The Real World turned 30 in 2021. The groundbreaking reality series about strangers coming together to live in a house and navigate life for a few months in a new city, for most, was a cornerstone of the MTV lineup for years. Of course, what made The Real World appointment viewers for many are the characters.
That said, here's our list (in alphabetical order) of the 30 most memorable cast members in the history of the series.
Frankie won't go down as the most popular character in the annals of The Real World. But, she was certainly one of the most complex. Navigating life while dealing with cystic fibrosis was a major storyline during her time with the San Diego housemates. Though she had issues with various cast members, which was partially the reason for leaving the show, there was a certain amount of respect we had for Frankie, whose free-spirit/punk persona was about making the best of life with the cards she was dealt. Sadly, Abernathy passed away in June 2007 at age 25, from complications of her disease, some three years after her season aired.
No doubt, Ruthie was the most memorable cast member from the Hawaii season. Unfortunately, because of her drinking problem. In the very first episode of the season, Ruthie overindulged, passed out, and forced her housemates to call the paramedics. Her excess drinking stemmed from some personal insecurity and she helpless in a quest to stop during the early episodes of the season. Thankfully, she entered rehab, after the housemates threatened to kick her out, and reappeared following that successful stint.
Barrett enjoyed celebrity status before and after her stay with the London group. The Australian had been modeling since her early teens, which, at times, made her feel sheltered from what's going on in the actual world. She was described as "cheeky" and a free spirit -- with a penchant for grabbing male behinds -- who seemed to enjoy being around people in an environment where she could let her hair down. If that was even possible for any reality television character. She parlayed her increased fame from The Real World in a serviceable acting career that included roles on Bull and Suits, and in films such as Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.
Some die-hard fans of The Real World believe no housemate in the history of the franchise matured more throughout a season than country boy Jon. He started out as a rube from Kentucky looking to further a budding career as a country music artist. During the run of the Los Angeles season, Jon took plenty of ribbing and showed his naivete, but when it was all said and done, Jon became a more confident person. He learned to stand up for himself and considered a loyal friend to most of his housemates.
Broom might very well be the most talented performer/entertainer in the history of The Real World. Quite the ladies man, as we saw throughout the ninth season housed in the Big Easy, Broom delivered an inspired rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" while on the show and enjoyed success with his "Come On, Be My Baby Tonight." The former is one of the notable highlights of the series, and a sign of Broom's extreme talent. Post-Real World, Broom also appeared on Chappelle's Show, done stand-up and some television writing.
Brown was responsible for a first in The Real World history. He was the first openly gay, black male to be cast on the series. He also grew to become one of the most popular housemates within the franchise. An activist, Brown also used The Real World stage to remain a prominent figure on the reality television scene. Most notably post-Real World, appearing on Dancing with the Stars and Netflix's Queer Eye.
The ultra-conservative Rachel was perhaps the most inquisitive member of the popular San Francisco house. She also had a rebellious side, as evident when she takes a shine to bad boy Puck (more on him later) in the early episodes of the third season. Campos also showed her uncomfortableness around housemate Pedro Zamora (more on him, too), after finding out he was HIV-positive. Though she did her best to shed that uneasiness. Post-San Francisco, Campos ended up marrying Boston cast member and her Road Rules: All Stars co-star Sean Duffy. The two have nine children, and Campos appears frequently on Fox News.
Here's someone that's taken a stint on The Real World and turned it into a reality television career. Trishelle's run as part of the 2002-03 Las Vegas season was best known for her relationship with castmates Steven, who was going through a divorce at the time. They just might be the most memorable housemate couple in the history of the show (of course, there was their three-way fun with Brynn in the hot tub). Following the Vegas season, Trishelle became a staple on MTV, posed for Playboy, and competed in poker tournaments.
The 21st season of The Real World was rather monumental in that Cusanelli's casting was the first of a trans woman on the series. Kat, who started her transition roughly five years before appearing on the show, initially confided her status only to fellow housemate JD. She doesn't always have an easy time in the Brooklyn house, but Kat should go down as one of the more strong-willed cast members in the history of the show.
