Reality Television and the LGBTQ Community

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Reality television is a genre of television show that presents its characters and story line in an unscripted and spontaneous format, intending the show to represent real life with real people. Over the past twenty five years, it has become one of the largest segments of programming on television networks, specialty channels, and streaming services.

The vast majority of reality television shows are competitive in nature with a focus on a specific profession or skill. These include singing, cooking, modelling, dancing, slam poetry, and more. Many of the shows set up their characters in programmed elimination bouts, with the final character standing declared the winner. A smaller number of the shows are focused on documenting the daily lives of the characters in the show and their interactions with others.

To appreciate the size of the industry, we have identified a total of 84 global reality television shows from 29 countries that have had prominent LGBTQ representation. In many cases, the original show concept has been so popular that it has become an international franchise that is replicated in numerous countries and which are broadcast more locally.

LGBTQ representation can be by way of producers or directors of the show, hosts, or characters. Many of theses individuals have become household names around the world as a result of their profile on reality television.

The ranking of the top thirteen shows in terms of the greatest number of LGBTQ participants is: the Big Brother franchise; RuPaul Drag Race franchise; the Idol franchise; X Factor and Project Runway (tied); Eurovision; the Next Top Model franchise; Top Chef; The Amazing Race and The Voice (tied); and So You Think You Can Dance, the Got Talent franchise, and the Queer Eye franchise (tied).

The wide acceptance of LGBTQ individuals in reality television has helped educate the public about the community. The appeal of this genre has helped move the dial forward on tolerance around the issue of sexual orientation, and the wide representation of lesbians, gays, transgender and others has truly reflected the diversity of the community itself. Because it is reality television, the community believes they are being represented authentically and are shown as a genuine and real segment of society. The success of the genre is because the shows are entertaining and the audience develops an intense interest in the characters' lives. In the quest for ratings however, there is concern about the risk of sensationalizing the characters to the extreme to attract popularity and advertising support.

We have identified the following LGBTQ individuals as prominent in the reality television industry around the world. Simply click on their name to read more about each of them.

Australia

Austria

Brazil

Bulgaria

Cameroon

Canada

Denmark

Finland

Great Britain

Iceland

India

Ireland

Israel

Italy

Jamaica

Mexico

New Zealand

  • Tamati Coffey, Dancing With the Stars, New Zealand's Got Talent

Norway

Pakistan

Philippines

Puerto Rico

Romania

Serbia

Singapore

South Korea

Sweden

Taiwan

Thailand

The Netherlands

United States

Vietnam

See Also

Further Reading/Research


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