Reality hosts with the most

Recently the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences announced that it has approved a new Emmy Award category for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program. The competitive shoe will be on the other foot when the hosts battle it out with each other at the 2008 Emmy Awards. The category is open to hosts only so “reactive participants or judges” are not eligible to receive the award (sorry, Paula Abdul.)

Hosting is no easy task: each week these women help us wade through the competitive waters of posing, food plating, dating and hem lines. Let’s hope that some of these ladies have a chance at Emmy gold when they go up against some of the already assumed male nominees (I’m talking to you, Seacrest.)

Padma Lakshmi

Cookbook author, model, recent Hot 100 listmaker, and an ambassador for the United Nations Development Fund for Women: what is not to love about Padma Lakshmi? The TV host of Bravo’s Top Chef has the dutiful tasks of explaining elimination challenges and sitting at judges table critiquing the creations of talented chefs each week. A typical day for Padma may include discerning which tastes better: braised and grilled beef short ribs with mushrooms or a truffle and cognac cream macaroni and cheese? Talk about Sophie’s choice.

Padma balances respectability and likeability among the contestants despite having to be the one to deliver her signature send off to the ousted chefs each week: “Please pack your knives and go.” See, she even says “please.” What other host on reality TV has that kind etiquette?

Tyra Banks

No reality TV host receives screams of jubilation when entering a roomful of contestants quite like Tyra does. Each time she “surprises” the girls with a cameo appearance outside the judging room, the ladies flip out as though they are shocked that she is even associated with the show. (I prefer to believe the producer’s don’t coach the models-to-be to do this, but rather Tyra is a role model unlike any other to these young women so their elation to see her each time is purely spontaneous.)

Bank’s does more than just host and executive produce America’s Next Top Model — she has become the poster model for giving young women self-esteem and letting them know they are beautiful from the inside out. On the latest season cycle of Top Model, they crowned a plus-sized model the winner for the first time in the show’s history. (Mind you the plus size they are referring to is a size eight. I’m amazed every time I read that an eight is “plus-sized”. It’s not even a double digit number. How does our society define this as large? And then I remember that most runway models are size zero, so in the world of fashion an eight is definitely progress.) Kudos, Tyra!

Heidi Klum

Another model-turned-reality host is everyone’s favorite German native, Heidi Klum of Project Runway. Klum not only serves as host, but also as an executive producer and judge. The blond beauty guides a group of designers through intense runway competitions and deliberations each week telling us who is “in” and who is “out.”

Despite all her many responsibilities on Project Runway, Heidi still finds the time to host Germany’s Next Top Model and design her own signature collection of every good lesbian’s favorite shoe line, Birkenstock. (I just made you love her more, didn’t I?)

Elizabeth Berkley

We first saw a glimmer of Elizabeth Berkely’s dancing abilities on Saved By The Bell when she danced with Zack Morris as one half of the duo, the Powerhouse Preppies. From there, Berkley really got to strut her stuff in the cinematic masterpiece, Show Girls. This movie was a testimony to Berkley’s flexibility … as an actor. With all this experience, it’s no wonder that she was chosen as the host of the new reality dancing competition show on Bravo, Step It Up and Dance.

Tila Tequila

Host, bi-athalon referee and professional make out artist: Tila Tequila wears many hats on her show A Shot At Love. If watching this serial dater cry about how hard it is each week for the her to open up and put herself out there as “a bisexual” isn’t entertaining enough, then maybe watching a group of female contestants eating pig’s vaginas to prove their “love” is all you’ll need to you sicken amuse yourself.

Alison Sweeney

I watched The Biggest Loser for the first time this past season. If you have not seen this show yet, you must: it has more tears and triumph than that episode of Oprah where she give away her favorite things (if you can even imagine that).

Alison Sweeney, known for her role on Days of Our Lives, moved into prime time taking over from Caroline Rhea as the host. I really like Sweeney in this role — she had her own weight battles throughout her career so she is a walking example to these contestants that you can take control of your life and get the body that you want. She is an inspiration to everyone to put down the twinkie and hit the gym.

Reality seasons come and go, each season returning with new batches of contestants to get to know all over again. It’s comforting that through all the fights, eliminations and humiliations, we have these women’s familiar faces to guide us through the chaos.

Do you have any favorite (or not so favorite) hosts from reality TV competitions?