Then & now
WHO|May 03, 2021
AFTER 29 YEARS, THE ORIGINAL SEVEN STRANGERS WHO KICKED OFF THE REALITY TV REVOLUTION RETURN TO THE LOFT WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

In 1992 seven strangers, all aspiring artists, moved into a New York City apartment to have their lives taped and reality television as we know it was born. Now the original cast of MTV’s The Real World – Eric Nies, Julie Gentry (nee Oliver), Heather B Gardner, Kevin Powell, Norman Korpi, Andre Comeau, and Rebecca Blasband have returned to that same apartment for The Real World Homecoming: New York. Shooting the reunion series “was trippy”, says Jonathan Murray, who created the show with his production partner, the late Mary-Ellis Bunim. “What’s so cool is they all have their essential essence, the thing that made us choose them for this first social experiment.”

With their reunion comes a rehashing of some of the frank conversations and arguments about issues such as race that became a hallmark of the early days of the long-running series (which has run for a whopping 33 seasons and counting). “We are still talking about the same things,” says Gardner. “While we were there, a Black Trans Lives Matter march went past the loft. To be next to Norman, who came out on television at a time when it was not cute, and Kevin, who had been about Black Lives Matter, it was powerful and crazy.”

Norman Korpi

THEN: The commercial artist gained fans as one of the first openly gay stars on TV. “I still have like 25 boxes of these long, touching letters from people that didn’t have a voice,” he says.

NOW: Although he’s currently helping family in northern Michigan, Korpi, 54, typically lives with his partner, Bill, in Rancho Mirage, California. He has made several patented creations, including an adaptive computer stand. “It’s hard if you’re not super funded,” he says. “Shark Tank has reached out, but once they find out who I am, they think it’s an unfair advantage. I’m like, ‘Oh my God. I spawned this whole reality genre!’ ”

Julie (Oliver) Gentry

THEN: The wide-eyed 19-year-old dancer was eager to experience the world outside her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. “I just wanted to go and do things and meet people,” she recalls.

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