It’s hard to believe, but MTV launched The Real World way back in 1992. Since then, the trailblazing reality show has reflected—and influenced—pop culture in countless ways.
For LGBT people of a certain age, The Real World: New York’s Norman Korpi was the first real-life gay man we ever saw on TV. And Real World: San Francisco star Pedro Zamora’s struggle with AIDS brought the epidemic home like never before.
Below, we’re checking in with the show’s LGBTQ stars.
Norman Korpi, “The Real World: New York”Mark Mainz/Getty Images
Norman was the first openly gay cast member on The Real World, appearing in the series’ iconic debut season. It might not seem like much now, but back then having an openly gay man who was successful, happy and sexually active was a Very. Big. Deal.
Post-RW, Norman founded the production company Fruit Films, and starred, directed and wrote the independent film The Wedding Video.
Today, Norman is still designing and making art—and recently invented an ergonomic laptop stand, the AeroTray. in 2015, he and former housemates Heather B and Julie appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Network to discuss their Real World experiences.
Beth Anthony, “The Real World: Los Angeles”
Why Irene didn’t just postpone her wedding, we’ll never know. But her departure in the show’s second season gave us this out-and-proud housemate. Beth rocked her conservative roomies—and audiences—when she wore a t-shirt reading “I’m not gay, but my girlfriend is.” (Hey, it was the early 1990s!)
These days, she lives in Hawaii with her family and runs a vintage clothing store.
Pedro Zamora, “The Real World: San Francisco”
Mature beyond his 22 years, Pedro Zamora entered The Real World house to make a difference—he was living with AIDS, and made it his mission to educate his housemates—and America—about the disease. We saw Pedro struggle with health issues and AIDS-phobia, and still find time for a loving relationship with his partner, Sean.
Pedro died November 11, 1994-the day the season finale aired.
His life was dramatized in the film Pedro, written by future Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black. This brave activist’s legacy lives on through the Pedro Zamora Public Policy Fellowship and the Pedro Zamora Young Leaders Scholarship.
Dan Renzi, “The Real World: Miami”
The Miami house was a wild ride of sex, fun and fights, and Dan fully participated.
Post-RW, Dan pursued modeling and writing, and became the editor of the South Florida Blade. He’s also worked as a safe-sex educator and is now a registered nurse.
Genesis Moss, “The Real World: Boston”Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
The same year Ellen DeGeneres came out, this Southern college girl entered the Real World house. A troubled introvert in her teens, Gen blossomed on the show—and famously had a moment with a drag queen named Adam.
Today, Genesis is a graphic designer, wedding photographer and wine blogger.
Stephen Williams, “The Real World: Seattle”
Stephen wasn’t out during his season, but Irene’s accusation that he was closeted sparked one of the most memorable moments in RW history. As their arguement became more heated, Stephen threw Irene’s stuffed dog into the ocean and slapped her.
Stephen came out publicly as gay in 2008.
Ruthie Alcaide, “The Real World: Hawaii”
Ruthie made a splash when she entered The Real World house and immediately went skinny-dipping. Though life wasn’t all topless pool parties in paradise for Ruthie, who accepted her issues with drinking during the season and entered rehab.
These days, Ruthie is working in film production and works the lecture circuit to educate people about substance abuse.
Justin Deabler, “The Real World: Hawaii”
This Harvard Law student wasn’t quite comfortable talking about his sexuality with his housemates and eventually left Hawaii for a family emergency.
Now married, he’s had one of the mot interesting post-RW careers, working as the Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Bureau, for the state of New York.
Danny Roberts, “The Real World: New Orleans”
Danny was not only adorable, but his story line shed light on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, as he was in a relationship with a closeted Army officer. (Danny’s boyfriend’s face hd to be blurred on-camera.)
After his season, Danny pursued acting, appearing on Dawson’s Creek and DTLA, as well as MTV’s The Challenge. In 2018 he came out as HIV positive.
Chris Beckman, “The Real World: Chicago”Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images
The sober artist surprised his roomies when he took a job as a bartender—and when he began a relationship with a man.
Chris modeled for Ralph Lauren and is now an artist in New York City.
Aneesa Ferreira, “The Real World: Chicago”Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images
Aneesa was brutally honest, liked to forego clothing and even showered with her male roommates. Audiences saw her argue with Tonya, and her own girlfriend, but Aneesa’s most memorable RW moment was her birthday party on Septmeber 11, 2001, as the housemates watched the 9/11 attacks on television.
Aneesa has since been a staple on MTV, appearing on ten seasons of The Challenge.
