Apparently he would let someone tell him that he is destined to be a reality TV star, when in actual reality, he has become a punch line. This elite athlete who speaks without consonants (or thinking) has let himself be talked out of the realm of Olympic Gold Medalists and into the land of Kardashian.
E! Network has launched a reality series, built around the celebrity swimmer, called What Would Ryan Lochte Do? I first became aware of this when reading a column on Salon.com that highlighted 10 good things about a horrifying week. As a former news anchor, I was reeled in by number 10, and it hooked me bad. I had to watch it several times. I couldn’t stop laughing. It was, indeed, a break from a horrifying week. From a PR perspective, however, it’s just as funny, but I thought, “Thank heaven that’s someone else’s train wreck.”
Was it unprofessional of the anchors to mock their guest? Well, yes, cathartic though it may have been, technically, it’s not nice to publicly bust someone for being an inarticulate buffoon. Was it ridiculous to have booked that guest in the first place? It’s a morning program, which, these days is more entertainment than news, so if he had to be booked, the morning show was the place to put him. And honestly, if a producer is approached with the chance to book an Olympic gold medalist, I think most would bite.
But let’s look further up the food chain to the people who are advising and “handling” Ryan Lochte. I can’t imagine it takes too many conversations with this ambitious young man to figure out that there are some things he does better than others. Speaking intelligently and coherently isn’t one of them. So by all means, give him an unscripted, reality television show.
Reading about his self-proclaimed desire to emulate Kim Kardashian in the fame game, it’s clear that no one is forcing Lochte to dip his big toe into this particular cesspool. It’s also clear he’s not satisfied with the millions he earns in endorsement deals with Gatorade, Speedo, Gillette, Mutual of Omaha, or from his own fashion line. He’s an adult. He knows what he wants, and he wants fame and fortune—beyond those that come with the prestige of being an elite Olympian.
Still. Is anyone advising Lochte to look at the long game? Did any of his handlers have a conversation with him about his own strengths and weaknesses? About his image? About how long and hard he’s worked to attain the luster of Olympic gold? About how it would be a shame to go from Olympic hero to laughing stock?
A Google search of “news anchors” and “What Would Ryan Lochte Do?” reveals 63-million hits. Read through just the first two pages and you’ll get the drift. No one’s laughing with Ryan. The reviews for the show itself are even less kind, with Variety answering the question: “Not be caught dead watching this kind of TV show.”
Ryan Lochte, the young man, may take all this in stride. He is part of a generation used to living out loud. Intimacies once reserved for diaries and best friends are now displayed for public review. But Ryan Lochte, the brand, may find all this a little harder to deal with. Will major corporations still want him fronting their brands?
He may find that his reality TV debut was a honey of a boo boo.
Felicia Knight is President of Knight Vision International, LLC
Image by nrc photos