The Real World has been through many iterations in the last 22 years, including the current version, where cast members' "skeletons" are secretly brought in throughout the show's 30th season. But 1992 was a simpler time in reality television, where just being roommates was enough of a social experiment. In The Real World' s very first season, "seven strangers" gathered together in a New York loft to "live together and have their lives taped," and now, 22 years later, Oprah and the OWN network are gathering those seven people back together for a reunion in the very same loft that changed television forever.
Why is Oprah doing this? No idea; but I'm excited. In more recent seasons, The Real World has taken a sharp left turn toward more typical reality fare, but when Norman Korpi, Julie Gentry, Becky Blasband, Kevin Powell, Andre Comeau, Heather Gardner, and Eric Nies shared a portion of their lives together, the social experiment of reality TV was experimental. They brought real emotions, real conflicts, and real lives to the televised vacuum of The Real World. Still, it's easy to forget that they were, in fact, real people, whose lives kept going when the cameras stopped rolling. Let's check in on where the original seven roommate's lives have taken them, and how and it all started for them way back then.
Heather B. Garnder
Then: They just don’t make ‘em like Heather B. anymore. Heather was a straight-shooting aspiring rap artist with real dreams and passions that she pursed openly and passionately. She was seen recording her first album on Real World: New York, and notifying Julie of exactly why she had a beeper (not for drug dealing).
Now: Again, they don’t cast them like Heather B. anymore. She may not have become the most well known rapper ever but she worked hard and stayed in her lane, and today she has released three studio albums, is a frequent contributor to Sway in the Morning, and a YouTube series called The Happy Hour with Heather B. that’ll teach you how to make a mean Bourbon Peach-Lemonade, among other delicious cocktails. Plus, she keeps in touch with all of her former house mates, which is really cool.
Image: TheHappyHourwith Heather B./ YouTube
Then: Oh, Norman. Norm didn’t just break the mold for day representation on reality TV—he created it. As the first openly LGBT housemate on The Real World, Norman was simply a cool dude with an artist’s spirit who helped in expanding a few minds.
Now: Artist, entrepreneur, inventor: Norman does it all. He’s designed for the Guggenheim Museum, created art for Nickelodeon, Disney, and the Oscars, and produced an independent film, The Wedding Video, released by Warner Brothers in 2004. Most recently, for your tech-ing pleasure, he developed the AeroTray, a multi-functional platform for laptops and tablets to help you work and create while traveling.
Image: Norman Korpi/Twitter
Then: Kevin was the first black cast member, and in the first season, drove much of the race narrative that would continue to push social boundaries over the next few seasons on the show. He also became the unfortunate prototype for receiving the first every “angry black man” edit on reality TV, one that Bunim/Murray would return to frequently over the course of the show.
Now: The Season 1 cast may seem boring now in comparison to the blackout hot tub threesomes of modern day Real World, but its cast certainly had passion and ambition, as evidenced by their many successes. Kevin has published 11 books, is a former Senior Writer for Vibe Magazine, and founded activist organization, BK Nation. In 2008 and 2010 he ran unsuccessfully for for a seat in the United States Congress, and in 2016, will publish h a biography of Tupac Shakur.
Then: Julie was the naive Southern girl, thrust into the harsh lights, and new realities of New York. At just 19, she was prone to getting lost in the city and getting herself into trouble for her occasional ignorance.
Now: Julie was married in 1998 to chef Joshua Gentry, and resides in her native Alabama. But the her eye-opening time on The Real World clearly stuck — she’s still close pals with Heather B. and Norman, who she takes vacations with from time to time.
Rebecca "Becky" Blasband
Then: Becky was such an artist (that’s a housemate prototype the new Real World seems to have given up on altogether). She was an actress and musician who attended NYU Film School, and while her accolades proved she must be talented, nothing accredited her more as an artist than her moody tendencies.
Now: Becky is still a singer/songwriter, now living in San Francisco, and keeping a pretty low profile, it seems.
Then: Andre was the long-haired rocker who seemed like he either didn’t know what he was doing when he signed on for The Real World, or was not there by choice. He told People a few years later, “If I ever had to do it over again, I wouldn’t.”
Now: You didn’t see a lot of Andre on the show, and you probably won’t see a lot of now. He’s moved on from Reigndance to Americana / Alt-Country band River Rouge, and, presumably, continues to rock out.
Image: Andre Comeau/Facebook
Then: During his time on the show, Eric was something of a simple, handsome bro, doing his best to expand his horizons. He was open and charming, sure, but no one saw his rise to MTV icon coming.
Now: With the help of a few Real World/Road Rules Challenge appearances, Eric went on to host MTV’s The Grind and become a household name — at least among MTV-watching households — in the 90s. In more recent years, he’s moved to Hawaii and gone off the MTV grid.