We still insist the most notable character from the Portland season was not even human. Daisy, a chihuahua and Jack Russell mix breed, arrived in Portland with Averey, who claimed she didn't really trust boys, so she apparently needed a companion. Or some form of life to rely on if things get tough. Daisy was the first animal to arrive with a Real World castmate, and be credited in the opening introductions.
It was the Key West season that gave birth to "Johnny Bananas." He was a fun-loving guy, who can best be described as a character. Though, as we saw when playfully taking off Janelle's bikini top, he can go a little overboard. Still, Johnny meant well and just tried to fit in during his time in the Key West house. He would then go on to become one of the most successful competitors in the history of The Real World spin-off The Challenge.
Cameran had fun during her stint with the first San Diego cast. Whether it be kissing girls or flirting with a male housemate here or there. At the end of the day, though, Cameran was a rather nice person and someone who would probably be a good roommate to just about anyone. While she spent more time in reality television (Southern Charm) after The Real World, she ultimately said goodbye to that career.
Aneesa is one of the more liberating and empowered cast members in the lore of The Real World. A bleeding-heart liberal lesbian, Aneesa didn't mind walking around the Chicago house without any clothes. Now, not all of her housemates (we're thinking Tonya) cared for that too much, but that was Aneesa. She brought drama to the house but also generated plenty of popularity for her free-spirited nature and confidence to be who she wanted to be.
Neil, the Oxford-educated Englishman who was working on a Ph.D. in experimental psychology, was responsible for one of the more memorable moments in the history of The Real World franchise. In addition to his smarts, Neil also fronted a techno band called Unilever. At one particular show, Neil was heckled by a drunk concert-goer. Opting to have some fun, Neil approached the man and gave him a French kiss. In response, the fan bit a portion of Forrester's tongue off. He needed stitches and was then forced to use a voice synthesizer at times on the show.
One of the most outspoken housemates in the annals of The Real World. Heather B was a successful hip-hop entertainer before her stay with the original New York cast. She could be loud and in-your-face but was also included in some of the most important dialogue that season. Whether talking about racism or politics or about the insecurities we all harbor, Heather was worth listening to and remains a force on the re-boot of that first season.
Is Jenn the biggest party girl in the history of The Real World? Perhaps. A former Raiders cheerleader, Jenn got drunk and had sex with new housemate Alex during the first episode of the 18th season. Talk about making an impression. That's the type of behavior that allowed The Real World to remain a reality TV force for years. Opting to do what one does best, Jenn remained a reality television presence well after she left the Denver house.
Maybe The Real World franchise has jumped the shark in recent years, but one of the most memorable characters of late was Theo. A former college football player who got busted for an incident with some weed, that he claimed ended his hopes of playing in the NFL. He blamed his roommate and cousin Kassius for it all. When Kassius surfaced during this season as his "Bad Blood," the feud continued and an altercation between the two eventually got Theo kicked off the show. If anything, Theo is all about drama and entertainment. Which, after all, is what we want.
Irene brought plenty of drama to the first Seattle season. The quirky McGee was an invaluable voice of reason at times, especially when talking fellow cast member Janet out of leaving the house. However, it was Irene, herself, who ends up leaving -- allegedly due to a reoccurring bout with Lyme Disease. On the way out of sight, however, she was on the receiving end of the "slap hear around The Real World" from housemate Stephen. Following the season's run, Irene claimed The Real World experience was not good for her health. Mostly because she claimed, as others who followed would the same, that drama was encouraged, and often created, by the show's production staff.
Another example of the "bad girl" who was actually entertaining to watch. Maybe because of all the problems she caused for Genesis in the Boston house, Montana was a train wreck of her own. After all, this is the woman who was fired from the housemates' volunteer gig at a children's after-school program for giving some of the kids alcohol while on a field trip. That's completely ridiculous. But, there are just some people worth showcasing for their personal dysfunction.
Meronek never pulled many punches during her stay in the Key West house. She was open and honest, often to her detriment, while earning the nickname "Paula Walnuts." While Paula enjoyed a good time, she brought plenty of baggage with her to Florida. From an abusive ex-boyfriend to anorexia to troubles with alcohol, Meronek was an open book. She continued to battle alcoholism after the show before getting sober last decade.
