Since 2000, over 100 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have appeared on reality television. Shows such as “American Idol,” “America’s Got Talent” and “The Amazing Race” have put certain Mormons into the spotlight, giving the 15.8-million-member faith a visible place in pop culture over the past two decades.
Most recently, Lindsey Stirling, the hip hop violinist, and 13-year-old singer Evie Clair have made appearances on reality television programs.
The following is a brief, non-comprehensive history of major milestones and highlights from Mormons on reality TV, starting 17 years ago on MTV.
'The Real World'
In 2000, BYU student Julie Stoffer appeared on the ninth season of MTV’s “The Real World,” which follows a small group of strangers living together in a new city. Stoffer was known for being the first Mormon featured on the show.
She was later suspended from BYU because while on the show, she lived in a house with males she wasn’t related to, a violation of the school's Honor Code. However, Stoffer maintained that she didn’t do anything to break BYU’s Honor Code.
In 2000, she told the Deseret News, "I've totally stayed true to my morals, and if that's not enough for them and they want to make an example out of me then there are other schools."
In 2004, Stoffer married Spencer Rogers. According to IMDb, Stoffer has starred in several documentaries, two other television series and a cameo in the movie “The Singles Ward.”
Chet Cannon appeared on "The Real World" in 2009. His self-described purpose for being on the show was to let people know “that Mormons are fun”.
Cannon was known for being a prankster and a staunch conservative. His Twitter account has over 66,000 followers.
In 2003, Carmen Rasmusen Herbert appeared on season 2 of one of America's most-watched television shows, “American Idol,” and finished in sixth place. The Canadian-born Latter-day Saint also appeared on a reality TV stars-focused episode of “Fear Factor.”
Herbert wrote a column for the Deseret News in March about how she maintained her standards of modesty on both shows, saying, “Many times I had to coax, persuade and even argue my way into wearing more clothing.”
On “Fear Factor,” she received permission to wear a full swimsuit and shorts as opposed to a bikini, which was a requirement for all female contestants.
Herbert married Bradley Herbert, the son of Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, and is the mother of four boys.
In 2004, another talented Mormon appeared on the “American Idol” stage. Jon Peter Lewis impressed even the critical Simon Cowell, who said he had a “very, very good voice.” The 24-year-old took a break from BYU-Idaho to be on the show and finished in eighth place.
Lewis told the Deseret News in 2009 that he "had not really done anything in music. I didn't want to get to be 40 years old and then think, 'I never tried.'"
Lewis went on to release several of his own albums. In 2013, he formed the duo Midas Whale with Ryan Hayes. Lewis and Hayes earned a spot on “The Voice” when all the judges turned their chairs during the blind auditions. Though they were eliminated during the knockout round, Midas Whale went on to release an album titled "Sugar House" in 2014, according to the duo’s official website.
David Archuleta became wildly popular in the late 2000s as a contestant on “American Idol.” Archuleta finished second on the show during Season 7 in 2008. Archuleta has arguably had the more successful post-“Idol” career than first-place finisher David Cook, according to Business Insider.
Another “Idol” contestant, Brooke White, competed during the same season as Archuleta, finishing in fifth place. During the season, she sang Carly Simon's “You’re So Vain” and earned high praise from the artist.
“I thought, '… this girl is so talented and she sings the song so much better than I ever did or ever could,"' Simon told the Associated Press. "I was so flattered that she chose the song and … more than impressed.”
White was recognized growing up as being “everybody’s friend,” her high school drama teacher Gary Helmbold told the Deseret News. White has since married and is now a mother of two children. Her Instagram account has over 66,000 followers.
'So You Think You Can Dance'
Orem native Chelsie Hightower appeared on Season 4 of “So You Think You Can Dance” and Seasons 8 through 15 on “Dancing with the Stars,” where she was a choreographer and dance partner. Her performance of “Bleeding Love” by Leona Lewis on “So you Think You Can Dance” was nominated for an Emmy, and she finished sixth on the show.
According to an interview with the Deseret News in 2016, Hightower said she was living a “normal life” and serving in her ward’s Relief Society presidency. She also hosted a camp for young dancers this past summer to help them deal with performance anxiety, which she struggled with as a dancer.
Singer Marie Osmond competed on Season 5 of “Dancing with the Stars” in 2007. Osmond fainted after completing a samba routine while she was receiving feedback from the judges. However, she proved to be a fan favorite, coming in third place.
Two years later, Donny Osmond competed on Season 9 of “Dancing with the Stars." He and his partner, Kym Johnson, came in first place, winning the mirror-ball trophy.
'The Amazing Race'
Dave and Connor O’Leary, a father-son duo, appeared twice on “The Amazing Race.” During Season 22, Dave tore his Achilles tendon and the duo had to drop out, but not before winning two legs of the race.
The Salt Lake City natives then competed in Season 24, which they won. The two are also both cancer survivors. Dave had prostate cancer, and Connor had testicular cancer. Even though they split $1 million between them for winning the race, Connor said that he wanted to do the race in order to “have an amazing experience with my dad.”
“The Sing-Off” hit a high note in popularity during the show’s three-year run from 2009-11 with a comeback from 2013-14. Two singing groups with ties to BYU made appearances on the show. Noteworthy, an all-female a cappella group of nine singers, was eliminated after two episodes. Even though Noteworthy was not technically adopted by the university during its time on "The Sing-Off,”, the group still represented the school well.
