• Tue, Aug 16 2011

The Ex-Reality Star’s Guide to Going Broke

Although they scored magazine covers and endorsement deals when they were villains on The Hills, Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt recently told The Daily Beast that they’re now broke and living with Spencer’s parents. The couple was raking in millions of dollars at their peak but blew it on everything from clothes to plastic surgery to a self-financed music career. Here’s what they did – and here’s how you can manage your own finances by doing the exact opposite.

Plastic surgery is not an investment.

Although Heidi, still in her early 20s, got ten plastic surgeries in a single day and landed the cover of People magazine for her efforts, she now regrets all of her procedures. Some of them left her with chronic pain, and she looks so different now that it’s hard for people to recognize her. The plastic surgery was supposed to make her feel more confident, but it just made her already fragile self-esteem even worse. Bottom line: if you’re not happy with who you are, dropping six figures on cosmetic surgery will not change that.

What goes up must come down.

As Spencer wryly says in the interview, you can be too famous. Very few celebrities are able to maintain A-list status forever, especially now that the entertainment industry is larger and produces more and more shows, albums, and films than ever before. Spencer and Heidi spent their money freely without thinking about the future – even if they’d invested a small percentage of their income when The Hills was at its peak, they wouldn’t be in such dire financial straits now.

Become known for your work, not your personality.

Reality TV stardom is often dependent on successful “personalities,” and the couple that became known as Speidi played the villain role perfectly. However, they made their money through their personas, not through their work abilities. When the show ended and the public got tired of their personalities, Heidi and Spencer became increasingly desperate to market and profit off of themselves, even staging a breakup to stay in the spotlight. It didn’t work.

Take personal risks, not financial ones.

When Heidi wanted to have a pop music career, she and her husband spent $2 million of their own money to pay for studio time and the best producers in the industry. However, the gamble didn’t pay off and Heidi’s career went nowhere fast. If Heidi had been serious about becoming a singer, she could have pursued other paths that were less financially risky – singing in small venues like coffee shops and bars, posting videos on YouTube, or getting a record deal so that her music would be produced and recorded at the label’s expense.

Don’t bite the hand that fed you.

As The Hills went on, Spencer repeatedly got into arguments with the show’s producers and kept asking for more money. Eventually, he was kicked off of the show. Though there’s nothing wrong with recognizing your value and asking for a raise, it backfired when Spencer trashed the show in the press and fell out with the other cast members, who refused to keep working with him. Prove that you are an asset to your company, not a liability. Hills star Lauren Conrad is an example of making her reality TV connections work for her – though she moved on from the show after the fifth season and pursued other projects like writing books and designing a fashion line, she didn’t say negative things about the show in the media.

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