Lexington woman says being bad on TV is good for her

She curses, drinks and fights on reality show in hopes of a payoff

mmeehan1@herald-leader.comJanuary 30, 2011 

Lauren Spears of The Bad Girls Club

COURTESY OF NBC

  • Bad behavior will never go off the air

    What does the increasingly vulgar nature of reality television say about society as a whole?

    That there are plenty of folks dying for any kind of limelight, and several decades of reality shows have taught them bad behavior gets the most screen time, said Robert J. Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University.

    There have always been awful characters on television, he said. Remember when people were kind of happy that J.R. Ewing got shot in the prime-time soap Dallas?

    From the first season of Survivor, when Richard Hatch and his nakedness made being bad a prime-time sport, reality shows have highlighted poor behavior.

    "It's hard to judge what these people are really like because they are clearly playing roles," Thompson said. "They know how things work. They know what is going to get them the most attention.

    "Being on television is a highly seductive thing.

    "At the bottom of it all, we watch and enjoy these things with a heavy dose of mockery. We watch them because they are fun to mock."

    As for The Bad Girls Club in particular, he said, it's hard to find much redeeming about the show, but that doesn't bother him.

    "Strangely enough, that's kind of its gimmick," he said. "It's kind of a really powerful spice that you don't want in every one of your meals, but it's got its place."

    Will the downward spiral continue? Will we look back one day at The Bad Girls Club and think, "Wow, that show was tame"?

    Maybe, Thompson said. But one thing is certain: People always will behave badly on television.

    "This cow has left the barn and has gone clear across the field and is not coming back," he said.

    Mary Meehan

  • On TV

    'The Bad Girls Club' 9 p.m. Mon., Oxygen

Lauren Spears is a proud member of The Bad Girls Club.

On her Facebook page promoting the reality show, she has written: "Come at me with a smile, and ill smile back. Come at me with attitude, and i'll take off your f------ head."

The Lexington woman also is a self-described nerd who loves to read Harry Potter and Twilight and who is three years into getting a political science degree at the University of Kentucky.

But, for a chance at the dim stardom of a reality show, she's willing to flaunt her dark side.

"Watching yourself on television," she said. "That is enough."

She plans to put her education on hold to spend the next year getting paid to make appearances partying at clubs. Just a few weeks into the 12-week series, she already has three gigs lined up, and she has the maximum allowable 5,000 Facebook friends and upwards of 2,000 pictures of herself posted on Facebook just in case a weekly gig on television is not enough.

"That first year is when you are going to make money," she said. She can net $1,000 plus transportation and a hotel room for one night's work.

For those unfamiliar with Oxygen's The Bad Girls Club, it's an all-female Jersey Shore without the class. There is no winner, as in Survivor, or even a cash prize, as in I Love Money. There is no potential redemption, as in Celebrity Rehab. It's only girls behaving badly — very, very badly.

Even among the ill-tempered, often drunk, foul-mouthed participants on the show, the Lafayette High School graduate is making the highlight reel for her curse-filled tirades and frequent fights with castmates.

And, she said in a recent interview, "I'm honestly fine with everything I did."

"Lauren is going to do what Lauren is going to do," she said. "People can accept that or move on."

She is proud, she said, that "I said I wouldn't have sex on TV, and I didn't."

The show makes much of her Kentucky roots, touting her in news releases as the "Southern spitfire." But she makes it clear that the "haters" who have bashed her for portraying Kentucky in general and Lexington in particular in a bad light — her nemesis refers to her often as a "hillbilly"— are on the wrong track.

"I did not go into the show to represent my state," she said. "I don't really care about what other people think."

The news release for the show says "the women recognize that their outrageous behavior has hindered their relationships, careers and lives."

Spears, 21, who has watched the show since it began six years ago, disagreed.

In the first few years, she said, there was some soul-searching and girls trying to change their ways. Now, she said, all of the girls are such dominant personalities that it's pretty much chaos and drama all the time.

Fueled by boredom, the lack of television, cell phones and music in the house, and the constant presence of alcohol, she found herself involved in physical fights like never before.

Still, she said, she had some idea of what she was getting into.

"I thought it would be getting out of my comfort zone and something I should try," she said.

She auditioned in Louisville, filling out an application that had questions including, "What's the craziest thing you've ever done?" and "What are your partying habits?"

She's not worried what future employers or boyfriends might think of her bad-girl past. Honestly, she said, "I don't think that far ahead."

And, she said, "I don't know how to say this without being terrible, but as people retire and younger generations move up on the job market, the hiring process is not going to be as strict on things like that," because everybody is going to have their past documented on the Internet.

And she doesn't disavow her bad behavior or claim it's a villainous persona amped up to increase screen time, but she does have some idea that it might cross a line.

Apparently a middle school in Massachusetts invited her to do a guest-star turn at a dance to sign autographs. She turned down the invitation.

"Middle school is when kids are still being molded," she said. "I don't want them to aspire to be me."

Reach Mary Meehan at (859) 231-3261 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3261.

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