The Reality Show Judge Hall of Fame

Competitive reality shows are nothing without a panel of good judges, a lesson that The X-Factor learned the hard way and is scrambling to correct. What makes a good judge? Expertise helps, yes, but there are a host of other qualities—star-power, a sense of humor, a measure of human decency—that combine to make a true breakout personality. So let us now salute those judges who are actually doing good work, with our first ever Reality Show Judge Hall of Fame Awards.

Most Compassionate

RuPaul, RuPaul’s Drag Race

The 6’ 4” Queen of the Glamazons may look intimidating, but her mission is all about promoting self-love, both in drag contestants and the audience at home. As she says at the end of every episode, “If you don't love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” (Ru has also been known to say, “Don’t be jealous of my boogie”—so it’s not like she’s Mother Theresa.)

Sexiest Male

Blake Shelton, The Voice and Bill Powers, Work of Art

Shelton is a timeless American keepsake. He’s like a friendly Marlboro Man, without the chance of lung cancer.

Powers is like Shelton’s big-city cousin, who, like Shelton, uses the natural twinkle in his eyes to render us paralyzed with unquenchable desire.

Sexiest Female

Padma Lakshmi, Top Chef and Ivanka Trump, The Celebrity Apprentice

Lakshmi wasn’t hired because of her culinary prowess, she was hired because of her retina-searing beauty. Add to that her aloofness, plus the sensuality of the food-judging task at hand, and you get a powder keg of natural sex appeal.

Trump is the living embodiment of the boardroom ice-goddess that has fueled many a business-themed adult film scene. Her sex appeal is rooted firmly in matters of status and power; rest assured, you’re always several pegs beneath her.


Steven Tyler, American Idol

Tyler, who speaks in rhyming riddles and wears silken witch-blouses, claims he’s the lead singer of a legendary American hard-rock group. But my suspicion is that he is actually Aughra, the ancient, one-eyed mystic “secret keeper” of The Dark Crystal.

Most Intimidating

Tom Colicchio, Top Chef

“You have 17 minutes to butcher and braise a whole camel. Do you mind if I stand over your shoulder all bug-eyed and second-guess everything you’re doing under the guise of mentorship, only so I can throw it all back in your face at Judges’ Table? Cool.”

Most Flamboyant

Andre Leon Talley, America’s Next Top Model and Bruno Tonioli, Dancing with the Stars


Adam Shankman, SYTYCD and Mary Murphy, SYTYCD


Michael Kors, Project Runway

All of these are actual Michael Kors quotes from Runway:

“She looks like Barefoot Appalachain Lil' Abner Barbie.”
“She looks like a paper brioche.”
“Next thing you know, it's big button earrings and you're on 'The Facts of Life.'”
"If you didn't do that jacket in fleece I would have been like give me a Xanax, I'm asleep."
"If a guy was 7'3" it would be a fabulous fit."
“It's a little Shirley McClaine when she played a hooker with a heart of gold.”
“That was so Paris hooker '50s.”
"I think she looked like $29.99 prom."
"Scarlett O'Hara ripped drapes down and made a couture dress...this, she ripped the sheets off the bed and ran out the door."
“I feel like a pope at a sex club.”
"A Brady Bunch dashiki, I don't know what else to say."
"He looks like he's got a suede lobster bib on."
“She looks like a Pole dancer in Dubai.”
“She looks like an Amish Cocktail Waitress.”
“She looks like a transvestite flamenco dancer at a funeral.”

Who are your favorite reality show judges? If you had to spend one eight-hour car trip with any four of the ones mentioned above, who would you choose and why? Show your work.

Comments (7)
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Feb 23, 2012
I've always loved Michael Kors on Project Runway, but reading his quotes after another like that made me laugh so hard, I never noticed how funny he was before.

Also, love Steven Tyler on American Idol, his poems are the best, and so I wouldn't mind spending a long car ride with Steven Tyler. Or Blake Shelton (for obvious reasons). As funny as Michael Kors is, I feel like he would be constantly judging my outfit :P

Can I add another category? Smoothest Judge: Cee Lo Green from The Voice. Ever heard him try to win an artist over? You should. :P
Feb 22, 2012
I appreciate judges who know what they are talking about. Love all of them on Top Chef, Tom actually scares me. I also love Michael and Nina from Project Runway. Like stated here, Michael is hilarious. And the reason he is funny is because what he says is actually true most of the time. Nina can be constructively cruel and the contestants always look the most releaved when she likes their look.
Feb 22, 2012
I know you don't like him but how can Simon Cowell not be here? Whenever you think reality TV judge, his name is the first to pop into most people's heads.
Feb 22, 2012
Definitely Michael Kors, but Gordon Ramsay as well! It always strikes me that they hate him and are terrified of him until they go on an outing with the guy and they absolutely gush over him afterwards. What does that man DO in his free time?
Feb 22, 2012
We need a Reality Show Host Hall of Fame too. Survivor and Amazing Race wouldn't be the same without their hosts. A good host can make or break a show.
Feb 22, 2012
There should be a category called "Best" and Gordon Ramsey should be under it.
Feb 22, 2012
would put Miss Jay as most flamboyant instead of Andre, but i like the rest.

i'd also put Hugh from top chef as sexiest male judge!