Weird Rules TLC Stars Have To Follow

Many fans of TLC know that the network creates some of the most entertaining and drama-filled reality television shows for our viewing pleasure. Between "Say Yes to the Dress," "Breaking Amish," "Sister Wives," "sMothered," and many more, there are plenty of series to choose from that are completely bingeworthy. Whether you want to indulge in some pimple popping from "Dr. Pimple Popper" or want to watch love bloom on "90 Day Fiancé," each show features different families, individuals, and couples that tell a wildly different story. However, have you ever wondered what it takes to actually become a star on one of these shows?

If you didn't already know, TLC's cast and crew are expected to follow a number of odd rules during filming. Some of these rules are pretty self-explanatory, especially when it comes to social media and protecting the privacy of the cast, but others you probably would never guess (like what they aren't allowed to do with music). Keep reading to learn some of the strange rules TLC stars have to follow and what it's like to actually work on the network.

They have to be okay with giving up their privacy

As expected when you are on a reality television show, there is little to no privacy, especially when you're sharing information or stories regarding your romantic life. Whether it's an incredibly embarrassing moment that you slightly wish wasn't filmed or a deeply personal conversation with a loved one, the cameras are always rolling no matter what.

Sandy Malone from TLC's "Wedding Island" opened up to HuffPost about some of the realities you should expect when joining a high-profile television network for the first time. According to Malone, producers are allegedly "ALWAYS listening." "Even when they're not filming you (that you're aware of), they're taping every word that comes out of your mouth," she said, describing how the producers sit in a control booth or in a van "taking notes on every word you mutter, every phone call you make, and what time you sneezed. The things you say when you think nobody is listening often make the best voiceovers in edit."

Oftentimes, there is no such thing as privacy on set for TLC stars, and you should "NEVER believe anyone who tells you they won't use something they're filming," she continued. 

TLC stars must behave well on social media

As a TLC cast member, proper social media etiquette is crucial. For reality television stars, posting on platforms like Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook could potentially lead to revealing spoilers of an upcoming episode or even a future scandal. Many viewers love looking at the social media handles of their favorite reality stars and often even check out their profiles while watching an episode. Although engaging with fans is encouraged to boost an online following and motivate viewers to watch the show, it's important to be cautious about what you post and to learn how to manage your platforms when in the spotlight.

Case in point: In January 2022, People reported that "90 Day Fiancé" star Alina Kozhevnikova was fired from the TLC show after multiple racists posts resurfaced across the internet. Additionally, Adam Busby of TLC's "OutDaughtered" found himself in a gun control debate on Instagram after posting a picture of his daughters saying they were going to "buy more ammo."

"Wedding Island" star Sandy Malone explained to HuffPost that "without the fans, you are nothing" and shared how important it is not to engage with them negatively online when an episode airs. "If you are rude to people who care enough to watch your show on a public forum such as Twitter, EVERYONE will hate you. Being the villain on the show may be fine, but being a villain to fans is never okay," she said. 

They may have to follow a script

As much as we want to believe there is some truth to what occurs on a reality television show, at the end of the day, we know that some parts are allegedly scripted and often taken out of context. Typically, many elements of a reality show are written up by the producers to make the series more enticing and interesting to the viewers, and the majority of the time, it works.

In 2012, TLC admitted to bending the truth about the accuracy of "Breaking Amish" after rumors spread across the internet that parts of the show were staged. Their statement read, "There is a lot of information floating around about the group featured on Breaking Amish. Much of it is not true, but some of it is — and is addressed in upcoming episodes" (via Deadline). Additionally, Courtney Wright, a bridesmaid on "Say Yes to the Dress" in 2013, also confirmed that her experience on the show wasn't what it seemed when it aired. When asked about her time on the show in an interview with 417 Magazine, Wright responded, "Well, it's staged," she said. "It's real, but it's staged." 

Their romantic relationships may have to be closely observed

When it comes to romance, certain TLC stars have not had the best of luck. To avoid any potential future scandals for the network, TLC producers are required to monitor relationships of their stars pretty closely. As June "Mama June" Sharon of TLC's "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" experienced, depending on whom you choose to date, you may get kicked off a show or have your show canceled altogether. 

Pageant mom Mama June received immense backlash when news spread that she was dating Mark Anthony McDaniel, a registered sex offender (via Cosmopolitan). After later being convicted of sexually assaulting one of Mama June's daughters, Anna, TLC eventually canceled the show in October 2014. In a statement (via Today), the network said, "Supporting the health and welfare of these remarkable children is our only priority. TLC is faithfully committed to the children's ongoing comfort and well-being."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Child stars are typically not properly paid

Although you would expect that being featured on a wildly popular reality television show would mean you'd be set for life financially, that is not always the case, especially for child stars. The TLC network allegedly refuses to pay some of their child actors, while many other adults across different programs collect their paychecks. "Wedding Island" star Sandy Malone told HuffPost that it's typical for reality stars not to make big bucks at the start of their career. "Reality television doesn't pay squat to the 'talent' in early seasons and you don't make real money in reality TV until you've got a successful show and endorsements chasing you," she said.

Maxine Tinnel, a pageant organizer for TLC's "Toddlers & Tiaras," told the New York Post in 2012 that not only is the show staged, but also that many families and pageant kids are not compensated for their time. Eden Wood, a pageant queen known as one of the most famous faces of the series, was also allegedly not paid. "Honey, if anyone should have been paid, little Eden and I should have gotten paid," Mickie Wood, Eden's mother, said to the New York Post. "Eden had been the poster child for the show since 2009. She was TLC's poster child. But with us, it was just a 'you scratch our back, we'll scratch yours' deal." 

