The Best of the Big A is doing a survey asking folks for their favorite Atlanta reality star of all time. So the organizer Shane Harrison asked me for my top 5. I could not narrow it down to a top 5 so I gave him a top 10.
Atlanta has had its fair share of reality “stars” over the past decade. They’ve shown up on “America’s Got Talent,” “American Idol,” “The Real World,” “The Amazing Race,” you name it..
We are going to exclude the likes of Bobby Brown & Whitney Houston(“Being Bobby Brown”), Evander Holyfield (“Dancing With the Stars”), T.I. (“T.I.; Road to Redemption) and Jeff Foxworthy (“Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader/”) since they were already famous before their respective shows came along. But we are including former Atlantans.
Here are my 10 favorites. Feel free to add your own. (Mychael Knight from “Project Runway” and Frankie & Neffe from “Keyshia Cole” come to mind)
1) NeNe Leakes (cast member on “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” 2008-present) — She’s conceited, she’s blustery, she’s a troublemaker. But she’s always fun to watch on screen and that’s what makes her our favorite reality star from Atlanta!
2) Ryan Seacrest (host, “American Idol, 2002-present) — This former Dunwoody resident and Star 94 jock is the hardest working man in Hollywood. His accolades are well earned.
3) Alton Brown (host, “Good Eats,” 1999 to present, commentator, “Iron Chef America,” 2005-present) — He brings a distinctive nerdy cool to food.
4) Richard Blais (came in second on “Top Chef” in 2008) — Besides that faux hawk of his, his grounded demeanor, sense of humor and love for gastronomy and liquid nitrogen made him a fan favorite season four.
5) Julia Wiliams (contestant, “Hell’s Kitchen” in 2007) — She brought all the elements of a great reality show contestant: pathos, a plucky resolve, a big mouth, oversized confidence and a modest background as a Waffle House cook. Yet she still made it to the top 4 and earned the respect of tough man Gordon Ramsay.
6) Paschal “Pappy” English(finished fourth, “Survivor; Marquesas,” 2003) — This Thomaston judge played the game with integrity and warmth and was one of the few players to ever lose thanks to pure chance.
7) Kim Zolciak (cast mate, “Real Housewives of Atlanta”) — She is like a caricature of a caricature with her trash talking, fake hair, free-spending ways. A great foil for NeNe.
Ty Pennington (carpenter, “Trading Spaces,” 2000-2003; host, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” 2004-present ) — He was a breakout star in TLC’s “Trading Spaces” when he was a Grant Park resident. But he moved to LA. and hit gold with ABC’s “Extreme Makeover.” With his signature bull horn, he became our Cheerleader in Chief overhauling homes for deserving families every Sunday night.
9) Parvati Shallow (winner, “Survivor:Microneisa,” 2008) — She gets her due for winning $1 million, more than any other Atlanta contestant of any reality show. Pretty, yet hardly shallow, this Sprayberry High School and UGA grad actually came on the show twice. She lost her first time around but won the “fan vs. favorites” season by orchestrating several blindsides against other contestants.
10) Vern Yip (”Trading Spaces,” 2000-2004, “HGTV Design Star,” 2006-present, “Deserving Design,” 2007-2009) — This amiable Atlanta interior designer brings empathy and a sharp eye to HGTV, both as a judge and a host.