10 Most Influential Black Winners of American Reality Shows

Reality shows is one of the most prominent features of post 2000 pop culture. The shows and its people have become more than just 15 minutes of fame. The people coming out of it have directly or indirectly led the doors open for people of varied races, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, among others. America, which like most other things, home to the biggest reality shows in the world has over the years seen people from various racial backgrounds winning the country’s top reality shows. These shows have seen black men and women winning thereby commanding more influence over the masses and breaking dozens of stereotypes associated with them. Today, let us take a look at 10 Black winners of reality shows.

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10.. Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr.(Show – America’s Got Talent, Season 6)


Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr. won the sixth season of America’s Got Talent in 2011 and became the first black person to do so. Having lived homeless since he was 19, Landau survived extreme poverty and was practically down to his last pair of jeans and jacket before he audition for the show. His rendition of Frank Sinatra songs like ‘My Way’ and ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’ are still hailed among the show’s best performance till date. As part of his prize, he won US $1 million and a headlining act in Las Vegas. The jazz singer went on to release his first album ‘That’s Life’ after getting signed with Sony Records and Columbia Records. Since then Landau has been living the perfect rags to riches story.

9. Anya Ayoung-Chee (Show – Project Runway, Season 9)


Anya Ayoung-Chee won the ninth season of Project Runway in 2011, and became the show’s first black reality shows winner. During the show, Anya won four challenges, the most out of anyone. What is surprising is the fact that Anya learned how to sew just four months prior to enter the show. Since winning, Anya won earned US $100,000 from L’Oreal Paris to begin her line, $50,000 technology suite by HP and Intel for designing merchandise and a fashion spread in Marie Claire. Besides, she also won a partnership with Piperlime.com and another US $10,000 for being the fan-favourite of the season. Well, fame was not new for Anya, as three years prior, she was crowned Miss Trinidad & Tobago Universe 2008, and represented her country at Miss Universe 2008, although she couldn’t place, but may be that’s because she had some others things destined in her future, and very rightly so.

8. Keith Carlos (Show – America’s Next top Model, Cycle 21)


Keith Carlos created history when he became the first man to become ‘America’s Next Top Model’ in 2014, when he won the show’s 21st cycle. The show which is one of the most famous American reality shows, after producing 19 cycles, decided to let male contestants be allowed for the first time to compete along with female contestants from cycle 20. Before Keith applied for cycle 21, he was a NFL (National Football League) player. During the show, Keith received three first call-outs and as a result of winning the show, got US $100,000 campaign with Guess, a modelling contract with Next Model Management and a spread in Nylon Magazine. His striking resemblance to model Tylor Beckford and his consistent natural performance has made him one of the promising contestants coming out from the show. He also become the only contestant in the history of the show to not be administered a makeover because the judges wanted to keep his look the way it already was. He is also the show’s sixth z..

7. Kevin Sbraga (Show – Top Chef, Season 7 (D.C.)


Top Chef’s seventh season, Top Chef D.C. crowned the show’s first African-American winner – Kevin Sbraga in 2010. He won an elimination challenge during the show, and also won a quickfire challenge as part of a team. As part of winning the show, Kevin won US $125,000. Since his win, he opened his restaurant ‘Sbraga Dining’ in 2011 and is now planning on to build his own consulting company. His delicacies and menus from his restaurant have applauded both by fans and critics alike, having won numerous awards along the way. He won Bon Appetit Magazine’s Philadelphia’s New Originals, Esquire Magazine’s Best New Restaurants 2012, Lightweight Knockout 2012, Zagat Restaurant Guide’s #1 Restaurant on Avenue of the Arts, Rising Star’s Community Chef 2013 and Best Newcomer 2013.

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6. Javier Colon (Show – The Voice, Season 1)


What makes Javier Colon special on this list is that Javier is one of the very rare winners who won a show’s inaugural season. The Voice premiered in the US in 2011, and straight out of gate, Javier Colon won it. Javier who was coached by Adam Levine, during the show, won US $100,000 and a contract with Universal Republic Records. Javier already has three studio albums and 2 extended plays to his credit. The show’s second season also produced a black winner (Jermaine Paul).

