Las Vegas Sun

August 24, 2017

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Keeping it real: Las Vegas natives who sought fame on reality TV

Las Vegas has been the setting for many reality TV shows. Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian make regular appearances, both on and off camera.

The casts of shows such as “Holly’s World,” “The Real World” and “Criss Angel Mindfreak,” to name a few, provide television viewers with plenty of drama.

Although many of these shows are set in Las Vegas, what you might not know is how many people from our backyard have had success — or failure — on reality TV.

Here are some notable Las Vegans who sang, cooked, competed or otherwise kept it real for American television audiences:

    • Christina Trainor
      /Courtesy MTV

      Christina Trainor, “The Real World: Paris,” 2003, MTV

      MTV’s original reality show got its first Las Vegas house member when Christina Trainor joined the cast of “The Real World: Paris” in 2003. Her bio from the show says Trainor, a military brat and UNLV criminal justice graduate, had stayed in Las Vegas to work as a cocktail waitress after her parents moved away.

      MTV described her as a party girl who had “adopted the Vegas lifestyle.” After spending season 13 in a French chateau with her castmates, Trainor’s reality career came to an end. She didn’t participate in any episodes of “Real World/Road Rules Challenges.”

    • Dia Frampton
      Photo by Lewis Jacobs/AP

      Dia Frampton, “The Voice,” 2011, NBC

      Dia Frampton, a Utah native, attended Shadow Ridge High School. She graduated early so she and her sister could pursue their music careers.

      On “The Voice,” Frampton, 23, was on country singer Blake Shelton’s team and made it to the final two, coming in as runner-up in show’s first season, which concluded last month. Although she didn’t win the $100,000 prize money and a record deal with Universal Republic, she is still making music with her independent band, Meg and Dia.

    • Rahman
      Photo by Tiffany Brown

      Rahman “Rock” Harper, “Hell’s Kitchen,” 2007, Fox

      Chef Gordon Ramsay said Rahman Harper’s “rock solid” cooking skills are what earned him the top spot in season three of “Hell’s Kitchen.” In the final challenge, Harper prepared surf and turf and rib-eye steak, securing his spot as the winner.

      The title came with a $250,000-a-year head-chef position at Terra Verde at Green Valley Ranch Resort. Harper hosted a dinner at the restaurant as a special guest in season four of “Hell’s Kitchen.” He left the Henderson restaurant in 2008 when his one-year contract expired. Harper is a professor at Stratford University’s School of Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management in Virginia.

    • Maggie Ausburn
      Photo by AP Photo/CBS, Cliff Lipson

      Margaret “Maggie” Ausburn, “Big Brother,” 2005, CBS

      In a jury vote of 4-3, Las Vegas emergency room nurse Maggie Ausburn won season six of “Big Brother.” The Summerlin Hospital nurse spent 80 days isolated from the world with cameras watching her every move in the Big Brother house before she was awarded the $500,000 grand prize. By avoiding weekly eviction, she beat houseguest Ivette Corredero. She is said to still live in Las Vegas.

    • Brittany Rubalcaba
      /Las Vegas Weekly

      Brittany Rubalcaba, “America’s Next Top Model,” 2008, the CW

      Henderson native Brittany Rubalcaba was the third contestant eliminated in cycle 11 of “America’s Next Top Model.” The Foothill High School graduate, who at the time she was on the show was a recreation assistant at Black Mountain Recreation Center, was sent home when Tyra Banks said that although she saw potential in her, she came off as too commercial in her final photo shoot. Rubalcaba appeared on the cover of Las Vegas Weekly in 2007.

      Reports around the Internet indicate Rubalcaba is putting off modeling to finish college.

    • Janu Tornell
      /AP Photo, CBS, Monty Brinton

      Janu Tornell, “Survivor: Palau,” 2005, CBS

      Born and raised in Las Vegas, beauty queen Janu Tornell competed in “Survivor: Palau” in 2005. Tornell voluntarily left the show in its 10th week, becoming the fourth person to quit the game since the reality show’s start in 2000. Tornell said she quit because she was done with the “Survivor” experience and to give cast member Stephanie LaGrossa a chance to win.

