With Season 29 about to premiere Wednesday night on MTV and ruin The Real World as we know it, we wanted to make sure that history didn't forget the ten most memorable, watchable, and even a little (embarrassingly) relatable cast members. 28 Real World seasons have given us upwards of 200 cast members to choose from. Our very scientific process for choosing the ten best of all time involved us sitting down, jotting down five names apiece, one of us flagrantly cheating, and then staring at our ultimate Top 10 list and wondering if we've made huge mistakes.
Joe: Alex, looking at our Top 10 Real World characters, I’m noticing that the list is predominantly full of women. Are we secretly Bunim-Murray misandrists, or is there something to the idea that The Real World just produces better women “characters”? Or is this just that thing where two gay dudes worship cray ladies?
Alex: Joe, we are flagrant homosexuals, and I think we may naturally find some affinity to some strong female characters. But I am not sure if that’s all at work here. The Real World men (by the way, has there been one Asian-American man on the last 29 seasons of the show?) tend to be boring and don’t have flashy story lines (when they do have story lines, it usually involves sleeping with another cast member). Remember Jay from London? One of his storylines was that he was just sleeping and being lazy. Homeboy was sleeping all the time. And remember Mohammed from San Francisco? Snooze. Kevin from Back to New York? Randy from San Diego? And the only reason I know half of these names is because I am looking at a Wikipedia of cast members.
My theorem: Real World dudes are inherently boring except for the exceptional ones like David from Seattle. To this day I still hope to love someone as much as David did Kira. Octave-changing love. You agree with me right?
As for the rest of my honorable mentions, I want to include some of the guys who I did think were pretty interesting. Like, it’s hard not to find Mike “The Miz” Mizanin (from Back to New York) at least halfway interesting, if only because he’s part of the 0.0001% of Real Worlders who actually managed to not only live out the dream he articulated for himself on the show (WWE wrestling superstar), but he actually became an elite member of that organization. If you think about it, that’s pretty astounding. That would have been like if Becky from the first season became Aimee Mann. Or if Mike the race car driver from London had become [name of super-famous Indy car driver that I can’t come up with]. You know? That’s crazy rare. Did your runner-up picks do as well in their chosen fields?
Cara (Chicago) is a regular contributor to Jezebel and is now married to a wonderful, handsome Jewish man named Andrew. They have a golden retriever and live in Portland. Ryan (New Orleans 2) moved in with Preston from his season. They own a successful bed and breakfast in Vermont. Rebecca (Seattle) owns chickens. She also smells like hay. Jason (Boston), after reconciling with Timber and then dumping her in 2009, became the manager of the 42nd Street AMC in New York.
Any more runners-up?
Joe: I have a few. It’s hurts me to leave off Emily and Mike from the underrated Washington D.C. season. I’ve been on such a rollercoaster with Emily on The Challenge, but the fact that this girl who grew up in a cult for her entire childhood was the most relatable female cast member in years on that show says a lot. And it bums me out that Heather B. and Julie will be left on my cutting-room floor. As much as I adored that first season, and as many times as I will recite “Do you sell drugs? Why do you have a beeper?” whenever I see a beeper in an old TV show or movie, not to mention how many times I rewatch the clip where Gouda the dog breaks out in a run and drags Heather behind her and she yells “THIS DOG MADE ME FALL!”—ultimately, the cast members I fell in love with when I was 13 don’t compare to the cast members I fell in love with at ages 16-18. That’s just science.
We should probably move onto our list.
The Top 10 Real World Cast Members of All Time, Period
10. Danny, Real World New Orleans (2000): Danny is on here because he is and always will be the most beautiful man this show has ever seen. Staring at this man was like staring into the sun. Yes, and there was also the stuff about his groundbreaking TV relationship. Danny made TV history for being the first man to ever openly date a man with Blurryface. —AAS
9. Sharon, Real World London (1995): I'll stick up for the London season. Yes, it was "boring" and didn't have huge brawls and the closest it got to romance was Kat crushing on Neil for a few weeks until he got his tongue bitten off and his goth girlfriend mailed him a pig's heart with a nail in it for Valentine's Day. Neil was fantastic, by the way, and probably should have made my list, but he made fun of American football so them's the breaks. Sharon, though. I wanted to be Sharon's friend so bad. What's crazy is that Sharon was like 20 years old when they filmed this season, and she already had this lived-in music career where she'd go and sing with her musician friends on the side and was just very chill and cool. And then she'd go home and get made fun of for talking too much or monopolizing the phone (R.I.P. Real World phone drama in the age of iPhones). Jacinda Barrett was such a dick to Sharon (when they weren't making prank calls), which is pretty damn rich coming from someone who would one day star in The Human Stain. —JR
8. Lindsay and Janet, Real World Seattle (1998): Okay, yes, it's technically cheating to pick two cast members and put them in the same slot. But how could anybody separate these two inseparable BFFs? (One thousand dollars says these two now speak twice a year, maximum. I would love to be wrong.) One of the weird fantasies I had watching this show as a teen was that I would of course one day be on it and have wonderful and silly conversations about sex and life and politics while chain-smoking on my couch made of shag carpeting, and that fantasy 100% emerged from wanting to be best friends with Janet and Lindsay. —JR
7. Pedro, Real World San Francisco (1994): I was still a child (around 11-12 years old) when Real World San Francisco premiered. I had a rough idea of what being gay meant. I didn't know what AIDS was. And I wasn't really allowed to watch the Real World because my parents really didn't like Beth from the previous season ... so I watched it during Saturday reruns.
