Real People, Real Business

The upcoming television season will see a slew of new fashion reality shows, whose stars are out to turn their moments of fame into burgeoning businesses.

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Six years after “Project Runway” and “Blow Out” made their debuts, the fashion and beauty reality television show gravy train is gaining speed and loading on more passengers.

Television programmers’ appetites for relatively inexpensive, advertiser-friendly reality show fodder centered on fashion, beauty and lifestyle themes are unceasingly voracious. Around 20 new fashion- and beauty-related reality shows are hitting the air this summer and fall, using a very narrow definition of fashion and beauty. That’s a sizable chunk of the record 100-plus new reality shows slated for TV.

Reality show prospects are lining up to follow the paths blazed by BravoTV’s mini moguls Bethenny Frankel and Rachel Zoe. Frankel, the decidedly nonhousewife who went from sharing the reality spotlight in Bravo’s ensemble show “The Real Housewives of New York City” to the lead role in “Bethenny Ever After,” sold Skinnygirl Margarita to Fortune Brands Inc. for an estimated $100 million in March. Zoe toiled in the red-carpet trenches long before Heidi Klum was a household name, but it took “The Rachel Zoe Project” to lay the groundwork for a budding fashion empire stretching from Neiman Marcus to QVC.

Frankel and Zoe have given telegenic entrepreneurs the world over a template for success: overshare and catchphrase your way to millions. Although she won’t go as far as taking a pregnancy test on television like Frankel did, “The way she went through it validated the thing I’m doing,” said Corri McFadden, who aims to build a national customer base for her Chicago luxury designer consignment service eDrop-off with a reality show made by 44 Blue Productions. “She had a harder path to come out the way she did [via the ‘The Real Housewives of New York City’], but it can definitely be done and that is what she showed me,” McFadden said.

Katie Cazorla, owner of The Painted Nail salon in Sherman Oaks, Calif., whose reality show “Nail Files” premiered June 21 on the TV Guide Network, has the Frankel formula down. In the opening scene of the show, she’s in her bathroom frantically performing some sort of denim calisthenics to get her jeans to fit — and the oversharing commences. “Oh my God, I got to step on the scale,” Cazorla gasps. Next, she talks directly to television viewers, confessional style: “In L.A., it’s all about image, and I have to keep up with the Joneses.” And back to the bathroom: “It’s like a sausage in here. I gained .7 ounces. I’m fat.” Later come the catchphrases. Cazorla replaces the “t”s in certain curse words to exclaim, “Shiz!” and “Shizballs!”

These less-than-polished, reveal-all reality show moments might have once scared companies from doing business with boldly public reality stars, but that’s no longer the case. Zoe, Frankel and their consumer-approved reality show brethren can be thanked for the shift. “The success of some of these people has really paved the way for the next generation of people coming up,” said Brian Dow, a partner at APA Talent & Literary Agency, where he heads the branded lifestyle division and represents the likes of Bethenny Frankel and the Kardashians. “A lot of people were very gun shy about working with my clients in the beginning, thinking they weren’t businesspeople, [but] a lot of these people are businesspeople and that’s what led them to reality television as a marketing vehicle for their brand, and they are very interested in brand building.”

Fortunately for brand builders across the fashion and beauty landscape, unlikely subjects are getting their 15 minutes of fame — or more, they hope — with reality television maturing and producers forced to peel back the layers of the consumer sector in the search for audience-snagging gold. The cameras are zooming in on nail salons, vintage and consignment stores (“Fashion Hunters,” about Second Time Around, will premiere this fall on Bravo, and an untitled Decades project is being considered by the channel, as well), jewelers (Bravo is developing “Jason of Beverly Hills”), wholesale apparel showrooms (production company Authentic Entertainment is working on a show about The King Collective) and Web sensations (production company Kinetic Content has signed on YouTube personalities and sisters Elle and Blair Fowler).

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