MTV recently announced that they are rebooting their legendary groundbreaking reality series ‘The Real World’.
My first thought was to check to see if I’m too old to be a cast member (Spoiler: I am). Then I started thinking about my favorite cast members from Real World seasons throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s. They set the blue print for what I thought my early 20’s was going to be. Hot tubs, “Community Jobs”, and a confessional I could air my grievances to!
I realized very quickly that the most memorable people on the show, in my opinion, happened to be the Black roommates. They made each season so memorable that you kind of wish there was a season with an all Black cast.
This is the closest we ever got:
I always related to the Black cast members the most. Their conflicts with other people in the house mirrored many conflicts I have had in environments where I am constantly in the minority. I found myself rooting for them to just get through their seasons with their sanity in tact. Some of them were the first Black people that their cast mates had ever talked to, which is absolutely ridiculous when you consider the fact that a Black person cannot make it in the world completely avoiding white people. But I digress…
In no particular order, here are the most memorable Black ‘Real World’ Cast Mates:
Tami (Los Angeles)
The Real World Los Angeles was a season that I was too young to watch in real time. The first season that I had the privilege of watching while it was actually on was Miami in 1996. However, thanks to bootleg sites like Daily Motion, I was able to watch the whole grainy ass second season recently with a weighted blanket around me and a jar of Roman Raspberry Talenti. Speaking of Roman…
Although she is best know today as Tami Roman from Basketball Wives and her hilarious Bonnet Chronicles, Tami Roman started out as a cast member on the second season of The Real World set in Los Angeles. Tami was the feisty Howard University student/aspiring singer who knew exactly what she wanted out of life. However, Tami’s head strong personality often came across as bossy and annoying to her roommates. This led to frequent conflicts, including one with the other Black cast member in the house David that led to him being kicked out, and rightfully so. Tami’s most memorable moment may have been the time she decided to get an abortion despite the disapproval of some of her cast mates. Although she could be seen as argumentative, Tami was someone who stood firm in her decisions which is admirable.
Arissa (Las Vegas)
Alyssa was the tragically sad cast member who chain smoked the entire time. That’s about it. She was just moody and sad. Why is that memorable? Because it made 0 sense! She was drop dead gorgeous, had a great head of hair and was in Vegas. She didn’t seem depressed. She just seemed like she didn’t want to be on The Real World, which I can understand but like girl, just leave! She had a boyfriend back home that she was fiercely loyal to even though he seemed like a jerk. Arissa seemed like the repressed party girl you wanted to shake just to loosen up a little.
Jaqueese (San Diego)
Jacqueese was the only Black cast member in a season that seemed tolerable enough to actually be in. The Real World San Diego had a great house, in a great location and cast mates that aside from Frankie the sick punk chick, seemed to be pretty mellow and chill. Jacqueese was definitely part of a Real World trope I call “The reasonable level headed Black guy” which was prevalent among most of the Black men casted on the show. Jacqueese was mainly there to have fun and be the voice of reason when the other cast mates where wildn’ out. There was one incident when Jacqueese gets in an intense discussion with his white roommate Robin after she casually drops the N-word. The contrast between Jacqueese calmly explaining that she’s a fucking bigoted bitch for thinking its okay, and Robin drunkly defending her word choice made it easy for the viewers to be in his corner.
Nicole (New York)
Nicole was a part of one of my favorite casts of The Real World. The Back To New York season had two huge personalities in Coral, Mike “The Miz” and Lori the Catherine Zeta Jones look-alike that it could have been easy to forget Nicole. But there’s no way to forget the pounds of eyeshadow. Nicole stayed with a full-face of makeup even while wearing pajamas. You don’t have to get camera ready if you stay camera ready I guess. Nicole was also memorable for being Coral’s right hand chick and for trying to seduce her out of town love interest and getting too drunk to have sex with him. I stan a party girl who doesn’t know the concept of too much makeup or booze.
Syrus was one of two Black cast memebers on The Real World: Boston and one of the two biggest hoes in the house. Syrus loved to fuck and was great at picking up women which was interesting because he wasn’t that attractive and his game was pretty cheesy. Perhaps his success rate was based on the fact that the man was not picky AT All. Syrus got into a bit of scandal later on in the season when the house mates were assigned to work at a Boys & Girls clubs as a mentor for kids and Syrus fucked one of the kid’s moms. The funniest part about it was that he was going against the grain because he really hit it off with this kids mom and liked her so much he was willing to sacrifice his job for her, only to move on from her a couple episodes later. Syrus really couldn’t care less about those Boys and Girls club kids and I 100% can sympathize.
