Derek Chavez was not only The Real World: Cancun’s sole gay cast member; he was that season’s most even-tempered, relatable cast member. Viewers needed that in a year when Bronne hurled a fire extinguisher off a roof and Ayiiia terrorized the house with crocodile tears and frighteningly genuine meltdowns. It’s always refreshing to see Chavez pop up on The Real World challenges, and the newest edition — Rivals II — marks his third appearance on the series. He’s paired up with his “rival” Robb Schreiber, who brawled with him on The Battle of the Seasons. Ahead of tonight’s third episode of Rivals II, we caught up with Chavez to discuss the camaraderie among Real World veterans, crushes, and being attracted to one of the show’s most famous hotheads.
TheBacklot: Derek, this is your third challenge. Is it intimidating to go up against people who are on — let me check to make sure this is right — their eighth, ninth, or tenth challenge?
Derek Chavez: Well, I love competitions so I don’t really care how long they’ve been on the show. It’s kind of exciting to go up against people who know the game so well and see if I can outdo them at their own game. The political game can be tough, though, because one minute you can be on top of the game’s political system and be a part of the alliances that are safe, and the next minute you’re on the bottom and sent right in [to The Jungle] just like I was!
TB: Who do you admire most among your competitors?
DC: I would probably have to say that I like Aneesa, because even though she’s not always the one who runs everything, people are scared to throw her in because she has a mouth on her, so I like that she can stick up for herself no matter what. She’s actually done really well on this last one; she lost a lot of weight and gotten into shape. She’s a force to be reckoned with this time. I look up to her because she doesn’t take anything from anyone. These guys who’ve done this show for so long, they think they can walk in and run this game — she’s one of these people who steps up, knows what to say, and goes for it.
TB: Describe your exact reaction, if you could, when you found you’d be paired with Robb.
DC: Well, when we got there and they said it was Rivals II, I obviously knew I was paired with Robb because he’s the only person I’ve gotten into a huge fight with. When we were at [Battle of the] Seasons we still weren’t as good as friends as we were at the beginning of it. I wasn’t going to say goodbye to [Robb and his teammate Marie]. When they left, I was glad they left. But he came up and apologized, and I can respect someone who can admit he’s wrong. We worked on the relationship. So it wasn’t as bad a rivalry as most people’s, but I just know that the way he worked with his teammate, there was no communication whereas with my teammates, we talked openly. I had just thought, “I don’t know how I’m going to get through to this kid. How will he listen to someone he hates?” He couldn’t even get along with his teammates in St. Thomas. That was my main focus, as well as the fact that he still smoked a lot. I had that issue with my teammates last season too. 95% of these challenges have to do with endurance and water. That was my biggest concern.
TB: And yet, on the first elimination, you and Robb beat Tyrie and Dunbar, two huge competitors. Pretty impressive.
DC: It’d been months since I’d seen Robb, so when I saw that he’d gained so much muscle, I was like, “Wow, he’s like the biggest guy on this show. He could be a big threat if it comes to anything physical.” We didn’t want anything physical because Tyrie and Dunbar are really big guys, and I’m not the biggest person there. I thought, “How would we work together to win this?” Funny thing is we didn’t even have any strategy or anything. I just knew Robb could push Tyrie to the side while I ran through. No one can match my speed in this game, and so I knew we had it then. It was awesome because it was my first elimination win! To me, to win the first elimination — my very first — when someone sent me in there, it was so awesome to go back to the house and laugh in people’s faces.
TB: These challenges are so sexually charged for the straight cast members. Do you put your gayness on ice when you sign on to these shows?
DC: Well, like, with Cancun, obviously we were in another country, and there the gay alliance was nice, but it’s not something everything knows about. Coming into the house, my roommates were like, “Oh my God, who’s the gay roommate? We can’t wait to have one.” I was like, “Me!” Everybody was very welcoming, and I was very comfortable. They asked about it all the time. When you live with somebody, they get to know you and they ended up knowing everything about that. I also dated someone from my show and my roommates got to meet him. When it came to Rivals, you know everybody’s stories and backgrounds, who’s gay and who’s not gay. You can talk about it, but that’s not your main concern. You’re not trying to get to know these people. You’re trying to send them home and get money. Unless there’s somebody you’re attracted to, it’s not a sexual game for the LGBT community.
