June 14th, 2000 – the day The Real World: New Orleans premiered on MTV. It’s been 15 years since we were introduced to the true story of seven strangers – David, Melissa, Kelley, Jamie, Danny, Matt and Julie – and found out what happened when they stopped being polite and started getting real.
Turns out that story became one of the most memorable seasons of the groundbreaking reality show, and my personal favorite. I was the kid who watched too much TV when I was younger – not only a lot of it, but probably stuff that was out of my demographic. The first season of The Real World I watched was season four, in London, like, in real time. It was 1995 and I was nine years old. By 2000, I was a seasoned vet of TRW, and the New Orleans cast/show spoke to me on a deep level. It probably had a lot to do with Melissa, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
When I moved from Boston to LA about six years ago, my two friends and I stopped in New Orleans on our road trip, and I had to put the Belfort Mansion on the To Do list. The house is a huge two-story 19th century Greek revival mansion in the Garden District, and when producers found it, owners were in the process of turning it from apartments to a single-family house. This is what it looked like during filming:
After the cast moved out, it took about four and a half years to turn it into the single-fam residence, and that’s what it is today. This is what it looked like in 2009 when we creepily stood outside and took pix of ourselves in front of it:
The color is more beige in person, and the “Belfort” sign on the door is gone. So now that you know what the mansion is up to these days, let’s take a look at what the Real 7 at 7 are up to today.
Then: A student from Chicago who had a 4.0 GPA, didn’t drink or smoke, as working out was his vice. He was known as a ladies man and aspiring musician, as evidenced by his classic hit, Come On Be My Baby Tonight.
Now: David now goes by the name, Tokyo Niyeli, a nickname given to him by his friends because of his love for Japanese anime. He lives in Chicago and continues to do some work with MTV, but he’s also a YouTube personality, thanks to yet another moniker, Chef Showtime. He’s combined his love of cooking and music into one by creating videos of original tunes with recipes of his favorite foods, like this apple pie. It’s actually annoyingly catchy, just like Come On Be My Baby Tonight, which I still think about and sing outloud to this day.
Then: Originally from Tampa, Florida, Melissa was known for bringing comic relief to the house, and is possibly the funniest person to have ever been featured on TRW. She liked to paint, was often the center of attention, and butted heads with David. Often.
Now: Melissa moved to Los Angeles after TWR to be a stand-up comedian, and when she was a guest on The Late Show with Craig Kilborn, she straight up asked for a job, and ended up working as a PA on The Jamie Foxx Show. Later, she became a cast member of Oxygen’s prank show Girls Behaving Badly, and later appeared on Bravo’s Battle of the Network Reality Stars. In 2007, she married Glassjaw rocker Justin Beck, and converted to Judaism. They live in Long Island, and they have two daughters – Shalom, 6, and Maja, 2. She is an excellent writer and her pieces can be found on her personal Tumblr here.
Then: A sorority girl from Arkansas who was steadily dating a medical student called Peter throughout her time in the house. She became BFFs with gay friend Danny, and had an aspiring career in broadcast journalism.
Now: After the show, she was a caterer and event planner, and eventually moved into being a life coach. Scored big time after marrying actor Scott ‘Dimples’ Wolf in 2004. They live in Los Angeles with their three really super cute kids.
Then: A web entrepreneur from Illinois who had that haircut all the cute boys had in the 2000s. Melissa had a crush on him, but he always brushed it off.
Now: Jamie is still in Chicago and works for Internet company Pauwow.com, which apparently is ” easiest and most conclusive way to poll your friends on Facebook.”
Then: Gorgeous, southern boy from Atlanta, who is close to his mother, but not so much with his father. He’s BFF with Kelley, and was secretly dating Paul, an officer in the military, whose face had to be blurred out to protect his identity thanks to the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy. Four years after TRW, he and Paul appeared in an MTV special in which Paul revealed his identity.
Now: Still gorgeous and still based in Atlanta. He scored a few acting jobs, including a season four cameo as a ‘French’ guy in Dawson’s Creek, and toured schools talking about diversity in sexuality, coming out, and public policy, particularly Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. He jumped from career to career, working at a corporate non-profit foundation, to working as a recruiter for real estate website Redfin, and now he works as a talent scout at MailChimp (Yes, that MailChimp). In 2013, he married someone he became friends with in college, and reconnected with after TRW. He also goes by Jason Danny Roberts, his real name, now.
Then: Despite looking like a ska/punk rocker with crazy shirts, the Georgia Tech web design student was a devout Catholic who was a big hip-hop fanatic. Julie had a crush on Matt, but he treated her more like her protective brother.
Now: Matt is the founder/CEO of smithHOUSE, a Phoenix-based design focusing on mobile, web, social media, and branding. He is happily married with four daughters who are really super cute. You can keep up with him via his blog, on which he still calls himself a ‘hip-hop mogul’.
Then: The Mormon girl from BYU. Because of the school’s strict policies, she was constantly worried about her living with men on the show, which goes against the school honor code. She was the ‘innocent’ one and arguably learned a lot from being in the ‘real world’ the most out of all her castmates. She flirted with Matt a lot, but alas, he’s just not that into you.
Now: After appearing in a Real World/Road Rules Challenge or two, and co-hosted G4’s video game-centred show, Electric Playground. She ended up transferring to University of Connecticut, and in 2004, she married Spencer Rogers, an ophthalmologist. His work has taken them across the country, where they lived in Northern California, and currently live in San Luis Obispo, along with their daughter Evelyn and son Westley. Oh, she also changed her name to Juliet.
Some of my fave moments from the show, all happen to feature Melissa. She’s said in an interview that after she saw Ruthie on TRW: Hawaii, a fellow ‘brown girl’, she thought she had a shot of being on the show too. For me, it was one of the first times I had seen a young Filipino girl/woman on TV, and I found her fascinating. Her impressions of her mother, Mercy, was so familiar to me because I knew her. I knew Mercy in real life, not necessarily in my own mother, but parts of her, her friends and relatives. Melissa’s humor was also something I related to, because that is also my default quality. So, here it is, maybe my favorite moment from the season, and all of TRW (that I’ve seen). There are so many things to love about this, the kertanging, the friend playing the computer, Jamie and Kelley listening to David, but the best is Melissa’s comedic commentary.