SoFla Reality ‘Stars' Extend Their 15 Minutes

Reality TV allows local 20-somethings to avoid the 'Real World'

You don't have to be a Kardashian or Snookie to make a good living for just being yourself on reality TV, as some South Floridians are finding out.

"I was getting anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000," said Elizabeth Mendez, a 24-year-old from Miami, about her appearance fees following a stint on VH1's "For The Love Of Ray J."

"They would take me shopping, crazy things," Mendez said, "like room service, just because I'm me."

It all started in 2009, when this regular girl from Miami got cast on a VH1 reality show where contestants compete to win over Hip-Hop star Ray J.

Mendez didn't win, but she did earn the nickname "Feisty" and fame that stretched far beyond 15 minutes.

"It feels so fake to me," she said. "Especially a nickname, I can't believe it."

"Feisty" has become a spokes model for Hooters, and when she's not out on photo-shoots, she travels around the country getting paid to make appearances at night clubs.

Even two years removed from her first reality show, Mendez still makes club appearances all the time. Just three weeks ago, she hosted the grand opening of Pulse Lounge at Dolphin Mall and got paid big money for it, just for showing up and having fun.

"I've hosted parties where I just sit there and I bring friends," Mendez said. "Here (at Pulse) I got on stage and hyped up the crowd."

CJ Koegel, a former football player at Deerfield Beach High School and UMASS, can relate.

In 2009, he appeared on MTV's "The Real World: Cancun." Koegel doesn't consider himself a star, but the reality is, he gets treated like one.

"It's crazy to think that they (fans) do that," said Koegel, "but it's awesome to meet them. And still to this day I get messages that say, 'It was awesome to meet you, you're my favorite,' and that has value, that's what it's all about."

Like Mendez, Koegel does his share of modeling and club appearances, but his true passion is coaching high school football kickers.

At age 26, Koegel knows his reality fame will eventually fade, so he's preparing to enter a different kind of "real world."

"You have these opportunities that you can make a ton of money in a short period of time," Koegel explained. "So it's very difficult to go to a 9-5 job, because here I just made $1,500 last night, to show up and drink with people, and now I have to go to this job."

You might be shocked by how much money Mendez and Koegel can make at club appearances, but there's an explanation for it.

The club scene is incredibly competitive and Miami-based Entertainment Consultant, Craig Skilling says putting a recognizable face, even if it's only recognizable to some, on a promotional flyer can draw a crowd.

Koegel and Mendez both pointed out that being on a reality show doesn't mean you automatically have post-show success. They say you have to come off as likeable on the show and you have to work for it.

Follow Adam Kuperstein on Twitter at @akuperstein.

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