Here's one reality TV star with staying power -- Ken Tucker parses ''Joe Millionaire,'' ''Survivor,'' ''American Idol,'' and ''The Bachelorette'' to find a contestant with the moxie to succeed

By Ken Tucker
Updated August 11, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT
Trista Rehn
Credit: Trista Rehn: Karl Larsen /ZUMA Press/Newscom

Here’s one reality TV star with staying power

When it comes to reality ”stars,” context is everything. That is to say, the person — a citizen plucked from obscurity by the shrewd whim of a show’s casting process — must eventually transcend the series that gave him or her initial prominence.

Using this as a measure, you can rule out, say, ”Joe Millionaire”’s Evan, a doofus who strained to maintain affability throughout ”Millionaire”’s run, but who quickly, once the show ended, proved to be a boorish egomaniac.

Among recent ”Survivor” castaways, Heidi was getting a lot of attention for her physical attributes and — let’s just say the P.I. phrase, shall we? — dumb-blonde dithering. But her Playboy posing session and subsequent lack of notable press quotes consign her to the dustbin of obscurity.

”American Idol,” you bellow? Clay? Ruben? Sorry — the former is a twit: a made-over, golden-voiced twit, to be sure, but a mannered, affected, petulant twit nonetheless. The latter has proven to be of media interest primarily for the lawsuit about the 205 shirts he chose to wear in the early stages of the game. In this case, clothes do not make the man.

No, when it comes to reality stars who know how to stretch their initial big break, only ”The Bachelorette”’s Trisa Rehn has staying power. The girl is a combination of soft (willowy, gentle-voiced, sentimental) and hard (hot enough to get her own spin-off when she was rejected by that who-remembers-the-weasel’s-name? Bachelor), and she’s parlayed ”Bachelorette” into four upcoming hours that will chronicle her marriage ceremony.

Combine this with a gig doing fried-chicken commercials whose close-ups reveal the strain fame has placed on this tough little cookie, and you’ve got the best reality star yet: a true TV personality, with undercurrents of emotion that suggest she’ll be a real handful if she stays in the spotlight. And isn’t the Inevitable Meltdown what we want from a manufactured celebrity, anyway?