What I remember about Pedro were his eyebrows, that fuzzy voice, and 11-year-old me thinking, "that's what a gay person looks like." And I actually thought he was sort of whiny, hard-headed, and wasn't that great of a communicator. I don't think 11 -year-old me was entirely wrong.
There's a tendency to remember that season as with a bit of nostalgia and sometimes it skews toward the canonization of Saint Pedro. That isn't entirely fair to Zamora, who wanted to (and did) show the world that LGBT people aren't any better or worse, more or less flawed, or any more right or wrong than their straight counterparts. —AAS
6. Kameelah, Real World Boston (1997): Boston was perhaps the cliquiest season of The Real World. The ringleaders of the opposing cliques were Susan Sarandon doppelgänger Montana, and Kameelah. Casting Kameelah, a Stanford student at the time, was brilliant—not just because she could eloquently talk about things like Affirmative Action, but because she could more than hold her own against Montana. If Montana went unchecked, Boston would have turned into a Montana Vlog. Montana had so much power that she convinced cast members that her boyfriend's name, though spelled "Vaj" was pronounced like "VAWJ" instead of female genitalia.
Kameelah also had this amazing list of things she wanted in a man. The list had over 200
items pre-requisites, the best one was that the man she wanted to procure needed to have more than one syllable in his name. —AAS
5. Montana, Real World Boston. Okay, time to step off Montana. If Montana had only been fired from her MTV-mandated daycare-provider job for giving a kid a sip of wine on camera, that would probably have been enough on its own. Montana was kind of insufferable in that twentysomething way where everything is this huge drama and nothing is her fault. But she was also pretty self-aware, and more importantly, she seemed like a lot of fun, especially when half the house was in mopey/judgy mode (sorry, Genesis/Kameelah/Jason, but it's true). What launches Montana into the Top 5 of all time, of course, is Vaj. Never has getting dumped on TV by your hilariously screamy boyfriend for blatantly cheating on him ever done more for a TV character, honestly. —JR
4. David, Real World Seattle. Alex talked me into this one, and he was right to do it. David's screaming match with Kira was a huge highlight of that season, but David ranks this high because he was not limited to just this one high-water mark. Lest you forget, David had a strange star-crossed thing with cast-mate Rebecca for an episode or two. Then everybody in the house thought he was gay (again, for one episode) even though the answer to that was clearly Stephen, as Irene would learn to her peril later on that season. David also had one blue eye and one brown eye, making him the most fascinating and exotic cast member of them all. —JR
3. Coral, Real World Back to New York (2001): Watching Coral during her season was kinda like watching Superman swat flies. A lot of Back to New York centered around Mike "The Miz" being an accidental, "aww shucks" racist (and a sexist at times) and Coral having to put him in his place without skipping a beat.
The first couple of rounds were brutal, but eventually Coral eased up and Mike smartened up, and the two of them created one of the most bizarre and loving friendships Bunim-Murray has ever seen (it played out over future Challenges).
But yes, I adore Coral for her innate ability to cut someone down with words a.k.a. her ability to read someone. Thankfully, casting directors caught on to this and stuck her on a show with attempted Veronica-murderer Julie (New Orleans)— another cast member who began as an "aww shucks" racist—allowing Coral to shine bright like a diamond. —AAS
2. Tami, Real World Los Angeles (1993). Here's just a brief overview of what Tami got up to on her season of The Real World. She drove cross-country to Los Angeles and en route accused her Kentuckian, country-music-singing new roommate Jon of being a racist (aw-shucks racists were basically a casting requirement in the show's first ten seasons). She was the object of the entire David-pulls-off-her-covers-and Beth-brings-up-"rape"-and-then-David-gets-asked-to-leave situation (during which "It wasn't not funny" became the best phrase ever uttered on the entire run of the show). She got her jaw wired shut because she wanted to lose weight. She went on the television dating show Studs. She quit her job as a caregiver because it got too sad to get attached to her patients who were all dying of AIDS. She had an abortion and went through basically the whole process on camera. She got into fights with just about everybody in the cast. She did not react very well to Beth A's "I'm not a lesbian but my girlfriend is" t-shirt. She performed with her girl group Reality and laid down the following verse: "I'm a slave, I'm a slave, I'm a slave to your lovin' / I can't resist the fever of your kissin' and your huggin'." Tami did more in one season of The Real World than everybody else has done combined. Frivolous and disarmingly real and funny and confrontational all at once. —JR
1. Melissa, Real World New Orleans: Melissa was by far the most entertaining cast member this show has ever had, and I do not believe that the show will ever find someone who comes close. That's partly because I believe that in order to match Melissa's wit and humor, you need someone with plenty of intelligence (or a seasoned drag queen), and intelligent people know better than to lend themselves to whatever The Real World has now become. Forget gimmicks like exes moving in, and Challenges like The Inferno, Bunim-Murray should invest all that effort into finding someone half as hilarious as Melissa:
Melissa wasn't just funny. Nope. There are plenty of Real Worlders who are funny (sometimes unintentionally, woo-woo). Melissa, like Coral, had the power to dole out readings—the likes of which I wouldn't see on television until RuPaul's Drag Race premiered. One of those people who was taken to the library was Julie (her again):
First off, what kind of college books Julie over Melissa? What a dumb college.
Secondly, I have not yet faced a situation where I had to use the phrase "Once you go messing with my money, you go messing with my emotions." Same goes for: "Because I wanna let ya know!"
However, I firmly (possibly when faced with Julie) believe that some day those phrases will be necessary, and I will be thankful Melissa gave me the inspiration be the 5-foot-nothing beautiful biracial woman that I never was. —AAS
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.