Simon Sherry-Wood, “The Real World: Paris”
Simon was an Irish teenager when he joined The Real World: Paris. Sweet and sensitive, he bonded quickly with the girls, and his comfort with himself and his sexuality helped give the boys a positive perspective on gay people. Since The Real World Simon was part of RuPaul’s Drag Race’s Pit Crew—where he became close friends with Courtney Act—and was a lead hairstylist for Madonna’s Rebel Heart tour.
Willie Hernandez, “The Real World: Philadelphia”M. Caulfield/WireImage for GLAAD
This New Yorker was one of two gay men living in the RW Philly house. Though outgoing and down to party, Willie had a tough upbringing—he was forced to leave home at 15 when his religious parents wouldn’t accept his sexuality.
Before appearing on The Real World, he was a child actor on TV’s Ghostwriter and, since the show, has appeared in movies like The Undercover Man, The Narrow Gate, and the queer indie A Four Letter Word .
Karamo Brown, “The Real World: Philadelphia”Roy Rochlin/Getty Images
The first openly gay African American man in Real World history, today Karamo is most known for being one of the Fab Five from Netflix’s reboot of Queer Eye.
Tyler Duckworth, “The Real World: Key West”Kevin Winter/Getty Images
This former gymnast and figure skater came from a religious background in Fargo, North Dakota. He actually applied to be on The Real World after an accident left him unable to compete. Since Key West, Tyler has competed on MTV’s The Challenge and worked as a sports journalist and a personal trainer for the Boston Celtics. Today, he’s a project manager with Schoos Design Group and lives in West Hollywood.
Davis Mallory “The Real World: Denver”Jason Merritt/FilmMagic for Bragman Nyman Cafarelli
The out fraternity brother was dealing with an unsupportive Christian family when he entered the house, and found himself at odds with Tyrie, who appeared uneasy about living with a gay man.
Davis later appeared on multiple seasons of MTV’s The Challenge, and is now a Memphis-based singer-songwriter and music journalist. He’s currently an online correspondent for The Grand Ole Opry.
JD Ordoñez, “The Real World: Brooklyn”
JD overcame great odds before making it to television: He ran away from home at 13 but, by 19, fulfilled his dream of becoming a dolphin trainer. He’s still a part of the MTV family, competing on various editions of The Challenge. Today JD lives in L.A. and works at WeHo mainstay Mickey’s.
Katelynn Cusanelli, “The Real World: Brooklyn”
Katelynn made history as the first trans roommate on The Real World—she entered the house just weeks after completing her gender-confirmation surgery.
Today she works in Silicon Valley and continues to work for LGBT equality and social justice.
Derek Chavez, “The Real World: Cancun”
Derek Chavez won over his housemates with his upbeat attitude and warm smile. He made good use of his time in Cancun, dating a guy he met while filming, and treating cable audiences to a few man-on-man makeout sessions.
Mike C. Manning, “The Real World: Washington, DC”
A bisexual environmentalist and LGBT rights activist, Mike was able to explore relationships with men during his stay in the house.Disney
Preston Charles, “The Real World: New Orleans 2″
This Michigan native had some difficulties with his housemates—Ryan famously crossed the line when he used a gay slur.
He later appeared on MTV’s Battle of the Seasons: Rivals 2 and, in 2011, teamed up with producer Shannon Mechutan on the MTV documentary Coming Out.
Today Preston lives in New York, where he blogs and writes poetry.
Frank Sweeney, “The Real World: San Diego 2”
The mustachioed babe of the San Diego house brought his own special brand of energy and whimsy to the show, where he was one of the series’ few bisexual men.
Sam McGinn, “The Real World: San Diego 2”
Samantha “Sam” McGinn had no problem scoring with the ladies while on the prowl with housemate, Nate. Their relationship warmed our hearts—as did the fact that Sam is also drag king $hawn Jade.MTV
Arielle Scott, “The Real World: Ex-Plosion”
Arielle’s steamy and emotional scenes with her ex-girlfriend, Ashley, set sapphic hearts ablaze. Her androgynous style led to rumors about her gender identity, which she addressed on the show.Mariya Stangl Photography
“The Internet decided I was trans—and everyone in the house was talking about it, too,” Arielle (a.k.a. “Ari Fritz”) said in an interview. “I wanted to know if feeling negative [about that] was even a good feeling to have, so I reached out to my community to come and talk about it.”
Since The Real World, Scott has released three shorts and the web series Tomboyish.
Christopher Ammon, “The Real World: Go Big or Go Home”
The newest addition to The Real World’s queer family is a 23-year-old who left his Mormon community in Utah to become an LGBT advocate.
“It’s been really healthy for me to try things that I’ve been told are incredibly perverse, sexually,” says Chris, who now calls New York home. “I’ve never felt better.”
Will Chris be able to handle all the drama of The Real World house? Tune in and find out!