Its most-seen video, a rendition of “Amazing Grace,” has over 29 million views on YouTube.
Vocal Point, an all-male singing group from BYU, made it to the final five. Judges were complimentary of the group. “You have so much personality,” said judge Sara Bareilles. “We were all taken on this awesome ride.”
In a video produced by BYU, members of Vocal Point talked about their experiences performing on “The Sing Off.” After its appearance on the show, Vocal Point has been successful on YouTube, as its rendition of “Nearer, My God, to Thee” has over 12 million views on YouTube.
'America’s Got Talent'
Stirling, one of the more well-known Mormon performing artists, appeared on Season 5 of "America’s Got Talent." Although judges were critical of Stirling, she was invited back to showcase her skills as a guest performer in 2014.
Stirling has since been incredibly successful, with her YouTube videos generating millions of views. In an interview with the Deseret News, Stirling opened up about her struggles with anorexia. She has used her success as a platform for promoting a healthy view of oneself. She is currently competing on "Dancing With the Stars" with partner Mark Ballas.
"America’s Got Talent" also featured the Mormon artist duo of sisters Ali and Christina Christensen. The Christensens made it to the top 10 of the show. An article in the Deseret News discussed how both have cystic fibrosis. Judge Howie Mandel told the sisters, “I'm blessed that we got to see you.” After finding out the results on the show, Ali said, “I hope that we touched some people’s lives.”
Lexi Walker, who gained fame from her “Let It Go” cover video on YouTube, was a contestant on the show with the One Voice Children’s Choir during Season 9. Judge Howard Stern said of their audition, “I've said it before, and I'll say it again. In the singing category, we look for moments. Some people describe it as chills or the hair on their arm goes up, or something like that," Stern said. "If you get one of those moments, you're pretty good. It's what you need, at least. You guys had about 50 of those moments." Even though Walker was eliminated with the group during the quarterfinals, she has since been signed as a SONY recording artist.
Clair appeared on the most recent season of “America’s Got Talent." The Arizona singer was held in high regard, with Simon Cowell calling her voice “beautiful.” Clair continued to impress audiences with her talent and standards as her father battled terminal cancer.
Following Clair’s advancement to AGT’s finals, her father passed away on Sept. 7. Despite an offer from Cowell to step away and return the following season, it was later announced Clair would return to the competition.
In her final performance, Clair sang “What a Wonderful World” in tribute to her father.
In 2012, Jef Holm from St. George won season 8 of “The Bachelorette," capturing Emily Maynard’s heart. By the end of that year, the reality TV couple had called off their engagement, keeping in line with the series’ less-than-stellar relationship track record.
Holm, who was 28 at the time, stated, “the truth is we are just two people who fell in love and tried our hardest to make it work. I will always love her."
Also in 2012, California native Megan Brown came out on top in “Cupcake Wars,” securing a $10,000 grand prize.
“It was a lot of work, but well worth it,” Brown told the Deseret News in 2012.
Since then, the self-taught baker has expanded her business, The Sweet Tooth Fairy Gourmet Bake Shop, to nine locations throughout Utah and Arizona.
'American Ninja Warrior'
In 2015, Season 7 of "American Ninja Warrior" featured multiple LDS contestants who made subsequent appearances in future seasons. Brian Beckstrand, Jon Stewart, April Gould, Scott Stoddard, Michael Stanger, Rick Pitcher and Dakota Elder all appeared on the obstacle course. Most of the contestants made it as far as the qualifying rounds before failing to advance further in the competition.
Stewart, 54, who appeared in Seasons 5-8 of ANW, is the oldest contestant to finish a City Finals course, and earned fifth place overall at the Oklahoma City finals.
“I love it, it’s in my heart,” Stewart said in a 2016 interview with the Deseret News. “I just never stop doing stuff like this. I love it.”
Titus “Trick Shot” Ashby became a YouTube sensation in 2013 by maintaining a constant basketball trick shot streak. The then-2-year-old appeared multiple times on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” — going head-to-head in shootouts with basketball stars Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and Metta World Peace.
In early 2016, Titus appeared on “Little Big Shots,” a Steve Harvey-hosted talent show. During the show, Ashby demonstrated his basketball prowess from a platform situated near the ceiling, scoring multiple shots from high above the audience.
In fall 2016, Christian Olsen from Orem appeared on “Chopped Junior,” a spinoff of the Food Network’s popular cooking show aimed at younger chefs. The 13-year-old Olsen soared through Chopped Junior’s first three rounds, with the judges praising Olsen’s creativity and food flavor.
In the final dessert round, Olsen astounded the judges with his dinosaur fossil-themed doughnut. However, Olsen lost out on first place to Nadjah Bray.
'Playhouse Masters'7 comments on this story
Tyson and Audrey Leavitt gained attention as the hosts of Playhouse Masters, a TLC series in which the Leavitts constructed dream playhouses for celebrities like the Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry.
For the Leavitts, involvement in a primetime television show is an opportunity to share their beliefs with others.
“… We really do hope that we can represent both our church and ourselves in a way that God would be proud of,” Audrey Leavitt told the Deseret News. “We know that there will be some good that comes out of it that’s bigger than just playhouses and TV shows.”