90 Day Fiance is still running and has three different spin-offs. It’s a successful series. But … how much are the stars actually paid?
Two recent guests on the series are exploiting a loophole to reveal everything about what goes on behind the scenes, and they’re not holding back.
And yes, they’re letting us know exactly how much this pays.
Though we’ve had our suspicions about this series for a while now, seeing the actual numbers in front of us was a real shock.
The 90 Day Fiance couples that we know and love (or know and whatever) give out whatever updates they can.
Remember how Mohamed Jbali has been giving moving updates? He has now in Texas.
And Paola Mayfield has apologized for her and her husband’s controversial Halloween costumes.
But there’s only so much that they can tell us about what went on behind the scenes on 90 Day Fiance. Because, well, reality shows come with contracts.
If you want to get paid for being on a reality show, whether you’re one of the stars or just behind the scenes, it’s standard for you to sign documents that you won’t reveal trade secrets.
Plenty of jobs come with those, in fact.
Since nobody stars on reality shows just for charity and since nobody just volunteers to film or edit a reality series solely for fun, no one who knows details — like how much the stars of 90 Day Fiance are paid — is at liberty to say, right?
Until now, that is.
Annie is from Thailand and David is from the US.
There’s so much to their story — Annie comes from extreme poverty, David is fresh out of a divorce (and lost a lot of weight, too).
David is about twice her age, Annie is hoping to live in comfort and she’s been a little surprised that David isn’t as rich as she’d imagined.
Nothing in their story was too painfully awkward, though, until this last episode.
David and Annie were offered a place to stay by Chris’ good friend, Chris, and Chris’ pregnant wife, Nikki.
In a jaw-dropping, horrifying scene, Chris suggests that Annie could "pay him back" for letting them stay there … by giving him a massage.
Now, especially in the wake of the Weinstein scandal, we hope that we don’t need to explain that "massage" is too often a code for someone trying to leverage a sexual encounter.
(And, worst of all, when it’s a white guy asking an Asian woman, there are often racist undertones because of a long history of racist perceptions of Asian women within the US)
Chris asked this in front of his wife, by the way. It was a shocking moment.
To all of us — but not to anyone on the show. Because Nikki and Chris have taken to social media to clear things up. And they say that Chris’ overture was scripted.
"Yes, the awkward scene of Chris asking for a massage was SCRIPTED," Nikki posted.
"The producer asked him to say it & Chris had to say it more than once because it didn’t come off as natural."
Honestly, it’s hard to imagine being talked into that, but when you’re doing a favor for a friend, it’s easy to feel pressured to go along with things to help your buddy out.
"We were fed our lines while sitting at the table, which is why no one reacted. WE ALL KNEW WHAT TO EXPECT."
That, folks, is not how reality shows are supposed to work. Little prompts, like what topic to cover, are normal. Edits are normal.
What Chris and Nikki described is not normal for reality shows.
Nikki is eager to let the world know: "I’m a very outspoken person you’d be a fool to think I just sat there & [allowed] my husband to disrespect me, Annie, & our marriage."
Good that she included Annie in that.
How can they reveal this? Well, Nikki and Chris say that they aren’t under contract with TLC or the production company and weren’t in any way paid to appear on the show.
(They only agreed to it as a favor for Chris.)
So: how much do 90 Day Fiance stars make?
According to Chris and Nikki, David only makes about $1,000 per episode, and was paid $2,500 to appear in the tell-all.
Look, $1,000 is a nice thing to make, but remember that 90 Day Fiance stars don’t appear in every episode. For a successful reality series, these numbers are shockingly low.
For a little perspective, the good folks over at Starcasm compared 90 Day Fiance income to that sweet, sweet Teen Mom money.
We know that Teen Mom 2 stars are banking about a quarter of a million dollars, or more, every year. Even the dads who appear on the show are making six digits.
Now, 90 Day Fiance isn’t supposed to be anybody’s full time job, which is good — because it sounds like that would put David below the poverty line.
But 90 Day Fiance does at least as well, and sometimes better, in ratings than Teen Mom does. (It looks like slightly more viewers, but slightly fewer in the coveted still-culturally-relevant age demographic)
We imagine that couples like Paola and Russ are making a little more than a brand new star like Chris, but … how much more?
It sounds like part of 90 Day Fiance‘s success is that they’re not paying their actors anything close to what we’d consider to be industry standards.
Which might be even shadier than the accusation that they also go to such lengths to stir up drama where it doesn’t exist.
Chris and Nikki suggested that they might have more to reveal in coming weeks, as new episodes air. We’ll be interested to find out what they choose to share.