5. Randal Pinkett (Show – The Apprentice, Season 4)

Randal Pinkett, the latest of Trump's Apprentices, sits in a new bar in the lobby of Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, N.J., Monday, Mar. 13, 2006. (Mary Godleski/for the Star Ledger)

Randal Pinkett became the first African-American to win The Apprentice, when he won the show’s fourth season in 2005. While on the show, Randal was the project manager for his team thrice, and won the task all three times, and was never called to the boardroom for elimination. After 13 weeks of competition, Rendal was hired by Donald Trump and became his apprentice. As part of winnings, he oversaw the US $110 million renovation of three Trump owned hotels and casinos. Since then, Rendal became the chairman and CEO of BCT Partners, and is also working as a public speaker and has entered politics.

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4. Chip & Kim (Show – The Amazing Race, Season 5)


Married couple Chip and Kim won the fifth season of The Amazing Race in 2004, and  first black winners of tv shows. During the course of the show, the set of parents won three legs, winning trips to Latin America and Hawaii. As part of winning the show, they won US $1 million. They also hold the record of being the oldest winner in the show’s history. Their collective age was 45 at the time of the race, with Chip aged 46, and Kim aged 44. Kim is also the oldest woman to win the race. They also were the first winners who won the race without using Fast-Forward.

3. Eva Pigford (Show – America’s Next Top Model, Cycle 3)

©AXELLE/BAUER-GRIFFIN.COM Los Angeles Premiere of "Nothing Like the Holidays". Grauman's Chinese Theatre, Hollywood, CA. December 3, 2008. Job: 81203A1. www.bauer-griffin.com www.bauergriffinonline.com Pictured: Eva Pigford.

Cycle 3 of America’s Next Top Model, which aired in 2004, saw for the first time a black contestant coming out on top. And that was Eva Pigford. Not only that, that cycle’s runner-up was also another black contestant (Yaya Dacosta). Throughout the show, Eva won two first call-outs, that too consecutively. She nicknamed herself as ‘Eva The Diva’, during the show. Despite being the shortest among the cast of that cycle, Eva, standing at 5’6” won the show, and is still the shortest winners of the show. Her feisty personality, stunning photographic ability and strut on the runway, made her one of the most beloved and memorable contestant till date. Her personal transformation during the show made the cycle one of the best in the history of the show. Eva won US$100,000 contract with CoverGirl cosmetics, a fashion spread and cover in Elle and a modelling contract with Ford Models. Since then, she has went on to star in a number of film and TV series including ‘The Young and the Restless’, ‘Crossover’, ‘Smallville’, among others and signed with L.A. Models.

2. Fantasia Barrino (Show – American Idol, Season 3)


American Idol is probably still the biggest and first reality shows where viewers call the shots. It has over the years produced some of the great talents in music industry. Among them is the show’s season 3 winner, Fantasia Barrino, who won after 65 million votes were cast in the finale of the show. Her rendition of ‘Summertime’ is considered one of the best performances in all of reality show history, with many critics claiming her as the best winner among all singing reality shows worldwide. Fantasia went on to release 4 studio albums, all of them breaking into top 20 of Billboard 200, with two of them peaking at number 2. Her winning single form the show ‘I Believe’ peaked at number 1 on Billboard 100 and won three Billboard awards. She also did two headlining tours and an American Idol tour. She is a 10 time Grammy nominated and one time Grammy winning artist and has sold more than 3 million albums already. She was ranked as 32 by VH1 in its list of 100 Greatest Women in Music in 2012.

1.Vecepia Towery (Show – Survivor, Season 4 (Marquesas)


She is the one who started it. And with her win, history never looked the same again. In 2002, Vecepia Towery won Survivor’s fourth season, Survivor Marquesas, thereby becoming the first black person to win an American reality show. At the live reading of the votes at the finale, she defeated runner-up Neleh Dennis in a 4-3 votes. Vecepia won two individual immunities during the show and defeated odds to become the winner. While in the minority during the merge phase of the game against a majority alliance, she and others in the minority banded together, in one of the biggest power-shifts in the show’s history to defeat those in majority. Vecepia is considered one of the most under-the-radar players who won the how. She won the US $1 million and with it put her name down in history of pop culture.