On reality TV, you can be a Survivor, Top Chef, or The Biggest Loser.
You can Say Yes to the Dress, go Below Deck, learn What Not to Wear, get Punk’d or Chopped, and hang out with an eligible Bachelor in Paradise while Keeping up with the Kardashians or Making the Cut in Laguna Beach, The Hills, or The Real World.
Reality TV lets us focus on other people’s drama, distracting us from the routine or disorder of our own daily lives and proving, yet again, that truth is often stranger than fiction. It’s a guilty pleasure—being Alone or Naked and Afraid, hanging out with Real Housewives, chasing the Deadliest Catch, touring a Million Dollar Beach House, kicking Cheaters to the curb, testing the watchful eyes of Big Brother, or discovering America’s Next Top Model with your 90 Day Fiance or Undercover Boss on Love Island or the Jersey Shore.
You can also zip around the world in The Amazing Race, be glad you don’t have 19 Kids and Counting or aren’t Dating and Naked, and more.
Oh, so much more.
The fun part—or, one of the fun parts—is some of the folks you can do these things with are Cougs. Here’s a round-up of some reality TV shows featuring Washington State University alumni.
Alaskan Bush People: Sabrina, the cow, was cast in this Discovery show about a family living off the land in a desolate region of Alaska. In 2017, Jan Wolfisberg (’17 Busi.), traveled with the cow to deliver the animal to its new home. He got the cow when he was 11 years old, part of a 4-H project, and kept the pet for 10 years. Sabrina competed in the Northwest Washington Fair and Washington State Fair, winning numerous awards including Grand Champion.
The Bachelor: Catherine Giudici (’08 Comm.) won season 17 of this hit ABC show, marrying Sean Lowe on live TV in 2014 in the first live-broadcast Bachelor wedding. Today, they have three children—two boys and a girl—and live in Texas.
The Bachelorette: Marcus Lathan (’12 Busi.) was one of 30 men vying for bachelorette Katie Thurston’s affection in the seventeenth season of this hit ABC show. (See “Bringing you up to date.”)
Big Brother: Jamie Kern Lima (’00 Busi. Admin.), Miss Washington USA 2000, finished fourth on the first season of this CBS show. She was the first house guest from Washington. She was also the highest-ranking woman and youngest woman on season one. She went on to work as a TV news reporter in Washington and Oregon, to earn a master’s degree in business administration from Columbia University, and to found a cosmetics company that she sold in 2016 to L’Oréal for $1.2 billion.
The Courtship: Tessa Cleary (’19, ’21 MA Arch.) assists her friend, Nicole Remy, as she looks for love on this NBC show. Remy stars in the new show, trusting Cleary’s judgments of the men vying for her heart. Cleary grew up in Federal Way. Filming took place at North Yorkshire’s Castle Howard in August and September 2021. The show premiered March 6, 2022.
Dangerous Catch: Clark Pederson (’10 Comm.) married the captain’s daughter. He earned his third-mate unlimited license at the California Maritime Academy, where he met Mandy Hansen Pederson. She basically grew up aboard the FV Northwestern, a commercial fishing vessel, and was already a regular on the show. From the archives: “Reel deal: Clark Pederson of Deadliest Catch”
Flip or Flop Vegas: Bristol Marunde (’05 History) co-hosted this HGTV show, which premiered in 2017 and ran for three seasons, with his wife, Aubrey. Marunde, a welterweight mixed martial artist, also competed on the UFC-produced reality TV series The Ultimate Fighter: Team Carwin vs. Team Nelson.
Iron Chef Showdown: Jaymee Sire (’02 Comm.) was the floor reporter for this Food Network show in 2017 following a stint as a reporter for ESPN. She also appeared in two episodes of Beat Bobby Flay as well as one episode of Food Network Star.
Little People, Big World: Tori Roloff (’13 Elem. Ed.) is married to Zach Roloff, one of the four children of Amy and ex-husband Matt Roloff. They’re all stars of this long-running TLC show, which documents their lives on an Oregon farm. In 2020, Tori Roloff visited the WSU Pullman campus, posting on Instagram: “Not going to lie… I only spent a year here and it was probably the hardest year of my life. First time being on my own. First time being away from family. I felt pretty trapped and overwhelmed. … as hard as this year was I think I grew the most here. I learned the most here. It’s funny… bringing my family back I could only remember the good things about this place. The sports, the parties, and the friends. … Thanks for the memories, Pullman.”
Love Island: The first US season of this international reality dating show in 2019 featured 11 singles looking for love—or at least a partner to get them through the next elimination ceremony. Mallory Santic (’15 Comm.)—spoiler alert—made it to day nine. At WSU, she was a member of the Alpha Phi sorority. According to her LinkedIn account, she’s an assistant site merchandiser for Walt Disney Co. Previously, she worked at Nike.
Mark vs The Mountain: Longtime KRQE-TV meteorologist Mark Ronchetti (’96 Comm.) stars in this reality show, which details his effort “to build the highest elevation house in New Mexico,” near the summit of Angel Fire Resort. His wife, Krysty, is a spokeswoman for the resort. Their Choose Adventure Lodge is the highest house ever built in the state of New Mexico at 10,625 feet above sea level.
90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way: Corey Rathgeber (’11 Comm.) stars in the third season of this TLC reality show that follows Americans moving abroad to get married. Rathgeber married Ecuadorian Evelin Villegas off-screen in 2019, but the couple is filming their ceremony and reception for the show.
The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills: Julian Sterbick (’08 Comm.) was an associate producer for seasons one and two and story producer for season three. He returned for seasons five and six, producing and directing this flagship Bravo show. He also worked as a senior producer on the second season of The Real Housewives of Dallas.
Shark Tank: Henry Miller (’19 Hist.) appeared on this show in 2014 after starting his gourmet honey business in 2009 when he was just 12 years old. Miller had asked his parents for a beehive for his birthday. The honey began to pile up, and he got the idea to add spices, creating Henry’s Humdingers. He closed the business in 2019, but not before Mark Cuban, the billionaire owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks and Shark Tank host, provided a reference on Miller’s college application.
24/7 College Football: The WSU Cougars episode of this HBO Sports’ all-access, college football, documentary television series originally aired October 23, 2019, and features then-head coach Mike Leach, the 2019 Coug football team, and others.
Top Chef: Doneen Arquines (’05 Comm.) has worked on this show since its first year, working her way up from production assistant to executive producer. She’s also worked on a number of spin-offs, including Top Chef Amateurs (2021), Top Chef: Last Chance Kitchen (2018), Top Chef Junior (2017, 2018), Top Chef Duels (2014), Top Chef Masters (2011, 2012), and Top Chef: Just Desserts (2010).
Whale Wars: Sterbick also worked as a story producer for season five of this Animal Planet show.
Did we miss one? Know a Coug who’s involved with a reality show and isn’t mentioned here? Send the info to firstname.lastname@example.org.