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Monday, April 15, 2024

‘Real World’ cast member transfers to UC Davis 

This fall, the seven strangers picked to live in a house to film “The Real World: San Diego” will include one of UC Davis’ recent transfer students.

At 19 years old, junior psychology major Priscilla Mendez is the youngest cast member on the show, which premiered on MTV on Sept. 28. She was born and raised in San Diego, which came to be one of the main reasons she embraced the idea of drastically changing her surroundings and moving to Davis to continue her education after filming wrapped.

“Leaving my own home in San Diego to move into the Real World house took me completely out of my comfort zone,” Mendez said. “I grew so much when I was there and expanded so much as a person. If I was to go back home, to San Diego, I would have felt like I’d outgrown it.”

After her crazy experience filming this past summer, Mendez is looking forward to being a university pre-medical student and pursuing her goal of becoming an anesthesiologist.

“People think that I had the show, and that I considered it the most important and exciting thing going on,” Mendez said. “But I was just as, if not more, excited to come to the university and experience this for the first time.”

Mendez has always been academically inclined; she graduated a year early after taking an extensive amount of college courses in high school, and entered UC Davis with an associate’s degree from Grossmont College in San Diego. Before moving, however, she wanted to do something purely for herself, so she decided not to take summer classes and apply for “The Real World” instead.

“I’ve always been a person who really, really wants to expand the way that I think, and not be a person who’s set in their ways,” Mendez said. “I want to find out that I’m wrong, find out that the way I think is different. That’s what made me do this and see what would happen. And that’s definitely what I got out of it.”

Mendez’s experience has brought fresh attention to the show on the UC Davis campus. Several have said that they haven’t watched a season in years, but tuned in to the premiere episode to see their fellow Davis student on MTV.

“It’s exciting that a UC Davis student is on the show,” said senior art studio major Emily Thorpe. “I have actually watched the show because of it.”

Her appearance on the show has also generated discussions on how the Real World process works. Just how real is all the drama? Are they told what to say or do? How do the producers choose what footage of the cast to air?

Mendez said she was never given any direction by production.

“I wasn’t allowed to interact with the sound guys or camera crew at all. I actually got fined if I did,” Mendez said. “It’s like they were there, but they weren’t there, from when I woke up until I went to sleep.”

The “seven strangers” environment is created with the resulting drama as a point of interest, but is not the only thing the producers are aiming for. Of course, the partying, drinking and fights will happen, particularly in the beginning, but the Real World experience (a ‘social experiment’, as Mendez described it) is designed to showcase the process of diverse strangers finding common ground, Mendez said.

“What all of us hope that everyone sees is that we all went through such an individual change,” Mendez said. “Despite being seven very different people, we actually very much come together in growing and learning from each other. That speaks leaps and bounds forward rather than just bickering the entire season.”

Such a constant camera presence gave producers an ample amount of footage, which could be edited to portray an individual cast member in a light that might not necessarily be acceptable to all audiences. Since the trailers for the show have aired, Mendez has been subject to a scattered amount of dismissive attitudes from those who have formed pre-conceived notions about her character, the most extreme of which prevented her from becoming a member of a Panhellenic sorority during formal recruitment, Mendez said.

Senior psychology and communication double major Abby Mulvihill said “The Real World” seemed like a once in a lifetime experience that would be undeniably fun, but wasn’t sure it would be worth the consequences that might follow once the season premiered.

“I absolutely think that people are expected to play a certain role on these shows,” Mulvihill said. “I assume MTV has an angle for them that they are meant to follow as the season progresses. I think they want people to play very diverse characters so that there will be lots of clashing personalities, morals and values.”

But the idea of selective editing may help remind viewers that Mendez is more of a relatable personality than many may initially consider her to be.

“It’s interesting watching now that I am older,” Thorpe said. “Now, I have had experiences which, if they had been filmed, might have seemed just a dramatic or crazy.”

Mendez acknowledged frustrations she has had with being judged, but said that the amount she has learned and new perspectives she has gained has made the experience worthwhile.

“You have to understand that out of everything that was filmed this entire summer, less than 5 percent of what I said or did is going to be shown,” Mendez said. “So of course the most interesting, scandalous and emotional, the ‘oh my gosh’ moments, are there from each one of us. But I am confident that anyone interviewing me for any position will have the professionalism to allow my work, grades and stamina speak for itself.”

Beyond that, MTV producers have said the San Diego cast is the most socially conscious group they’ve had in years.

“This is such a pro-social season. There’s so much awareness about issues, gay/straight issues or acceptance issues,” Mendez said. “Our personalities put a face to those issues. It’s what makes our season stand out.”

Watch “The Real World: San Diego” on MTV on Wednesdays at 10 p.m.

LANI CHAN can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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