VH1's I Love New York Reunion Has Us Missing Celebreality

Might tonight's special lead to something more?
  • She's back: Tiffany "New York" Pollard returns in VH1's I Love New York: Reunited
    She's back: Tiffany "New York" Pollard returns in VH1's I Love New York: Reunited

    New York is back in the motherf*cking house. Thirteen years after it premiered on VH1, I Love New York, the two-season reality dating series starring meme empress Tiffany "New York" Pollard, is getting a reunion special on its old network. I Love New York: Reunited, hosted by Vivica A. Fox, will bring Pollard and some of her favorite suitors back together to reminisce about the good old days of 2007 reality television.

    If a 13-years-later reunion special for a show that lasted only two seasons sounds odd, you don't know Celebreality. On the surface, a lot of reality TV would seem to fall under the umbrella of "celebrity reality" — from the Kardashians to the more famous members of the Real Housewives franchise. Celebreality refers not to those shows, but to a particular genre of VH1 reality show in the mid-to-late-2000s. Tiffany Pollard and I Love New York were crucial parts of the Celebreality genre, but it was a far larger empire than just one two-season show. Considering how the empire fell, though, it's notable that VH1 is once again acknowledging it — and in doing so, perhaps charting a path forward.

    Pollard came to fame on Flavor of Love, VH1's dating show starring Flavor Flav that was both an adaptation and parody of The Bachelor. That show, in turn, only existed because of Strange Love, a series that chronicled Flav's relationship with actress Brigitte Nielsen. That show only existed because Flav and Nielsen met on The Surreal Life, a celebrity version of MTV's The Real World. But if those shows were the roots, Flavor of Love was the trunk from which all future branches sprung.

    Pollard came in second on Flavor of Love twice, with Flav rejecting her at the last minute in both seasons. Fed up with being second-choice, Pollard and VH1 made her the star on I Love New York. While that series went on, Flavor of Love continued with one more season. Rock of Love, a Flavor of Love variant starring musician Bret Michaels, came next. Charm School, a series that sought to "reform" the girls from the dating shows, soon followed. (The first season, hosted by Mo'Nique, spawned more memes than perhaps any other reality show in history — if you've ever quoted her saying "See when you do clownery, the clown comes back to bite," you've let a little Charm School into your life.)

    Soon Celebreality was a star system all its own. Former paramours on the Love shows got their own versions: Daisy de la Hoya from Rock of Love got Daisy of Love, while brothers Ahmad "Real" and Kamal "Chance" Givens from I Love New York got a duo series, naturally titled Real Chance of Love. Even those not receiving their own series got to extend their reality TV stardom thanks to I Love Money, a competition series reminiscent of MTV's The Challenge, in which the prize was not a paramour's heart, but cold hard cash.

    I Love Money would prove to be Celebreality's undoing, though. After a memorable run that saw her quit just before the end of the first season, Megan Hauserman got her own spinoff series, Megan Wants a Millionaire. This spin on the Of Love format saw Hauserman only date men of a certain financial status. One contestant, Ryan Jenkins, got to the final three, and later went on to compete in (and allegedly win) the third season of I Love Money. But audiences never saw any of that happen.

    While Megan Wants a Millionaire was airing, Jenkins was charged with the murder of his wife, Jasmine Fiore. The two had gotten married after filming on Millionaire wrapped, but their relationship was a rocky one. Jenkins was charged with battery after hitting her just three months into their marriage. In August, Fiore was discovered brutally killed, her body mutilated. Jenkins was the only suspect in her death, and he himself committed suicide a few days later.

    VH1 immediately pulled Megan Wants a Millionaire from TV and online, effectively wiping it from existence. The third season of I Love Money never aired, although the fourth season did, fueling rumors that Jenkins did indeed win his season and the $250,000 prize. As more details about Jenkins surfaced, a 2007 conviction for assaulting a woman in Calgary, Alberta came to light; VH1's background check didn't surface the conviction because they didn't check in Canada.

    After the fourth season of I Love Money aired, Celebreality effectively ceased to exist on VH1. What had been a self-propelling engine of content, reality TV personalities, and — as we'd learn later on — memes immediately ground to a halt. For quite some time, VH1 seemed reticent to even acknowledge the genre. Pollard would occasionally do some work with the network, like the web series Brunch With Tiffany or the short-lived series Scared Famous, but nowhere near the amount that you'd expect of one of the internet's brightest stars. It's perhaps not a coincidence that Pollard's star truly rose anew on the UK version of Celebrity Big Brother in 2016, which brought with it a new appreciation of her VH1-era quotability and iconic reactions.

    So it's a bit of a change-up for VH1 to host this I Love New York reunion. One could cite any number of factors, including the pandemic necessitating new kinds of programming and thirteen years time making the Megan Wants a Millionaire incident feel like it's truly in the past.

    Whatever the reason, I'd personally love it if this reunion opened the door to more Celebreality programming. More of what came before likely wouldn't work; the genre would need to evolve, as all kinds of TV genres have over time. Maybe there's a docuseries to be made about the former personalities of Celebreality — a "where are they now?" of sorts. Or maybe VH1 can take it back to where it all began: revive The Surreal Life and populate the house with former Celebreality stars.

    Given the sudden way Celebreality came tumbling down, it's hard not to think about the what-ifs of it all. What if Jenkins had never been cast? Mo'Nique might've made a grand return for another season of Charm School. Pollard might have had her own talk show on VH1 at this point. Or maybe overexposure would've ended the genre anyway.

    In any case, for one night we can indulge in the good old days of Celebreality. "Do you have love for New York?" Pollard used to ask her suitors. Years later, the answer is an increasingly emphatic and resounding "YES."

    I Love New York: Reunited airs November 23 at 8:00 PM ET

    Kevin O'Keeffe is a writer, host, and RuPaul's Drag Race herstorian living in Los Angeles.

    TOPICS: VH1, I Love New York, Tiffany “New York” Pollard