This is the true story (well, mostly)
Of seven strangers (most of them freaks)
Picked to live in a house (surrounded by 20 nosy cameramen)
And have their lives taped (and edited from 2,000 hours to 22 half-hour shows)
To find out what happens when people stop being polite (polite = no ratings)
And start getting real (or at least completely and utterly melodramatic)

So begins MTV's mother of all reality shows, The Real World. We all know the saga: stick seven photogenic kids into a lavishly decorated, excessively large house and chronicle the week-by-week unfolding of petty differences, post-teen dramas, and ordinary (but dramatically magnified) roommate squabbles.

Admit it. You love them, you hate them. You are jealous of them and you are disgusted by them. (Come on, do they really need a robotic dog?) But who hasn't wanted to be one of them?

We've all had friends who had friends who auditioned. We all know someone who knows someone who knows someone who was a finalist. Now it's your turn.


Most of us have it in us somewhere - that voyeuristic, self-proclaimed movie star just waiting for the right time to jump out into the limelight. And The Real World is just the place to do it. After all, with no acting experience to speak of, you can parlay your 15 minutes of fame into a full-fledged third-rate career (have you seen Colin from the Hawaii season on NBC's groaner MYOB?).

We assume that you have plenty of good reasons for wanting to get on The Real World: A kick-ass house (the fridge is fully stocked, big screen TV, pool table, six-foot fish tank, hot tub... for FREE), fame, interesting experiences, and perhaps a stint hosting The Grind. But you must realize that in exchange, you have to give up a lot. So before you apply, think long and hard about the following:

  • Lack of daily privacy. We're talking 124 days of televised psychological dissection. Complete loss of privacy. You'll have to live in a house without interior doors (they're not allowed in Real World abodes, except in the bathroom). Tiny cameras are hung everywhere. Hidden microphones capture all conversations. Even the phones are tapped. Every flinch, every utterance, every laugh and tear, is public domain. The recipe for reality also includes one director sitting in front of 26 monitors and dispatching camera crews to anywhere in the house, at any time of day.

  • Revelations. It's more than just losing your daily privacy; you have to realize that when you're on TV talking about your family and friends, it affects them too. If you talk about your alcoholic father (a la New Orleans' Melissa) or your mom's abortion, you then single-handedly force them to air their dirty laundry. And consider all the snotty little things you say about people (or do to people) all day long without really meaning it; do you really want to be remembered as the roommate who, in a moment of anger, slapped a girl (a la Stephen from the Seattle season)?

  • Editing. Think about it: to capture the so-called "reality," that makes The Real World MTV's highest-rated show, the network brings in a virtual army of editing masters. The images they select are the ones that are the most dramatic: fights, sex, violence, and general craziness. In order to get the dramatic narration that any TV show requires, the editors will change the perceived order of events, leave out important information, and try to make you look as much like a cartoon character as possible. Whether you like it or not, events will be distorted, and not to your liking.

  • You can't leave. Well, that's not necessarily true. But the people who leave (by choice or by force) get marked in the public as weirdos (think Puck, Irene, and Justin). So imagine the difficulty of living in a house with six other people who you don't like-in the real world, you can find another apartment and forget about it, but in The Real World, you pretty much have to tough it out.

  • Constant talking.Real Worlders are told to communicate everything. Each Monday, they must individually hole up in a "confessional" room to disclose their grievances as sort of an on-camera diary. Plus, they're also encouraged to talk about anything and everything with their fellow cast members. So get ready for lots of talking, even when you don't want to.

  • Legal constraints. You have to sign a huge legal packet before they officially invite you to be one of the Fantastic Seven. Basically, it prevents you from cashing in on your fame by saying nasty things about The Real World. It gets a little more complicated than that, but you should at least be aware that you should read anything before signing it.

  • What next? Several participants feel a huge letdown once the show is over, and have a difficult time making the transition back into their normal lives. It's tough to be a student when people on the street walk up to you and tell you why you're a jerk. "I think in a few years there will be Reality TV Anonymous self-help groups," New Orleans' cast member Melissa Howard told a reporter shortly after the show wrapped. "Hi my name is Melissa and I'm a victim of The Real World."