David (Los Angeles)
David was a mildly successful stand up-comedian who played way too much during his season of The Real World: Los Angeles. He was also the second Black cast mate in the house which didn’t do much to help his isolation. David’s penchant to make a joke out of everything annoyed pretty much everyone, especially Jon the conservative country singer and Tami the future Basketball wife. The roommates banned together and came to a unanimous decision to kick David out of the house after he tore the covers off of Tami while she was clad in only underwear without her consent. Sexual harassment FOR SURE, but I honestly believe that had David been less annoying in the earlier parts of the season or white, he would have been allowed to stay and it would have ended up as a “teachable moment” on consent. Don’t cry for David though. He did end up with a pretty sweet cameo in the legendary stoner comedy ‘Half Baked’.
Steven is hands down one of the most memorable Black Real World cast mates for the worst reasons. He was insecure and not entirely sure of himself yet and a popular reality show might not be the best place to work that out. He was the quickly the outcast of his season and never really clicked with the rest of his cast mates. It all came to a head when he smacked his roommate Irene for calling him a homosexual as she quit the show and got into a car to drive off into obscurity. Now even though he eventually came out as gay and Irene had no right to out him, you can’t smack a woman on primetime MTV and not come out of it as anything other than a villain. The “smack heard around the world” led to Steven being kicked out making him the second Black cast mate to get the boot.
Aneesa was someone who annoyed me along with a lot of her other cast mates when I watched her season of The Real World Chicago in real time. She was loud, obnoxious, and always naked. A 15 year old me could not wrap my head around why Aneesa was so extra, but a 30 year old me completely understands. She was a Black woman standing boldly in her homosexuality at a time where there weren’t very many Black lesbians on TV. She had also grown up in a house that was less than accepting of her sexual orientation. So here she was, young, free, in a tricked out house in a new city. I totally get it now. Aside from her boldness, Aneesa was sweet, caring, and like Theo, frequently checked Tanya for being ignorant. In hindsight, Aneesa was aspirational.
Alton & Irulan (Las Vegas)
Alton and Irulan were two cast mates on a Real World season with an unprecedented THREE whole Black people. So why did I lump them together as one person without the third Black cast member? Well, if you watched this season you would know that Alton and Irulan were a couple who individually weren’t interesting at all, but together made cute TV that you actually wanted to root for. Alton was the tall, very cute Black dude who voluntarily did extreme sports and Irulan was just gorgeous and looking love in all the wrong places. Or right places if you’re looking for slightly older white men willing to swipe dem Visas. So when these two started to fall for each other, it was cute to watch because you could tell that they were two people unlike who they normally dated. Unfortunately the mix of reality TV cameras, alcohol, and living in a Vegas penthouse at the Palms with plenty of genitals passing through became to much for the couple who were on again, off again the entire season. I like to think of them in an alternate universe where they got married and moved to suburban Nevada. Alton teaches climbing at a local bouldering gym and Irulan is a stay at home mom with a Youtube channel.
I remember Theo as the cute and one of the few cast mates with sense on The Real World: Chicago. Although his season wasn’t very memorable in general, he managed to be. Like many of the Black men on the show who came before and after him, (save a couple: Steven and David #1) Theo’s role was House Peacekeeper. He was either convincing Aneesa not to party so hard, or trying to calmly explain to a crying Tanya why you shouldn’t say certain things to Black people. Theo was like a cute Gen X MLK Jr. who deserved a more lit Real World season. Theo deserved David’s place on New Orleans. We were gonna get “C’mon, Be My Baby Tonight” regardless of what season David ended up on, but more on him later.
Cynthia is the homegirl from Atlanta, living in California who had her shit together and decided to do The Real World: Miami on a whim. Unfortunately she ended up on one of the worst early seasons of the show. Not location wise! The Miami mansion was amazing, complete with a pool and a backyard boat-less dock. Her roommates however left a lot to be desired. Remember whiny tight ass Dan, Flora the big breasted Russian who thought smoking cigarettes was a personality trait, Sarah the adult-child, and Melissa the Cuban bitch. They were all so uniquely annoying yet Cynthia’s biggest issue seemed to be the ain’t shit dating pool that existed in Miami. Can someone from the 305 confirm or deny if that’s still the case? Anyways, once Cynthia resolved to put dating on hold she was able to land a job in Miami allowing her to stay in Vice city. She was by far the hardest working cast mate this season.