TLC stars are required to pass a background check

Just as you might expect before getting hired for any job, before getting cast on a TLC reality television show, the network allegedly performs extensive background checks on all their potential stars. This is to ensure that whomever they hire doesn't have an outrageous criminal record, bad credit, or mental health struggles before filming, hiring other cast members, and airing on national television.

"Wedding Island" star Sandy Malone told HuffPost that if the show in which a reality star appears becomes successful and producers or audience members learn of any dirty laundry in the star's past, they can be expected to get called out for it. "If it's embarrassing for the network, you can be sued for non-disclosure," she said. "If it's juicy, they'll play it up and you'll wish you'd never heard of reality television. By then, of course, it's wayyy too late." 

The network chooses how they want to highlight cast members

Oftentimes, reality stars are not portrayed the way they would expect to be. TLC, along with many other networks, typically decides how they want to depict their cast while filming. "Wedding Island" star Sandy Malone explained in an article for HuffPost that the crew films everything and anything, even if they don't use every ounce of footage. This is because production typically doesn't know what clips they will use during the editing process. "You cannot worry about what's going to be edited in or out because there's no way of knowing," she said.

Even if you are promised a certain clip won't be used, chances are, it actually will be and, as a result, will portray you in a different light. "The producer who is telling you that is not the same producer/director/editor that is putting together the show in the edit suite. The best way to avoid getting in trouble with this is to be yourself and don't say stupid sh** that you wouldn't normally say to anyone in public," she continued.

This issue occurred specifically with Kate Stoltz, a former "Breaking Amish" and "Return to Amish" star who tweeted that "reality [TV] ruins people's lives and futures." "Doing a reality show," she wrote, "was one of the worst decisions I made in my life. Everything on the show is so edited and out of context" (via Us Weekly).

They allegedly pay for their own legal expenses

Many would assume that since "90 Day Fiancé" follows couples undergoing the process of receiving a K-1 visa that the network would help make the process go a bit more smoothly for some of the couples. However, the network is not responsible for the cast's legal expenses. In an interview with Deadline in June 2018, executive producer Matt Sharp revealed that TLC does not offer any assistance to guide the couples during the application process. "We're not involved in the immigration process. We find couples for the show that are already in the process. It's an authentic process: These are couples who are in love and going through this process," he said. 

Aside from handling the legal end of things completely on their own without support from the network, cast members are also expected to pay for it out of their own pockets. According to immigration company Citizen Path, the total amount it costs to apply for a visa, including additional application fees, ranges from $2,075 to $2,325, though it can be paid over the course of one year.

Stars of TLC shows can't listen to music while filming

Unfortunately, for music lovers, if you are on a TLC reality show, you have to give up listening to your favorite tunes. The network isn't able to use music without paying for it to be featured, especially if the rights to certain songs are costly. Oftentimes, they won't pay for it, so listening to music on your phone or while you are getting ready to go out is a big no no while filming.

Sandy Malone of TLC's "Wedding Island" told HuffPost that this was actually one of the most difficult rules for her to follow while filming, since music is a big part of her everyday routine. "It makes perfect sense because the network cannot use commercial music without paying for it," she wrote, "and if you're a baby reality show, nobody is paying royalties to Pink or Rihanna so that you can jam out to 'Perfect' or 'Umbrella' to get psyched up in the car on the way to a wedding."

Rather than listening to your favorite tunes on the way to an event, you could expect to sit in the car answering interview questions, talking, and filming instead. Since the cameras are always rolling, the chances of singing off-camera are not expected to be featured. However, Malone added, "If you have a good relationship with your producers (as I eventually did), you might get a one song break."

They need to monitor their spending habits

It's safe to assume that when we see our favorite TLC stars going on lavish trips that the network is coughing up all of the expenses. Well, this may be somewhat true for certain families on the network, but there is always a catch. Although TLC has funded luxury trips in the past, the network does, in fact, monitor how and where the money they provide their stars is spent. 

According to BuzzFeed, in November 2020, "90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way" star Deavan Clegg revealed in a video on YouTube that the network required the cast members to pay for their own flights while filming. Since the cast chose to fly internationally, TLC did not cover any of their travel expenses. However, Clegg confirmed that the network pays for their flights at the end of the season to shoot the long-awaited tell-all reunion episode. If you plan on joining a reality show any time soon, it might be beneficial to start saving some extra cash! 

TLC stars likely must sign an NDA to keep things hush hush

It's typical for reality television stars to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements, or NDAs, before appearing on a show. This is to prevent the cast from revealing private information from the series off-camera, especially on social media platforms. This can be anything from withholding information about someone's past or anything you can think of that could potentially cause some sort of controversy for the network. For TLC series like "90 Day Fiancé," this is also very common. However, several cast members from the show have been caught breaking their agreements.

If you are an avid "90 Day Fiancé" fan, you must remember stars Paul and Karine Staehle. In 2019, the couple announced in an Instagram story that they finally welcomed their son, Pierre Martins Staehle, into the world. According to Newsweek, this announcement violated the NDA they had signed. Paul later revealed in another Instagram story that he had violated his contract and had "been instructed to remove updates and no longer post." It's unfortunate that a special moment like this can't be shared with friends, family, and fans, but, hey, that is the price to pay with being a reality TV star!