"The Miz" might go down as one of the most recognized stars from The Real World. At least those fans of WWE. As part of the 10-year anniversary cast, once again with New York as the setting, Mizanin's alter ego -- angry and confrontational toward some of his housemates -- was born. That eventually opened the door for him to earn massive post-Real World success on the show's spin-offs and the world of professional wrestling.
Nies was doing well as a print model when he joined the very first cast of The Real World. Good looking, built, and personable, Nies was an instant attraction to viewers of the groundbreaking show. We also learned that there was more to Nies than a chiseled body and pleasant smile. He unleashed plenty of emotion on his New York housemates, then enjoyed more MTV success as host of The Grind and Hangin' w/MTV.
Like Heather B. and Eric Nies, Powell was making a solid living -- as a writer -- when he was chosen to be part of the first season. Of all the New York housemates, Powell might have been the most misunderstood, and, perhaps, complex of any cast member of the years. However, he brought some preconceived opinions and prejudices into the house, which did not always sit well with the group. Not necessarily a fan favorite, Powell was quick to play the race card, especially when getting into a confrontation with Julie. Still, he opted to come back for 2021's The Real World Homecoming: New York.
Puck certainly played the bad-body role to his benefit. And viewers of the San Francisco season appreciated the drama he created. Which was the point. The Real World brass wanted him to stir things up with his housemates, even if the "real" Puck wasn't as bad as he came off, but more of a dysfunctional and self-sabotaging personality. Still, whether mocking Judd or antagonizing Pedro, Puck remains one of the most memorable characters in the history of The Real World, even though he didn't last a full season in the house.
Dan could be a bit whiny with some of the Miami cast, but there was something about him that kept us interested. While the Miami season had its fair share of drama, there aren't many likable housemates. Maybe tomboy Sarah. Dan, however, might have had the most intriguing storyline of any cast member when he began a modeling career that ultimately saw him jet off to Italy, to keep at it, by season's end. Like many other alums of The Real World, Dan appeared on various of the show's spin-offs and also battled alcoholism.
Roberts was another cast member who enjoyed widespread popularity. A good-natured young man, Roberts' storyline during the first New Orleans season is still one of the more intriguing over the run of the franchise. At the time, he dated a member of the military, Paul, whose face was blurred to protect his identity while on screen. That was obviously a big deal back in 2000. In 2006, however, Roberts said that the relationship had ended. In 2018, Roberts revealed was HIV positive since earlier that decade.
Mallory was just 19 when she became part of the Paris season. A talented athlete, she passed up a college soccer scholarship to live in the reality television world. Much of the attention surrounding Snyder during the 13th season dealt with her virginity. Which was still intact, though the future model was fancied by some of her male housemates. Mallory's confidence in herself and willingness to experience life before getting serious about it was refreshing and genuine.
There are plenty of fans of The Real World who could not stand Beth S. One of the reasons is her flair for the dramatic. In many ways, Beth S. was the first, and still reigning, drama queen. In fact, it seemed as if she reveled in that moniker. It's the role she was meant to play within the L.A. household. Which made complete sense since she was hoping to use the show as a springboard to a career in show business. She would go on to appear in a variety of spin-offs associated with The Real World, as well as dabbling in work as a producer and director.
C.T. was the resident troublemaker in the Paris household. He also relished the role. Now, not all bad boys are worthy of recognition, but C.T. actually made it look good. In somewhat of a cartoonish way. Cast members must find their place in the house each season, and the opinionated and self-righteous C.T. knew exactly what he should do. He got into it with just about every other housemate, while each uneasy and uncomfortable moment was of his doing. Got to respect that.
It's fitting we conclude this list with Pedro Zamora. He was one of the first, young openly gay television personalities living with AIDS. That status led to plenty of drama and emotion during the popular 1994 third season of The Real World, housed in San Francisco. The show provided a forum for his HIV/AIDS advocacy, and he became perhaps the most beloved cast member in the history of the show, His legacy continues to live on following his death on Nov. 11, 1994 -- hours after the final episode of Season 3 aired. He was just 22 years old.
Jeff Mezydlo has written about sports and entertainment online and for print for more than 25 years. He grew up in the far south suburbs of Chicago, 20 minutes from the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind. He’s also the proud father of 11-year-old Matthew, aka “Bobby Bruin,” mascot of St. Robert Bellarmine School in Chicago. You can follow Jeff at @jeffm401.