9 Celebrity Reality TV Show Judges We Adore
In addition to their fiery careers, a growing number of celebrities have upped their pop culture relevance by taking on mentorship roles on reality television. As judges and coaches on talent competitions, high-profile stars have the opportunity to interact more intimately with fans and share new sides of their personalities.
Multi-talented stars like Miley Cyrus and Jennifer Lopez found new voices with their turns as music competition show mentors while Dancing with the Stars pro Julianne Hough and former Dance Moms star Maddie Ziegler owe their careers to reality television—a debt they’re now repaying as judges. Others, like Heidi Klum and Tyra Banks, found their way to the reality game after long and fruitful careers in the modeling world and chose to share their experience in fashion with up-and-comers.
No matter their path or reasoning, it’s clear to see that these celebrity judges are proponents. They do it all—and look good while doing it.
Scroll down for a taste of the busy careers of the most accomplished celebrity judges to grace the small screen in recent years.
What hasn’t Miley done? The former child star has come a long way since her Hannah Montana days and in August 2016 she launched a new chapter of her career by making her debut as a coach on NBC’s singing competition, The Voice.
Having newly completed her team, Cyrus’s Voice crew includes 12 diverse members, ranging from sweet country-pop talent Josette Diaz to Maye Thomas, a contestant Cyrus believes has the potential to become the “goth Dolly Pardon.”
The former Disney Channel star has balanced a busy career since 2002, back when she was a series regular on Barney & Friends. Since her early start, Lovato has established herself as a talented singer and formidable actress.
In 2012, Lovato served as a judge for U.S. version of The X Factor and stayed on for two seasons, doling out both sweet compliments and brutal critiques alongside fellow critic Simon Cowell.
The mother of four celebrates an accomplished career as a model, designer, businesswoman, mentor, and Halloween legend. She also writes, sings, and sculpts—any other ventures of note, Heidi? Being the expert multi-tasker that she is, Klum is a TV judge for not one but two reality competitions. She regularly appears on both Project Runway (which she also produces) and America’s Got Talent.
Season 15 of Runway currently airs on Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on Lifetime and Klum has promised that even after all these years, the show still has more to offer: “The concept is the same but the people are different, the challenges are different, and our guest judges are different—and they always bring something great to the table, too.”
Tyra started modeling in the late '80s when just 15 years old. After a fruitful series of modeling campaigns and runway shows, Banks turned her focus to acting. The 42-year-old coasted on her film and television career for several years (she tried her hand at singing too), before finally combining her passions and serving as a judge, host, and executive producer for America’s Next Top Model.
Banks proved just how fierce she could be on the reality series, upping the elimination drama every week with her photo reveal technique: "I have two beautiful girls standing before me, but I only have one photo in my hand ..."
Though her days as an ANTM judge have come to an end, Tyra is still one busy lady—she’s a new mom to son York, who arrived January 2016.
Lopez’s flourishing career has been going full throttle since the '90s. A hard-working multi-hyphenate, J.Lo has seen success in various fields of interest—and kept things interesting by tipping a toe in the reality TV pool. She served as an American Idol judge through Seasons 10 to 11 and 13 to 15. During her Idol years, Lopez also used the platform to promote her music career, performing on the show on several occasions, including the 2016 series finale.
As a professional dance partner to the stars, Hough won two seasons of Dancing with the Stars (with Apolo Ohno and Hélio Castroneves) before joining the ranks of stardom herself. Since her 2007 debut on the long-running reality series, Hough has starred in several high-profile films, played Sandy in Fox's live TV musical Grease Live!, and collaborated on a fitness line with MPG, and even took a stab at country music.
Hough returned to DWTS as a judge for Seasons 19 through 21 and the current 23rd season. Judging, rather than competing, frees up more time for other projects, she says.
The Maroon 5 frontman and occasional actor's career and personal life have continued to flourish since he became a judge for The Voice in 2011—he married model Behati Prinsloo, had a baby girl, and released an album.
Levine, who’s sat as a judge for the series since Day 1, has led his team to victory three times, but he claims that it’s more than that, telling Today, “I love to win … but it’s more fulfilling and rewarding to treat it like a big workshop.”
Once a reality television contestant herself on Lifetime series Dance Moms, the success of 14-year-old Ziegler is a true ode to the American dream. After several seasons on the series, the young dancer’s career received a major boost in 2014 when she starred in the music video for Sia’s hit single Chandelier. Since then, Ziegler has become a household name, exploring the true breadth of her talent with small acting roles and modeling campaigns.
After achieving so much at an impressively young age, Ziegler decided to impart her wisdom to others as a judge on So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation.
On her judging style, Ziegler told Vulture that she doesn’t intend to break any young dancer’s spirts: “I want them to see me as a mentor, as someone they can relate to without being scared and thinking, 'Oh no, she'll get mad at me and tell me I was awful.'"
The beloved designer earned a name for himself back in 2000 when he created a gown for supermodel Naomi Campbell. Since his early success, Posen has become a red carpet favorite and has designed gowns for countless celebrities and collaborated with big brands and high-profile clients.
Eager to help young designers get their foot in the door, Posen has served as a judge for Project Runway since 2013. He’s been known to share his honest opinion with contestants, once even comparing an item that missed the mark to an “over-sexed grandma.”
Bonus: Gwyneth Paltrow
After years of success as an actress, model, sometime singer, and lifestyle guru, Paltrow is set to help tech-savvy up-and-comers on the upcoming Apple-produced reality competition series Planet of the Apps alongside fellow "Angel Advisors" Jessica Alba and will.i.am.