Is ‘Undercover Billionaire’ Fake? Glenn Stearns’ Real-Life Experiment Analyzed
A crazy premise and an even crazier execution window. That's all Undercover Billionaire is.
The Discovery Channel show is one of the most out-there shows in existence, and Glenn Stearns is at the center of it.
The show is really an attempt, in front of the cameras, to build a million-dollar empire from scratch with very less resources just to somewhat prove that the American Dream isn't just that; a dream.
But, the show's premise itself, never mind the execution, has made many skeptical about if the show is actually real.
So, is Undercover Billionaire fake?
'Undercover Billionaire': Real or Fake?
Let's begin with how the show actually became a thing. It was Stearns's bet with his colleagues at a dinner that set everything off.
Glenn Stearns's outrageous show Undercover Billionaire has fans doubting if things shown on the show are real or fake. (Photo: Glenn Stearns/Instagram)
He bet $1 million with everyone present at a dinner that he could start over and build a business worth $1 million.
After hearing this story from Stearns, the show's producer, Aengus James, called his bluff, and the show started with this simple idea.
But things weren't as simple as they look. Stearns still had privileges that normal people who attempt something like this, like health insurance and the ability to fall back on his millionaire lifestyle if he failed at this.
However, James admitted that the show was Stearns's personal story rather than a comprehensive study on whether the American Dream was actually a viable idea. "The show's not out to prove anything," he told Reality Blurred in an interview, and added it was just the producers' wish to create a show that was like "Naked and Afraid in the business world."
In the show, Stearns starts off with an old truck, a cell phone, and a $100. He sets out to build a company worth $1 million in just 90 days.
And the show takes the difficulty in managing $100 to do anything of note, other than food and basic needs, very seriously.
Having a camera crew around him did not help him, either. Many people were "skittish" about having cameras around and even rejected him from jobs because of it.
So, the show is a real thing. What is shown in the show actually happens in real life. But it's not entirely real.
Background things like Stearns having his health insurance premiums paid from his millionaire money, decades of experience in business, no student loan debts, a camera crew around him, the comfort of his millionaire life after the show's end, no family to take care of with limited resources, etc make the show less real.
And the show's name alone is misleading, in a way. Stearns isn't actually a billionaire.
The Stearns Holdings founder does not have a net worth of $1 billion, which the show's name implies. Forbes, in his profile in 2019, reported he is actually worth half that — $500 million.
Undercover Billionaire and the people behind it set out to film Stearns's authentic experiences during his outlandish attempt. It is not scripted and even though not everything is real, most of what we see he does on TV is real.
The show is also a TV representation of his own journey to becoming a multimillionaire. The entrepreneur started his own company — Stearns Lending LLC — at 25 and steadily grew his empire to be worth what it is today.