TB: If you could be from any other season of The Real World, which would you pick?
DC: I think I would want to do like Vegas, New Orleans, or San Diego. Don’t get me wrong; I loved my location. We had one of the best locations and one of the biggest, nicest houses. But it was a completely different environment because we were outside of the country, so we had totally different restrictions, more restrictions on what we could do and where we could go. We had to work that one job whereas on other seasons they could pick what job they want. It’s easy for people to call Mom for money or their friends or whatever, but we had these calling cards that would work only sometimes. It was a pain in the butt to try to even communicate with people outside of the house. So I’d pick New Orleans because I’ve never been there, or Las Vegas because who doesn’t love that, and San Diego because it’s one of my favorite cities in the whole country.
TB: Do you have any lingering crushes from the show?
DC: I think I’ve gotten over it, but — before I was on the show, I didn’t really watch The Real World; I watched the challenges. And I had the biggest crush on Davis. I’ve met him and he’s cool, and now we’re family. All these people who are on the show, it’s not like we’re interested in each other that way anymore — unless we’ve already hooked up, we’re just kind of like brothers now.
TB: Do you prefer the more secluded environment of your Real World season or the mania of the challenges?
DC: Obviously having more of your Cancun roommates there is a security, and you’re more comfortable with them and that’s who you group yourself with, but I love meeting new people. I love the diversity of the personalities that are here. You think it’s crazy to put seven people in a house? Put 32 of the same crazy people in the same house! I love having the security of my team there, but I’d be OK without them there too. It’s entertaining to watch these people. I thought our cast was crazy, but you get into this house, and you realize that for these people, this is what they do. I like that part of this.
TB: I’ve always considered you one of the most rational cast members ever. Do you feel like any of your castmates’ craziness has rubbed off on you?
DC: I don’t think I’ve ever changed. I still display who I was on that show. I didn’t change for anything. Some people may call it “boring,” but I call it, “I was in Cancun with people I got along with, so why would I fight with them?” These are shows where everyone is on egg shells trying not to offend people or piss the wrong people off so they don’t get on the wrong side of an alliance, but our team still stands up to what we believe. If our team is going On these challenges, you’re trying to get money, and money changes the way people act. So I’d say I can be rational and step away from things, but if need be, I could get in somebody’s face.
TB: Who’s your dream challenge partner? Who would you most like to be paired with on a challenge?
DC: I would definitely would want to be with one of the guys who’s done this for eight or nine challenges. No matter who they are, those people, you could hate them as much as you want, those people are not going to get voted into elimination. I would want to be on a team with Johnny, CT, Wes, or Kenny. You’re guaranteed not to go to any eliminations until you lose or send yourself in there.
TB: Am I right to be terrified of exactly those four people?
DC: [Laughs.] You know, they put on this macho man thing where they intimidate people, but I think the only person you should be scared of is CT. I met him and I thought, “He’s this really hot person who looks like he would kill you and have sex with you.” I’m kind of into that? He’s the kind of scary where he’d eat you for breakfast. I’m into that. Be afraid of that guy. He’s a beast. He could smoke and drink and some and be plastered before any elimination and still come out on top. You can be afraid of that guy.
TB: Describe your camaraderie in general with gay Real World cast members. Any you talk to more than others?
DC: That’s the funny thing. It was me, Preston, and Frank. Last season it was me, Preston, Frank, JD, and Sam, who is a lesbian. This season Preston and I got really close and secluded ourselves from whatever was going on, because these days in Thailand were so long and humid. It was so tiring trying to talk to everybody. We would just sit in our corner and do our thing. Frank felt kind of out on a limb because he was partners with Johnny and felt like he had to be in everyone’s business, that way he wasn’t out of the loop. Preston and I didn’t care. I grew closer with him on that challenge. Frank, he’s come to spend the night at my house before. We’re like brothers. We’re really close, so I was OK with not talking to him as much. I liked growing in my relationship with Preston. In terms of other gay Real Worlders, once you do this show, you’re family. It’s just fun because we’ll usually talk about who we think is hot on the new shows. Among your gay friends, there’s always that one who’s like.. bitchy and you don’t know why you’re friends with them? And they’re always around? I don’t think that’s the case with the gay Real Worlders. We’re all together.