April 28, 2003

Real World, Road Rules Celebs Hit C.U. Campus

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On Saturday night, Sophia from Road Rules X ran down the aisle of Call Auditorium in Kennedy Hall, threw off her sweatshirt revealing an “Ithaca is Gorges” t-shirt, and proclaimed, “I am officially a tourist,” to over 400 students. She then proceeded to supply a beat-box backup as the moderator, Nkosi Brown ’03, introduced Shane from Road Rules: Campus Crawl, Ruthie from Real World: Hawaii and Genesis from Real World: Boston. So began “Sex, Drugs, and Drama: The Reality of MTV’s Real World and Road Rules,” an event put together mainly by the Cornell University Gay-Straight Alliance (CUGSA).

Shane, Ruthie, Genesis and Sophia talked about being gay, substance abuse, diversity, MTV and popular culture as a whole.

Shane also provided commentary on Jennifer Lopez’s new video.

“What are you doing? Are you making music or stripping?” he asked.

Todd Fellerman ’04, a residential advisor (R.A.) in Class of 1922 Hall and Class of 1928 Hall, which helped fund the program, estimated that the event cost a total of $6,500 for speakers’ fees, renting the rooms and advertising.

“Sophia e-mailed a bunch of [gay-straight alliances] and gay organizations in the northeast [about this program]. We discussed it in [CUGSA], and we thought it was a good idea. We wanted to get the message out there about [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] issues and diversity, and we figured MTV celebrities would draw people in,” said John Connelly ’03, president of CUGSA.

Connelly pointed out that the success of an event can depend largely on attendance, and that it can be difficult to get people interested in programs which deal with diversity issues.

“These have become dry subjects. We thought this would be an event where people could enjoy the speakers themselves while learning something,” Fellerman said.

The event itself consisted of clips from past Real World and Road Rules seasons on diversity, substance abuse and conflict resolution. Questions from the audience followed each clip.

Brown then asked each of the panelists to talk about their coming-out experiences.

“Before I went to bed every night, I would pray that I would wake up straight. When I came out of the closet, it was the best feeling in the world,” Ruthie said.

One audience member asked the cast members how they felt about the fact that in all of the Road Rules and Real World seasons, there has only been one intelligent woman of color, Kameelah, who was a student at Stanford University while she was on the show.

“Kameelah is the fucking most intelligent person I’ve ever met,” Genesis said.

Shane responded to the question by saying he found it “insulting” because there were two “highly intelligent” minorities on the stage.

Shane’s answer elicited mixed responses from the audience.

“I thought it was a little inappropriate when Shane singled out that girl and said that she had offended him. I thought it alienated her,” said Orlando Soria ’04, an R.A. at Risley Residential College who also helped organize the program.

The audience also seemed to have mixed feelings about the event as a whole.

“This event isn’t as substantial as I would’ve wished a Gaypril event to be. It’s very popular, but also very stereotypical,” said Melissa Castle ’05.

Others reacted a little more positively.

“I think it was good to see something other than what the TV show represented, but some of them seem bitter,” said Dave Garman ’06, a member of the audience.

Sophia ended the discussion with a metaphor about music and diversity. She described a scenario in which a person might bring two groups of friends together who listen to country music and hip-hop exclusively. While Shane sang a quasi-country rag into one microphone, Sophia beat-boxed again into another.

“People think they’re so different they can’t get along, but different cultures and diversity helps us evolve,” she said, citing her new form of country hip-hop as an example of this evolution.

The event was also sponsored in part by the Student Assembly Finance Commission and Haven.

Archived article by Freda Ready