At first glance, starring on a reality show seems like a dream come true. Sure, being followed by cameras can’t be fun all the time, but becoming a celebrity simply for living your own life? Gaining thousands (if not millions) of Instagram followers for being yourself? And that sweet paycheck certainly can’t hurt, either. But living in the reality spotlight isn’t for everybody, and even after building up impressive careers and amassing plenty of fans, many celebs have decided that, for their own well-being, it’s time for them to peace out of the reality shows that made them famous — as much as we, as their fans, hate to see them go.
Over the years, more than a few of our favorite reality stars have made exits from their shows (some more dramatic than others) for various personal reasons, and while some of those stars have faded into obscurity, others have managed to find happiness they definitely wouldn’t have been able to achieve without walking away from their gigs on TV.
Here are some of the biggest reality stars who have left their shows and never looked back. Who knows? They could end up returning someday, but for now, it seems like most of them are onto bigger and better things.
Jill Duggar isn't counting on reality TV anymore
After about a decade of sharing her life — including her marriage and children — on 19 Kids & Counting and then Counting On, Jill Duggar and her husband, Derick Dillard, made the choice to leave the TLC franchise in 2018. It continued on without them, telling the story of Duggar’s parents, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, and their abnormally large family, but Duggar and Dillard would no longer appear.
“We found out we didn’t have as much control over our lives as it related to the show and stuff, as we felt like we needed,” Duggar said during a YouTube Q&A in 2020. “We had to make a decision at that time to kind of put the show aside to pursue our own goals and everything.” In a subsequent interview with People, Dillard added that while they were on the show, they “spent time and money working towards opportunities only to hit a dead end when we’d be told, ‘Well, you’re not allowed to do that.'”
In another YouTube video, Duggar shared that they ultimately ended up hiring a lawyer to get paid the money she was due from the show, and she hasn’t appeared on the series since.
Nicole Polizzi is done beating up the beat
Without Jersey Shore, there would be no Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi as we now know her, but in December 2019, she announced on her podcast, It’s Happening With Snooki & Joey, that she would be retiring from the MTV reality show. Yes, the married mom of three hung up her hat — or should we say her pouf? — and is ready to move on from the drama and chaos. “I just can’t do it anymore, leaving my kids to film. It is really, really hard on me. I quit every single time we film because I hate being away from the kids,” she said on the podcast, speaking of her kids Giovanna, Lorenzo, and Angelo.
Being away from her kids wasn’t the only thing that was difficult for her. Polizzi added that the partying lifestyle just didn’t mesh with who she was anymore. While she’s open to doing another reality show in the future, it would have to be something that fits who she is as an adult, not who she was all the way back when Jersey Shore first began.
“I don’t like the person I’m being portrayed as,” Snooki added. “This is getting a little too much. At 32 years old and with three kids and if I’m doing a reality show I just want it to be fun and light-hearted, and just lately it’s not like that and the show is getting so dramatic.”
Why Lauren Conrad headed for the hills
Fans first met Lauren Conrad when she was just a teenager on Laguna Beach, and then followed her to fashion school and her Teen Vogue internship on The Hills. But her time on reality TV didn’t last much longer when she ultimately ended up walking away from The Hills, handing the reigns to her reality nemesis, Kristen Cavallari, instead. Conrad explained her choice to leave years later on former co-star Whitney Port’s podcast, With Whit, saying that she needed to “emotionally recover” from being on reality TV at such a young age.
“It was such an odd time for me and I did it for as long as I could and it was one of those things where I was like, ‘Okay, well, this isn’t like a healthy space for me anymore,'” Conrad said. “I need to kind of, like, live my own life and do this, and I really, I kind of like removed myself from that whole scene.”
Conrad has stayed away from reality TV and continued to pursue her fashion dreams, with a line at Kohl’s as well as her own cosmetics line, Lauren Conrad Beauty. These days, she is married to William Tell, and they have two children.
Chelsea Houska is 'taking things to the next level'
After sharing her journey from becoming a mom at 16 years old on 16 & Pregnant, Chelsea Houska continued her reality career with Teen Mom 2, as she met and married the love of her life, Cole DeBoer, and continued to raise her daughter. But she finally announced that she was leaving the show in November 2020 after more than a decade of working with MTV. She elaborated on her decision in a lengthy Instagram post, explaining that it was simply time for her to move on to focus more on her own endeavors.
“After much thought and discussion with my family and friends, Cole and I have decided that this season will be our last,” she wrote, before calling the MTV team and show’s crew “like family.” After noting that there isn’t any bad blood, she continued, “We’re proud to have been able to share our story and are so grateful to the fans who have followed our journey from the beginning.” So what’s next for the Houska-DeBoers? As she put it, they will be “taking things to the next level with new endeavors and expanding family businesses.”
In August 2020, Houska and DeBoer announced on Instagram that they are expecting their fourth child. Additionally, they’re in the process of launching their home decor brand, Aubree Says.
A new chapter for Jeremy and Audrey Roloff
Though the Roloff family is still sharing their ups and downs on TLC on Little People, Big World, some members of their family have parted ways with the show. Jeremy and Audrey Roloff chose to walk away from the series in 2018 after they welcomed their first child into the world. As Jeremy noted in his Instagram announcement, he filmed the reality program with his siblings and parents for a whopping 14 years.
“It has been an amazing run, and I can’t say thank you enough to all of you who have watched and supported us along the ride,” Jeremy wrote. “We have the most loyal fans on TV and we appreciate every one of you. You are what made doing this so fun. We will still be supporting the family as they carry the #LPBW torch onward. This is a decision concerning Audrey and me specifically — the show must go on!”
