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MIT Finalist Declines Real World Contract

By Carina Fung

Jennifer K. Johnson '98, one of a handful of MIT students to try out for MTV's The Real World, was notified the week before Thanksgiving by MTV that she had been chosen as one of the top 20 finalists for one of seven spots on the show.

The Real World, a real-life drama show, will come to film the show's newest season in Boston.

The Real World producers notified Johnson that she was a finalist by phone and later mailed her a contract and guest releases, Johnson said. However, after much discussion, Johnson decided to decline the offer.

Johnson, a biology major who is originally from Marietta, Georgia, had been encouraged by her friends to apply for a position on The Real World.

Those interested in becoming cast members were required to send a 10-minute videotape of themselves explaining why they would be good candidates for the show, said Andrew Hoegl, casting director for the series.

Late one night near the application deadline, Johnson decided to make a videotape of herself. "I had just finished working out. I made the tape in my workout leotard, I had barely combed my hair, and I had on no make-up," Johnson said. "I guess my personality really showed through."

Johnson included a tour of her room in New House and the artwork on her walls. "I talked about my friends and how we party entirely too much, but we still make good grades," Johnson said. She also discussed her interests in dancing, learning Spanish, and her community service ventures.

Johnson did not want to describe the selection process in depth because MTV "tries to keep the process as clandestine as possible, and only your closest friends and relatives are even supposed to know that you are applying," she said.

Lack of time influences decision

Johnson declined being on The Real World because she "refused to sign the contract as it was," she said. Johnson discussed the contract with an MIT lawyer, her father, and her friend in the entertainment industry.

They helped her come to the conclusion that she did not want to sign the contract as it stood, she said. Another important factor in Johnson's decision in declining the offer was that she felt that appearing on The Real World would hamper her chances for getting into medical school.

The cast of the newest season of The Real World will take on much more responsibility than just being on television, Hoegl said. Specifically, participants in the show will have to help run a community center for youths.

Johnson was also concerned that the required community service project would be very time consuming and would conflict with project laboratory, a 24-unit class required for her major. However, Johnson still said that she thinks "the community service would have been a wonderful opportunity."

Johnson encourages future interested applicants to give The Real World a chance and to try for a position. "Remember the workload that you have as an MIT student is more than anyone on the show will ever have. Also, be yourself. Remember, it is the real world."