90 Day Fiance stars regularly publicly embarrass themselves on international television viewed by millions.
Could it possibly be worth it?
We have seen 90 Day Fiance stars bombarded with hate, both deserved and wildly undeserved.
Some become memes. Some become laughing stocks. Some get into trouble with the law.
Humiliation, emotional pain, and more. They have to get paid, right?
The short answer is: yes!
The 90 Day Fiance stars are paid.
Though fame has other financial benefits, as we will discuss in a moment, they are also paid for filming.
However, 90 Day Fiance is a little notorious in the reality TV world for how little it pays its stars.
Stars are paid on a per-episode basis, and they are of course not in every episode of each season.
And even the per-episode payout is not very impressive.
Imagining getting into a full-on brawl with the family of the love of your life ... for maybe $1,000.
We say "maybe" because it's reported that they pay $1,000 per couple, not per star.
At least, that's the starting rate, and it isn't believed to go up much if at all.
Of course, barely making five digits in a season might be fine for the people who are truly looking to find love.
No couple minds having somewhere from $5,000 to $12,000 fall into their lap.
But while some stories that play out on screen are about true love, others are more contentious -- and money can be a huge issue.
There have been grumblings from 90 Day Fiance stars who say that only their American spouse was paid.
The issue is that someone filming in the US without a work visa or legal citizenship cannot, legally, work -- so the couple is supposed to split it themselves.
In an ideal couple, this would not be an issue. But so many of these couples are far less than ideal.
Just weeks after Larissa Lima and Colt Johnson broke up in early 2019, Larissa accused Colt of robbing her blind.
She said that he not only kept a number of her belongings, from her wedding dress to her luggage and more, but that he withdrew cash.
She was left with enough money to go out to eat once in a country where she could not yet legally work.
Baby Girl Lisa Hamme and Usman Umar have also struggled with the division of money.
In June of 2020, they had a huge and public fight about dividing a check from the Cameo videos that they recorded for fans.
But one of the text conversations that Lisa shared showed that this was not the only issue.
After Usman had accused Lisa of calling him the N-word during the filming of the Tell All, she was fired from B90 Strikes Back.
In a text, Lisa appears to complain about Usman costing her $10,000 -- about what they might have made for the season.
That gives us further confirmation of about what a pair of stars can make in a season -- not bad, but definitely not a year's salary.
Now, how do we know how much the stars make? TLC has never confirmed this amount.
It all goes back to 90 Day Fiance fan favorites David and Annie Toborowsky.
As viewers may recall, they were down on their luck during their season and ended up crashing with one of David's friends.
Well, during a shocking moment, that friend of David asked Annie, on camera, if she could pay them back with a massage.
The predatory and racist connotations behind the request were obvious and appalling.
But David's friend went on social media and explained that he had only asked that question at the prompting of a producer, who wanted drama.
David's friend had never signed an NDA or been paid for appearing on camera, which he did as a favor to David.
So he and his wife were free to dish on anything and everything that they knew.
They revealed that David and Annie were each making $500 per episode, for a combined $1,000 per episode, and that this was the standard pay.
Of course, in addition to the whole "share our true love story" angle, there are other benefits to reality stardom besides the pay.
Which is good, since 90 Day Fiance pay seems to royally suck.
For one thing, with fame comes Instagram followers. With followers come sponsorship opportunities.
Instagram endorsements are simple.
The company sends you some products, for free, and you pose using, wearing, or simply presenting the product.
You include a blurb in your caption, and you make hundreds, thousands, or more for the post.
Sometimes, that means undergoing beauty treatments.
Getting haircuts, makeovers, lip fillers, and more can be documented on Instagram and shared with followers.
Larissa couldn't exactly document her anal bleaching last year, but she could pose at the location and caption "It's so pink now!"
Incidentally, Larissa ended up being unhappy with that treatment, and has since vowed to launch her own brand of anal bleaching.
Which brings us to the next topic: branding.
Reality stars can launch fashion lines, lingerie lines, makeup lines, and do all kinds of partnerships in order to rake in the dough.
A gig like that requires start-up capital, which means either having cash on hand or someone who is willing ot invest in that venture.
That's more likely to work with more established stars who have appeared on repeat seasons.
And then, of course, there are businesses that are designed to help reality stars make money -- while the business gets its cut.
Cameo is a video service in which stars give short, personalized video recordings of themselves that are made-to-order for paying fans.
Lisa Hamme received a check for over $26,000 just a few months after fans learned her name.
And simply speaking into a camera isn't the only way that 90 Day Fiance stars can earn money online.
Some 90 Day Fiance stars are joining OnlyFans, a site designed for adult media aimed at paying subscribers.
Not all stars are willing to strip down to bare their skin -- or do much more -- on camera, but that can be a real source of revenue.
So yes, 90 Day Fiance stars get paid, but guest stars often do so for free.