Home-grown famous



Hilton Head Island and Bluffton are a rich vein of talent for some of the most popular reality TV shows in recent years. A Bluffton man got his 15 minutes in the limelight in May, and three recent episodes followed the cast of “Southern Charm” — including two area natives — during a stay at a luxury rental on Hilton Head. And, of course, the Lowcountry is home to a Food Network star.


IAIN BROWNBluffton’s Iain Brown made a bid to become a judge on “America’s Got Talent” in an episode that aired May 29.

“I’ve been in front of a lot of different kinds of entertainment talent,” said Brown, a former sound designer at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina who now works at Custom Audio Video. The Scotland native moved to Bluffton in 2002. “Friends of mine awhile back jokingly said, ‘You could be a judge, you could do this,’ kind of goading me on a bit.”

When “America’s Got Talent” held auditions in Savannah, Brown told the judges that he wanted to join their elite group. In his audition, he said he watches the show at home and frequently comments on the judges’ decisions.

The show’s host, Simon Cowell, asked judge Howie Mandel to temporarily give up his seat to Brown. But the Lowcountry resident only got to vote on one contestant — by his own admission, his short time as a judge didn’t go well.

“Simon (Cowell) fired me,” he said, laughing.


SHEP ROSECHELSEA MEISSNERThree episodes of Bravo’s “Southern Charm” — starring Lowcountry natives Shep Rose and Chelsea Meissner — were filmed on Hilton Head in October. The episodes, which aired in late May and early June, depicted the cast staying at a ritzy rental home on North Forest Beach.

On the show, Rose and Meissner waxed poetic about their hometown.

“How beautiful is this place,” Rose said. “It’s something I’m so proud of. There’s a good feeling, a positive vibe.”

Meissner agreed. “When someone asks me where I’m from, I’m proud to tell them where I’m from.”

In “What da Fuskie,” which aired May 24, the Charleston socialites took a ferry to Daufuskie Island, where the men played golf, the women rode horses and — to the surprise of no one — tensions flared. In “Hilton Head-Ache,” which aired May 31, the group bickered their way across the water on the night ferry back from Daufuskie. And in “Family Ties” on June 7, laid-back Rose visited his mother on Hilton Head and no-drama Meissner took an emotional ride down memory lane around her old Bluffton haunts.

Rose grew up in Sea Pines and has been a regular on the show after meeting show creator and star Whitney Sudler-Smith. He is one of just four cast members to have starred in all five seasons of the show, and he’s parlayed his fame to other opportunities: He starred on Bravo’s “RelationShep,” about his quest for love, and in 2016 he launched ShepGear, an online fashion outlet. His parents still live on the island.

“I think being from here gives you an inner happiness, and it’s contagious, I believe,” Rose said. “Everyone is happy. It’s sunny, you’re driving over a bridge and all you see is pure beauty.”

Chelsea Meissner, who also stars on “Southern Charm” and was a contestant on “Survivor: One World” in 2012, spent the first part of her childhood in the Lowcountry but moved away in fifth grade. Meissner joined “Southern Charm” full time this season, quickly earning a reputation as an even-keeled cast member.

“I think that because I grew up in the country, I’ve got a more chill, laid-back attitude,” she said during one of three recent episodes filmed on Hilton Head.


ORCHID PAULMEIERThe Hilton Head episodes of “Southern Charm” were reality TV crossovers, of sorts — Food Network star Orchid Paulmeier put in several appearances.

Paulmeier, at partner at Hilton Head restaurant One Hot Mama’s, exceled as the personal chef for the island episodes of “Southern Charm.” She, catering manager Justin Warstler and bartender Blair Hayhurst appeared on camera for the last part of the second Hilton Head Island episode for what was planned as an outdoor dinner but had to be moved inside due to rain. Paulmeier prepared cioppino, a spicy Italian fish stew, using fish the cast had caught that day.

“It was stressful because I couldn’t make the food ahead of time,” she said. “I had to wait and see what they caught.”

Paulmeier competed on Food Network’s “The Next Food Network Star” in 2012.