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.

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