

      Make sense?

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