Another “Beauty and the Geek” season is about to begin, and another MIT contestant is ready to show off his talents.
Three MIT students have appeared on the CW Television Network reality show in the past, and Christopher L. Follett G will become the fourth when the fifth season begins next Tuesday.
“Beauty and the Geek,” allegedly the “ultimate social experiment,” tries to play off the stereotypes of good-looking women and socially inept men for audience laughs and a $250,000 prize. The show relies on talent and knowledge contests that explore the audience’s preconceived, negative notions of the labels “beauty” and “geek.”
What makes a geek? The stereotypical geek, as portrayed by the likes of Screech on the hit TV show “Saved by the Bell,” is usually a gawkish intellectual. Follett begs to differ. He says he thinks of a “geek” as a person who is “really passionate about math or science and is really good at it.” He finds it a compliment, and he says MIT is full of geeks.
So how does a “geek” get on a reality TV show? For Follett, it was a little arbitrary. He was approached by one of the show’s casting staff after his performance in the MIT Gilbert and Sullivan Players’ HMS Pinafore. A running joke among the musical’s cast had been that Follett should take part in the reality TV show — and he did, after an audition in Boston, a videotaped audition, and a Los Angeles visit.
Although Follett said he thought the show would just be a “light amusing experience,” he soon found it to be more intense than he had expected. Despite the surprise, he still felt rewarded because he met new people. The show “has opened my mind towards a group of people I would normally never be in contact with,” Follett said.
Asked if he would do it again knowing what he knows now, he said “I probably wouldn’t.” But, he added, because of what the experience taught him about people, skipping it would have been a mistake.
“Being on reality television is a very cool experience,” Follett said as advice to future “Geeks” out there. “It will be intense. Don’t take it lightly.”
Reactions from his friends and family have been positive, Follett said. In fact, his girlfriend encouraged him to accept an offer to appear on the show.
Follett admitted to having watched “Beauty and the Geek” before, season two to be exact. When Follett was a prospective freshman, he met Ankur M. Mehta ’03, who became a contestant in season two, and he watched Mehta on the show.
But he said he had not kept in touch with Mehta, nor had he been in contact with previous MIT contestants — and so he really had no idea what to expect. His labmates advised him to be himself and relax, which he admitted is easier said than done.
Follett graduated from MIT in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in physics and is currently pursuing a PhD with the joint program in Oceanography between MIT and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. From an early age, Follett wanted to be an oceanographer, a passion he picked up after many sailing outings with his grandparents.
Follett will be at a party to watch the “Beauty and the Geek” season five premiere on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. in Room 4-237.
While the goal of the show is to win the cash prize, Follett’s said he was also motivated by a belief that “people are too quick to say no to really cool opportunities.”
“When you get an opportunity, you take it when you can,” he said.