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It goes without saying that Jessop is pumped about his 15 minutes of fame. “I have absolutely no regrets about how they showed things,” he says. “I really have a belly button lint collection. That’s not something they made up, you know? Living in my parents’ basement—I’m talking to you now from my parents’ basement. Look, if they film you being a moron, and you’re a moron in real life, then you can’t get mad about them for making you look like a moron.”
Jessop landed the gig by shooting an e-mail to a TLC producer at the request of a family friend. Of course, the producer’s ears perked up. During the interviews, Jessop explained why he deserved to be on TV for reasons beyond his virginity. “I tried emphasizing that I was a Mormon guy from Utah. I told them there’s a Mormon movement going on. Romney’s running for president, he’s a Mormon and I’m a Mormon, so that’s kind of cool. I mean, crap, you would think a show called Virgin Diaries could be shot entirely out of Utah.”
The Utah argument actually held weight. The producers of Virgin Diaries considered Jessop for his own full-fledged follow-up reality show, but only if Mitt Romney won the election. “The producer of the show I was on mentioned that if Romney became president, then there was a good chance they would want reality programming about Mormons because people would want to know about their president’s religion. So, when he did not win, that was kind of this punch in the gut.”
After the airing of his episode, Jessop garnered some national fame but nothing really substantial here in Utah. “People here didn’t really give a rip about me. In fact, I was working at a pizza place the week after the show had aired and I got a text message from a friend, saying that TLC was running my episode again, so I turn on the TV. This kid walks in, and I go, ‘Oh look, I’m on TV,’ and the kid goes, ‘OK, does that mean that my pizza is going to take longer to make?’ ”
But the lack of a Utah bump isn’t slowing Jessop down. Sundance is coming up, and that’s Jessop’s biggest time of the year. You see, he has a hobby of taking photos with celebrities, and he hopes to one day make that a career. “I’ve given out bracelets and rape whistles to celebrities before, but this year, I’m handing out Sundance Jessop wristbands.”
“What about your family members? What are you getting them for Christmas?” I ask Jessop.
“I’m really broke, so this year, I’m giving out IOUs for Christmas.”
To understand Jessop, you have to understand his motivation to do anything to be famous. In spite of having mounting credit-card debt and student loans up the keister, he spent his last $300 on a plane ticket to Seattle (instead of registering his car) to maybe get a chance to talk to the producers from Virgin Diaries while they attend a rock concert.
“It seems like people, once they get a taste of fame, they want to chase it, and if they don’t, then they go into ‘I’m a failure’ mode. Or they’re a has-been,” Jessop says. “I want to take my experience and turn it into my own reality show or use the little bit of fame I got and have people say, ‘Oh, that’s Skippy, he meets celebrities, and he was once on a reality show.’ Not ‘the guy that was on a show three years ago’ type thing. You know?”
Jessop experienced his 40th makeout on the TLC show. Since then, he’s made out with two more girls. He’s graduated college since the show aired and has been given one more year to move out of his parents’ basement.
Utah Reality Roundup
If you’re wondering why your favorite reality star didn’t show up in this feature, it’s because there isn’t space enough to give Utah’s many stars their 15 minutes of post-reality fame. I also discovered that those Utahns portrayed as villains on their shows were reluctant to return my calls. Here’s what’s become of a few Utah favorites.
Julie Stoffer, Real World: New Orleans: Since her trailblazing stint as the first MTV Mormon, Stoffer co-hosted G4 TV’s show Electric Playground, appeared in Eminem’s music video “Without Me” and has spent the past few years campaigning for abstinence and anti-tobacco programs. She is now married with kids and lives in Wisconsin.
Dia Frampton, The Voice: The runner-up on the first season of The Voice, Frampton released her solo album Red in 2011 and joined Voice coach/judge Blake Shelton on his tour. She currently writes a Voice blog for Parade.com.
David Archuleta, American Idol: After being a finalist on the seventh season of American Idol, Archuleta released his solo album, Crush, which sold more than 750,000 copies in the United States and reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart. In March 2012, he headed down to Chile to serve a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Ryan Benson, The Biggest Loser: Benson lost 122 pounds in 2004, winning the first season of the NBC show. Since his epic debut, Benson has gained back almost all of the weight and is currently working as an actor for a DVD distribution company in Los Angeles.
The Hatches, The Little Chocolatiers: In 2010, TLC aired The Little Chocolatiers, which was sadly canceled after only one season. But the show is now being aired in Europe and Australia, providing the Hatches with a new international clientele. Steve and Kate Hatch are still busy making their famous sweets at their new location on Eighth Avenue.
Michelle Money, The Bachelor: Notable for her aggressive antics on the 15th season of The Bachelor, Money parlayed her 15 minutes of fame into appearances in films like Blank Slate and Midway to Heaven and even popped back into the reality-show spectrum with an appearance on 2011’s Bachelor Pad 2. Money currently owns and operates Image Studios, a hair salon, in Sandy.
Jef Holm, The Bachelorette: Holm won over the heart of Emily Maynard in Season 8 of ABC’s The Bachelorette, but the engagement was called off in October. Don’t worry: The St. George People Water co-owner has reportedly found a new love interest.