Though they are no longer on reality TV, Jeremy and Audrey have continued to live in the spotlight since, writing books about their marriage and promoting their Beating 50 Percent initiative where they encourage fellow married couples to stay together instead of divorce.
Jon Gosselin 'took a moral stance'
Back in the day, Jon and Kate Gosselin were the biggest reality TV couple, thanks to TLC’s Jon & Kate Plus 8. A lot of people tuned in to watch them raise their twins and sextuplets, but when their marriage went down in flames, so did their reality careers. Jon was the one to walk away from the show in 2009, and during a 2016 appearance on The Steve Harvey Show, he said he did so because he believed it was the right thing to do.
“We knew we were going to get divorced, and then the network tried to keep us together for the benefit of the show, so I quit,” Jon said at the time. He told Steve Harvey that not only was he not interested in having his divorce “aired out for the public’s consumption,” but he really didn’t want his kids to relive their split through reruns. “I just took a moral stance versus a business stance,” he stated. “I lost everything. I lost all my money.”
The show continued on as Kate Plus 8, and ultimately drew to a close in 2017. Jon did appear on VH1’s Couple’s Therapy later on, but he’s mostly stayed away from reality TV since his TLC days.
Dorinda Medley was clipped out of Real Housewives
In August 2020, Dorinda Medley left The Real Housewives of New York, explaining on Instagram at the time that while it was a “great outlet” for her to participate in while she grieved the death of her late husband, Richard Medley, the time had come for her to move on. “I have met so many interesting people and learned so much about myself, about life and about women along the way,” she wrote in her post. “Thank you to Bravo and NBC for the incredible ride and to my cast mates for constant stimulation and entertainment. I wish you all health, happiness and success.”
But then, during an appearance on Bethenny Frankel’s podcast, Just B, in October 2020, Medley admitted that she’d been having a rough year — her house had flooded, she broke a rib, and she’d split up with her boyfriend — and probably should have taken some time off instead of leaving. However, it seemed like Bravo wasn’t interested in welcoming her back to the show.
“I was ready to go back, I was excited to go back, I was planning to back, and I thought I would have a great year. I wasn’t given that option,” she said. “They’re calling it a pause, which I don’t really … for me, I’m an old-fashioned girl. If you’re not waitressing and getting paid, you’re not waitressing … At the end of the day, it was a mutual no.” They made it not-so-nice.
Bethenny Frankel left Real Housewives… again
After launching her career on The Real Housewives of New York, Bethenny Frankel made the choice to leave the show in August 2019 — yes, again. The entrepreneur stepped away from the series after Season 3, only to make her triumphant return on Season 7. She turned in her golden apple a second time after Season 11.
As she explained in a February 2020 interview with Variety, she stayed on the series for as long as she did because it was good to her piggy bank. But when she realized that she no longer needed the money or the platform to promote her businesses, it was easy to see that she had enough personal reasons to justify walking away — especially when she thought about having more time to be a mother to her daughter, Bryn.
“I just was ready. I just felt like I have to kind of really spend my time focusing on business, my daughter, philanthropy,” she said. “You want to just feel good about what you did. There’s no price on sanity, and your mental health and your emotional health. And you can’t pay me enough to just have a hysterical meltdown crying right now. There’s no amount of money that could make me want to sit somewhere and cry over something I wouldn’t normally care about.” Anyone who watches RHONY knows Frankel has always had a knack for timing, and clearly, she knew just the right moment to make her second exit.
Clare Crawley's Bachelorette journey ended fast
The Bachelorette‘s Clare Crawley made headlines in 2020 when she chose to leave her season of the long-running reality series after only a few episodes. The reason? She was smitten with contestant Dale Moss. After spending time with him at the La Quinta, and after checking out his social media before they started filming, she knew Moss was “the one.” Host Chris Harrison suspected something was up, so he asked Crawley what was going on. She told Harrison she’d already fallen in love with Moss and wasn’t interested in pursuing relationships with any of the other guys in the cast. And with that, her The Bachelorette journey was over.
Well, almost over. Crawley’s time on The Bachelorette ended with a proposal from Moss, and they left the show together so that they could continue to pursue their relationship off-camera. At that point, the remaining men were allowed to decide if they wanted to stay or go home before the next leading lady was brought in. Those who stayed found out that Bachelor alum Tayshia Adams was waiting in the wings, and she took over Crawley’s Bachelorette duties from there.
Kourtney Kardashian was done keeping up
Keeping Up With The Kardashians will officially come to an end in 2021, but Kourtney Kardashian bowed out early. This decision came to light in March 2020 when a viewer tweeted that Kardashian “just needs to quit the d*mn show,” to which Kris Jenner’s eldest replied, “I did.” When Season 18 premiered late that month, Kardashian wrote on Instagram, “I finally had the courage to change what was no longer bringing me happiness and putting my time and energy into that which is.”
Kardashian’s unhappiness became very evident in her final few seasons of KUWTK; her departure didn’t exactly appear out of the blue. In 2019, she told ET that she’d be taking a break from the show but was “not saying goodbye.” And before that, she told Paper that she would “be very happy” if the cameras were to stop rolling.
“I have been filming the show non-stop for 14 years… I was feeling unfulfilled and it became a toxic environment for me to continue to have it occupy as much of my life as it was,” Kardashian explained in an interview with Vogue Arabia in July 2020. “Privacy is something I have come to value and finding that balance of private moments with being on a reality show is hard. People have this misconception that I don’t want to work, which isn’t true. I am following my happiness and putting my energy into that which makes me happy.” Keep calm and Poosh on.
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