NBC’s Fame winner Harlem Lee living on unemployment, waiting for promised prizes.

NBC’s Fame winner Harlem Lee living on unemployment, waiting for promised prizes.
Winning a reality TV show isn’t necessarily all its chalked up to be, especially if that show sucks and is called Fame. NBC’s talent search show was won by Harlem Lee, and the show’s web site still congratulates him. The About page is oddly missing, but Reality TV World runs down the prizes: “a one-year representation deal” with Johnny Wright, “a guarantee that the winner record a single under Wright�s record label Wire Records,” “one year of training” with The Debbie Allen Dance Academy, a suite in a W Hotel for a year, and, finally, “[o]ne of the top Hollywood agencies will guide their careers and living expenses will also be provided.” Yet winner Harlem Lee has only received the W Hotel prize so far. Without it, he says he “would be completely penniless and homeless” because “I have yet to receive the bulk of the career-enhancing prizes promised to the winner.” He says, “The justification given to me for all this has been that my story was not ‘compelling enough’ (their own words) to warrant the high-profile TV appearances and marketing resources that would have given me a decent shot at capitalizing on my national ‘FAME’ exposure.” Better, “the contractual nature of the FAME Prize Package has immobilized me from regaining control of my career,” he says.

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Plus: an interview with the actor who played Verlox and the ogre.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.