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'90 Day Fiancé' Salary Details: How Much Do Reality Stars Get Paid Per Episode?

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How Much Do "90 Day Fiancé' Cast Members Get Paid?

For some people, reality TV is a gateway to fame and fortune. Would Jessica Simpson have a billion-dollar lifestyle brand today if she hadn't filmed Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica first? Probably not. And Real Housewives stars have contracts that can add up to six figures per year to their already well-padded bank accounts. 

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But not every reality show contract is created equal — and there's no guarantee that being on a show will lead to financial security, never mind fabulous wealth. Some reality cast members earn what amounts to a stipend and then are left to their own devices to keep making money in the future. For example, the casts of TLC's franchise 90 Day Fiancé and spin-off shows aren't living in luxury, no matter how notorious the programs makes them.

90 Day Fiance salary details: How much do the reality stars get paid per episode?

The per-episode fee for the show is rather low.

TLC and producing company Sharp Entertainment have never revealed what they pay participants, nor have cast members broken whatever confidentiality agreements they sign. However, other people familiar with the show have spilled some tea. Nikki Cooper and Chris Theineman, who appeared with their friend David Toborowski and now-wife Annie, say cast members receive $1,000 per episode and $2,500 for appearing on an episode of a tell-all special. So for a 13-episode season and a two-episode tell-all, that could net a cast member about $18,000.  

Only one member of the couple gets paid.

Now, if you were thinking that each couple was getting paid under and individual contract, think again. The foreign cast members are not legally permitted to work in the United States until they get their green cards. So for couples who aren't married yet, only the American is earning a paycheck for filming. 

However, some couples come back to film episodes of 90 Day Fiancé: Happily Ever After. In that case, both spouses are generally allowed to work so the fees for the episodes are higher, reportedly ranging from $2,000 to $7,500. 

They don't get lucrative residuals deals.

Hollywood is famous for contracts where actors get a percentage of the profits on a movie. Some of the cast of Star Wars reportedly got low rates for their acting work but some, like Sir Alec Guinness, made a fortune in residual fees over decades after the movie came out. That's not how contracts for 90 Day Fiancé work. The cast members get paid "appearance fees" but don't have any rights to the profits from the show. That means that they don't get paid again if the series goes into re-runs and they definitely don't get a piece of TLC's advertising revenue from the popular broadcast. 

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The money disappears quickly.

One of the reasons some cast members might keep re-joining the different spin-offs is that the money they make from a single season is easy to spend in a short time. Danielle Jbali, who was on one told fans that her payments from the show funded some big purchases but weren't enough for her to retire. In fact, she was posting on social media about her money trouble and fans didn't understand why TLC wasn't a cash cow for her. 

"We don't make millions from doing the TV show and for those of you questioning what happened to my show money. I bought my home, bought appliances, did some repairs to the home, paid for a STNA class, put a down payment on a newer car. It was not spent foolishly," she wrote at the time. "I have not received a TV show check in a year. So please stop being judgmental when you don't know all the facts."

Djbali spent her money on necessities. 

How does this compare to other reality show contracts?

Some networks will shell out big bucks to keep a profitable reality show going. According to reports, Bravo is willing to pay Real Housewives stars handsomely to keep bringing the drama to the small screen. According to some reports, Nene Leakes managed to negotiate a $2.5 million dollar contract for season 10 of The Real Housewives of Atlanta. The Kardashian family got $150 million for Keeping Up With The Kardashians in 2017. (How Kris Jenner distributes that money between all the Kar-Jenner kids and their families is anyone's guess.) Even the kids on Jersey Shore were able to negotiate star-caliber pay: Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi reported made $2.5 million in the final season of the show.

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What do stars do for money after the cameras stop rolling? 

Some couples return to their regular jobs and lives once the TLC crews finish filming them. For example, after being on season three of the show together, Melanie Bowers returned to her job as a full-time nurse and her Jamaican-born husband Devar Walters trained as a welder and underwater construction expert

Some, like Ashley Martson Smith, partner with brands to earn money promoting products on social media.

But other cast members want to keep the reality fame alive as long as they can and do paid appearances or sell Cameo videos to make money as well as capitalize on their TV notoriety. Colt Johnson charges $50 for a cameo and has done club appearances, such as one at a strip club to celebrate his divorce from Larissa Dos Santos


A post shared by Devar Walters (@devar_a.k.a.savage) on Jun 12, 2020 at 7:35pm PDT

Some couples, like Melanie and Devar stick with selfies and leave reality TV behind. 

While 90 Day Fiancé might be a fun adventure for the couples, it isn't a path to financial security. 

Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. She is the creator of the blog FeminXer and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.