      She is fluent in Spanish, Italian, French and English and after the show she taught in UNLV’s foreign language department. She was crowned Miss Nevada in 1989 and is a former Tropicana “Folies” showgirl.

    • Michael Grimm at Ovation
      Photo by Nate Ludens

      Michael Grimm, “America’s Got Talent,” 2010, NBC

      Southern soul singer Michael Grimm now calls Clark County home after he won the fifth season of “America’s Got Talent.” Grimm, who lives in Henderson, received $1 million and earned a spot as a headliner of the AGT Tour Show that came to Caesars Palace in 2010.

      His performance of “When a Man Loves a Woman” won him the grand prize and, he says, his wife. He said his girlfriend was the inspiration for the performance and he later proposed to her on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”

      They were married the next year. Grimm signed a record deal with Epic Records in 2010, releasing his self-titled album this year. Sun columnist John Katsilometes recently interviewed Grimm.

    • Mayor Oscar Goodman-<em>Pawn Stars</em>
      Photo by Tom Donoghue/

      Cast of “Pawn Stars” 2010, History Channel: Rich Harrison, Austin “Chumlee” Russell, Corey “Big Hoss” Harrison

      One of many reality TV series to be filmed in Las Vegas, the History Channel’s “Pawn Stars” chronicles the lives of four Las Vegas natives who work at the family owned and operated Gold & Silver Pawn Shop on Las Vegas Boulevard.

      Rick Harrison, his son, his grandson and his grandson’s friend all work at the now well-known shop, trading and selling a variety of artifacts. said that an original episode of “Pawn Stars” was watched by up to 7 million viewers, making it the History Channel’s most popular series.

      “Pawn Stars” was renewed this year for 80 episodes over four seasons, the biggest reality TV renewal in history. Read a recent Sun story here.

    • Mikalah Gordon
      Photo by AP Photo/Israel Leal

      Mikalah Gordon, “American Idol,” 2005, Fox

      Mikalah Gordon auditioned for “American Idol” when the show came to Las Vegas, her hometown. At 17, she made it to the top 11 and was eliminated after singing a rendition of “Love Will Lead You Back.”

      After the show, Gordon returned to host two seasons of “American Idol Extra,” was a contestant on CMT’s “Gone Country 2” and made an appearance on “The Tyra Banks Show.” She recently played Dorothy in a Lubbock, Texas, production of “The Wizard of Oz.”

    • CinemaCon Arrivals 2011
      Photo by Steve Marcus

      Julianne Hough, “Dancing with the Stars,” 2007, ABC

      Julianne Hough spent a year at the Las Vegas Academy of International Studies, Performing and Visual Arts before she moved to Los Angeles to begin a career in music and dance. She won two seasons of “Dancing With the Stars,” performing with five celebrities.

      She was nominated for a Creative Arts Primetime Emmy in 2007 for choreography.

      Hough went on to release a country music album and is dating “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest. She will star in the 2011 MTV film adaptation of “Footloose.”

    • Holly Madison Hosts at Blush
      Photo by Erik Kabik/Retna/

      Angel Porrino, “Holly’s World,” 2010, E!

      On the Las Vegas-based reality show “Holly’s World,” Las Vegas resident Angel Porrino is portrayed as Holly Madison’s personal assistant and best friend.

      The two met while filming another reality show, “The Girls Next Door,” during which the two women lived in Playboy magnate Hugh Hefner’s “Bunny House.” Porrino regularly substitutes for Madison in the lead role for “Peepshow,” the topless revue at Planet Hollywood. She also has a starring role in “Absinthe” at Caesars Palace.

      Clearly, the skills she learned while studying modern dance at Preston’s Class Act and Dance & Gymnastics of Las Vegas paid off.

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