Kameelah from The Real World: Boston was a Stanford student taking a break from studying, to have a little reality TV adventure in Bean Town. Kameelah was one of two Black cast mates this season and the contrasts between her and Cyrus. Cyrus would sleep with pretty much anyone and Cynthia was pegged as being too picky. She was a God Damn Ivy League pre-Med student, but sure…blame her for not settling for mediocrity. She also gets bonus points for routinely standing up to her Rupublican roommate Sean who would eventually go on to become Republican Senator and all around A-hole Sean Duffy. of Wisconsin. Although perhaps not the most famous Real World alum, Kameelah definitely turned out to be one of the most successful. Kameelah is now a doctor practicing as an OBGYN in NYC.
David (New Orleans)
David from the first iteration of The Real World: New Orleans in 2000, had the potential to be either forgotten or remembered as one of the most annoying Black Real World cast mates. David, the aspiring R&B singer changed his fate when he brought out his Casio keyboard and debuted his then unknown single “C’mon Be My Baby Tonight”. It was then that both David and his earworm of a song became instantly unforgettable despite the fact that the show only showed the chorus. Ask people old enough to have remembered that season and they automatically know all the words.
“C’mon be my baby tonight/ C’mon be my Baby tonight/ I’ve seen the way you’ve treated other thugs you’ve been with/ C’mon be my baby tonight”
Karamo is perhaps the Black Real Worlder with the most mainstream fame. He’s now one of the Fab 5 hosts on the rebooted critically acclaimed Queer Eye For The Straight Guy series. Honestly, I have watched a couple of episodes and I can say that Karamo hasn’t changed much since his stint on the Real World Philly fourteen years ago. Karamo was the nicest guy in the house. All he did was mind his own business, play peace keeper, and try to date light skinned Philly niggas in tight jeans. His ability to have compassion for those who hate him for no reason was evident in one of the most talked about episodes of Queer Eye where he makes over a Trump supporter. Just like during his 6 month stay in the luxe Real World Philly mansion, Karamo proved that his patience and ability to deal with boring basic bigoted bitches is unmatched.
Coral (Back To New York)
In the 10th season of The Real World, production ran out of trendy cities to stick 7 college-aged strangers so they went back to where they started. New York City. Cast mate Coral was always ready to fight out the gate. and her anger was always 100% valid. The reason why her fights with her cast mates were so entertaining was because every Black person I know has had those kind of fights with people who had very one dimensional views of Blackness.
Melissa (New Orleans)
Melissa came out swinging in season __ as the star of her season. Almost everything that came out of Melissa’s mouth was hilarious, including her impressions of her Black father and Filipina mother. Melissa had a Pepé Le Peu like attraction to her cast mate Jamie although she did have a boyfriend who clearly couldn’t handle her. Melissa was a spit-fire which was evident in the episode where her boyfriend from back home came to visit.
Since her stint on The Real World, Melissa Howard married a member of the band Glassjaw and worked consistently as a comedian on shows like Chelsea Handler’s ‘Girls Behaving Badly’.
Melissa’s sweet, smart and funny personality lands her at #1 on the list of my favorite Black Real World cast mates that I remember!
The Hawaii season of The Real World premiered in 1999 and at the time it felt like the end of an era. The last of the 90’s. the last of the Clinton years and the last of Golden Era Mtv. When The Real World Hawaii premiered, the house was the best compared to previous seasons, the cast seemed the chillest (minus annoying Amaya) and immediately I was drawn to the lanky blonde Tech. Tech was funny, caring and carried the common theme among most Black Real Worlders of being the mediator. Tech just wanted to have fun in Hawaii. He got alonh with everyone and even landed a gig at the local radio station. I remember one scene where Ruthie, a native Hawaiian cast mate who nearly died of alcohol poisoning in the second episode, had broken her sobriety and in a drunken rage started throwing dishes. Instead of bad mouthing her like the rest of the cast had done. Tech firmly held Ruthie accountable but understood that her addiction was not her fault and helped her get help. His Hawaiian shirts, charming personality, and hip-hop connects (Anyone remember the Pharcyde episode?) make Teck an early contender for my top 3 favorite Black Real Worlders’.
Honorable Mention ( AKA: I don’t remember these people at all because I was either too young to watch, or too old to care)
From Left To Right:
Mohammed (San Francisco)
Heather B (New York)
Kevin (New York)
Malik (Back To New York)
Janelle (Key West)