Skip to Content

We’ve Entered the Age of the Reality-Star Politician


Donald Trump’s unexpected victory has already set off a political ripple effect to the North, with reality star Kevin O’Leary announcing that he too would like to get into politics.

The 62-year-old millionaire businessman and venture capitalist, best known for starring in ABC’s Shark Tank, is running to lead Canada’s Conservative party. If he wins (and that’s a big “if,” as the race currently includes 13 other candidates) the election in May, he’ll face off against Justin Trudeau in 2019 to become Canada’s prime minister.

O’Leary is forcefully against Trump the policymaker; he’s not in favor of the President-elect’s stance on trade and immigration. But he’s clearly in favor of Trump the campaigner. Point for point, so far O’Leary is following in Trump’s exact footsteps. Talking up his deal making skills while refusing to name any policy specifics? Check. (If he wins, he’ll apparently crowdsource “the best ideas” from other leadership candidates.) Marketing his lack of political skills as a positive, rather than a negative? Check. (“I’m not a politician. I don’t owe anybody any favors, I’m not involved in politics,” he told Good Morning America). Using Twitter to make campaign announcements, attack his opponents, and speak directly to voters? Check, check, check.

In the recent past, O’Leary’s decision to throw his hat into the political ring might have been dismissed as a distraction. But now as Trump has proven, his particular brand of celebrity — wealthy, combative, oftentimes downright mean — could very well resonate with voters. People are already taking him seriously. “I think he’ll be a serious contender,” Frank Graves, president of pollster Ekos, told Reuters. “He’s a good communicator.”

On the eve of the inauguration of a man who was made famous by firing people on national television, it’s clear the barrier between “rich high-profile person” and “qualified for public office” has been shattered (even if the glass ceiling hasn’t). Already, you can sense a line forming to emerge behind Trump ( In addition to O’Leary, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and rapper Kanye West have hinted they would consider running for office.)

Related: How Shark Tank’s Daymond John Built Fubu While Working at Red Lobster

These days, maybe you don’t need policy expertise or previous political experience to win an election — you just need people to know your name.

That’s how O’Leary sees it, anyway. “I’m facing off against good men and women, but they’re all politicians,” O’Leary told Good Morning America. “And all of a sudden there are millions of Canadians who got to know me, obviously, through television…You are starting to see a lot of politicians emerge using the platform of television.”

So while the next batch of political superstar might be in Congress, they could also very well be starring on a reality show.

As O’Leary joked on Good Morning America, “What is it about working for Mark Burnett that makes you want to lead a G7 country?”