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This Reality Show Family Makes The Kardashians Look Normal & Boring

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Photo: Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images.
The second Saturday of January is National Vision Board Day. Fun fact: We actually have Kellan Lutz to thank for this. Yes, the actor from Twilight and The Legend of Hercules. Lutz and his friend/business partner Ryan Daly petitioned to have National Vision Board Day officially recognized in June 2015 and it gained National Day status that July. You can read all about their well-documented love of vision boards (this is not a joke; their belief in the power of vision boarding is Adele-level rolling in the deep) on their website, NationalVisionBoardDay.com. Lutz has also spoken about his dedication to vision boards on Conan. The man uses glitter for his visions. Glitter.

When we think of vision boards, however, we definitely don’t think of Kellan Lutz. We don’t even think of Oprah, patron saint of The Secret and its belief in the law of attraction (in which vision boards play an important role).

No, when we think of vision boards, we think of a short-lived E! reality show called Pretty Wild that aired for a mere nine episodes in 2010. Pretty Wild followed the lives of aspiring model and socialite (emphasis on "aspiring") Alexis Neiers; her foster sister, Tess Taylor (also an aspiring model/socialite); Alexis’ sister, Gabby Neiers (a high school student at the time); and their mother, Andrea Arlington, a former Playboy Playmate and lingerie model.

What made the Neiers sisters, Taylor, and their mother worthy of a reality show? First of all, they were kind of handing them out to anyone willing to act a fool in front of cameras in the aughts. Second, perhaps you’ve heard of The Bling Ring, a group of teens and twentysomethings who burgled the homes of celebrities, including Orlando Bloom, Paris Hilton, Rachel Bilson, and Lindsay Lohan, in 2009. It was the subject of a now-famous Vanity Fair story, “The Suspects Wore Louboutins,” which author Nancy Jo Sales turned into a book that Sofia Coppola adapted into 2013’s The Bling Ring, starring Emma Watson.

Alexis Neiers was part of The Bling Ring, but E! didn’t actually know that when producers — including Chelsea Handler — decided to send cameras to follow her and her family members’ every move. According to an interview Neiers did with The L.A. Times in 2013, the show was commissioned after comedian Dan Levy met Neiers and Taylor on the set of a movie called Frat Party in 2009.

“Tess told me her dream was to be on The Girls Next Door,” Levy tells The Times in the same article. Both Taylor and Neiers were aspiring Playboy Playmates. They’d grown up as part of the celebrity-adjacent Los Angeles culture that also reared Kim Kardashian. Taylor and Neiers weren’t rich or famous, but they were attractive, so club promoters would bring them to celebrities’ tables to be arm candy for the night. There, the girls would get a glimpse of how the other half lived and they yearned for it to become their standard of living, as well.

For Neiers and Taylor, their foray into acquiring a lifestyle of the rich and famous would involve becoming lingerie models, which they presumed would put them on the road to Playboy. Their mother, who had also been a lingerie model back in the day, supported this goal. Arlington even took nude photos of her daughters for their portfolios, which was all captured on Pretty Wild. She homeschooled her daughters so that they could focus on their “careers.” It also freed up their time to go out at night and party — you know, the “wild” part of Pretty Wild, aside from a mom taking nude photos of her daughters — which both the sisters and their mother viewed as making connections in the industry.

Since Pretty Wild aired on E!, it’s fairly easy to compare the family to another one that found quick fame with a reality show on the same channel. Yes, we’re talking about the Kardashians. There are two main reasons why Alexis Neiers and Tess Taylor aren’t household names today, like Kim Kardashian or Kylie Jenner, though.

The first is that Kris Jenner was a lot more subtle in her family’s quest for fame. From the very first episode of Pretty Wild, it’s obvious that Andrea Arlington is thirsty for it. The first episode kicks off with Arlington waking up her daughters, yelling, “Girls, time for your Adderall!” After pumping them full of ADHD medication, the homeschooling begins.

Arlington bases her teaching on The Secret, which is essentially a self-help book. It’s unclear whether she’s had her curriculum approved by the California Department of Education, but we’re pretty sure making vision boards with photographs of Angelina Jolie on them for an entire morning doesn’t constitute a U.S. government-approved high school education. Arlington actually says on her website that Pretty Wild was called “Homeschooled With the Arlingtons,” so that should give you some idea of her version of reality.

Again, the show was merely supposed to follow Alexis Neiers, an 19-year-old aspiring glamour model and party girl; and her foster sister Tess Taylor, a 20-year-old of the same aspirations and habits, as they partied in L.A. and lived their supposedly “wild” life. The producers had absolutely no idea that while they were filming the first episode, Neiers would be arrested for participating in the Bling Ring burglaries — a.k.a. the second reason why the family doesn’t have Kardashian-level fame. Once the arrest occurred, the entire house of cards upon which Pretty Wild’s sham “reality” was based began to fall.

Of course, the eagle-eyed producers immediately recognized the fortuitous catastrophe fate had delivered directly into their hands and the show quickly switched gears to become a behind-the-scenes chronicle of Neiers’ lawyer’s attempt to get her exonerated of any involvement in the robberies. The show also detailed what happened to the family as the case became more public. The housing association in their community asked them to move because of the excessive amount of paparazzi in the neighborhood. Neiers gave that ill-fated interview to writer Nancy Jo Sales for Vanity Fair, and her disappointed call to Sales about what Neiers perceived to be factual errors in the “The Suspects Wore Louboutins” is still quoted on Twitter to this day.

Neiers continues to deny her involvement in The Bling Ring robberies, but was sentenced to 180 days in jail for her role in them. She served 30 days behind bars. Neiers and Taylor were also both arrested for possession of a controlled substance on separate occasions — Neiers in 2010 and Taylor in 2012. Neiers went to rehab in 2010; Taylor in 2012.

Eventually, the whole sordid truth of what was really happening during filming of Pretty Wild came out. Neiers (who today is married with a young daughter, sober, and works as a doula) gave a no-holds-barred interview to Vice in 2013 about the real reason she and Tess decided they wanted to be actresses and models and agreed to be on a reality show. It is grim.

Pretty Wild came about in a bizarre way. My sister Tess and I just decided we wanted to start acting and modeling — not really to get famous, but to sustain my drug habit. We happened to do this low-budget film, and that’s when we met one of the producers on the show, Dan Levy,” Neiers tells Vice. “People think I was living with my family, but I was living at a Best Western on Franklin and Vine. I was smoking 20 80-mg oxys a day, I was doing tons of cocaine, I was panhandling for drugs. I had an over-$10,000-a-week drug habit. What you were seeing on TV was not what was really going on.”

Neiers goes on to detail a history of physical abuse and being molested by a family member as a young child. She talks about her father, an alcoholic and an addict, whose divorce from her mother also added to her trauma. She tells Vice that Nancy Jo Sales is obsessed with her.

“The only reason Nancy Jo is at all relevant — at all — is because I had a fucking meltdown on my television show. She thinks that we’re fame-obsessed teens. No, shame on you, Nancy! You have taken the pain you have caused me, and you ran with it. Everything they claim we are, they are. Everybody wants to be famous.”

Yup, that’s what this entire mixed-up tale boils down to. What happens when the allure of fame is obliterated by bad decisions and addiction? It equals notoriety and infamy. It means E! cancels your reality show after one season and tries to hide it away, as if it never happened.

We remember, though. On National Vision Board Day, we remember the Pretty Wild ride.
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