Originally based on the Real World & Road Rules, The Challenge has had a very diverse group of people compete on the show. Reality TV has given us a lot of diversity, but The Real World (especially) has been a trailblazer for showcasing LGBT representation.
Over its 33 season, The Challenge has had some kick-ass LGBT players. These are some of the best players who have identified as members of the LGBT community.
I want to make this 100% clear: inclusion on this list is based on 2 things: 1. The cast member openly identifying as LGBT. I’m not including people based on rumors or speculation. The individual must have given us explicit reason to to be identified as LGBT. 2. The list is based on Challenge performance, not on how “queer” someone is. So, when Katelynn isn’t on the list it’s not to discredit her identity. It’s because, well, she sucked at The Challenge.
10. Norman Korpi
The first gay cast member to ever appear on The Real World, Norman was actually pretty good on The Challenge. He almost made the final on Battle of the Seasons, but refused to bungee jump and didn’t quite get to the end. However, his main dominance was on The Gauntlet. He was definitely one of the leaders on his team and even someone who The Miz was afraid to compete against. He made it to the final and was a definite asset to his team.
Despite what Champs vs. Stars will have you believe, Shane never won a season. In fact, he never even made a final. But with 17 years of competition under his belt, Shane has only improved over time. He fully embraces all aspects of his identity and isn’t afraid to be a “shady, shady, queen.” Shane often finds himself in the middle of drama, but somehow I don’t think that’s a coincidence. At least he has some impressive feats on the show to round out his resume.
8. Aneesa Ferreira
One of the most tenured Challengers, Aneesa is a credited as being an elimination queen. She’s had flings with both men and women during her time on the show and she has never been ashamed to live her truth. Despite her legacy on the show she is still fighting for her first win on The Challenge.
7. Nicole Zanatta
Making 2 out of 2 finals, Nicole has always been a tough competitor with a love for peanut butter. She’s not someone you want to betray, as she holds vendettas, but she can be a great ally to have on your side. Her defining relationship was her time spent with Laurel, but she’s also noted for flirting with 90% of the women in the house.
6. Sarah Patterson
If you watched The Real World Brooklyn or listened to the Brain Candy Podcast, you’d know that Sarah has had relationships with both men and women. Though never really shown on the show, she is open about her attractions. Of course, Sarah is also a tough competitor with a love for puzzles and a burning hatred for Johnny Bananas.
5. Frank Sweeney
One of the loudest cast members to ever appear on the show, Frank’s coming out has been largely documented on MTV. While he may have his erratic side, he was always a tough competitor. He won Battle of the Seasons, made the final on Rivals 2, and was kicked off Free Agents due to illness after winning the first two eliminations. Say what you will about Frank, but he was a great competitor on the show.
4. Rachel Robinson
If you ever had any doubts, Rachel spent the Battle of the Sexes 2 and Inferno 2 seasons with a t-shirt with the word “Lesbian” printed on the front. Of course, she also spent those season with her BFF+ Veronica and kicking ass in the game. Rachel has two Challenge wins under her belt and is probably in better shape now than she ever was before. Fingers crossed that she makes a comeback in the future.
3. Tyler Duckworth
Never forget, Johnny Bananas’s original antithesis was his Key West roommate Tyler. The funny thing, Tyler usually got the better of Johnny. Out of his four seasons, Tyler won two. The second being alongside his foe Johnny. Perhaps this was motivated by his feud with Johnny, or maybe he just learned to persevere from his obsession with Michelle Kwan.
2. Laurel Stucky
Laurel has appeared on four seasons before she admitted her attraction to women and began dating Nicole. This was a big step in her personal development, but it was met with support by her cast mates. Of course, Laurel is also one of the toughest girls to ever play the game. She has a bunch of elimination wins and won Free Agents. Even when she isn’t on a season, Laurel manages to be a threat in the game somehow.
1. Evelyn Smith
One of the two girls with three Challenge wins, Ev has become one of the biggest bad asses to ever play the game. She’s noted for playing a 90% straightforward game with a couple shady moves thrown into the mix. Regardless of how she plays the game, no one wants to face her in elimination. However, she does has a softer side. This can be seen on The Gauntlet 3 when she developed feelings for Brooke. Of course, Brooke went home early, but Ev and Brooke shed tears after having to be separated.
BONUS: Jonathan Murray
One of the two producers who created Bunim-Murray productions, Jonathan Murray (pictured all the way on the left with the original New York Real World) is openly gay. One of the reasons he wanted to film a show like The Real World was because he saw so few people on television he could identify with. Jon has a long career in reality television, and there’s no denying that he has highlighted many struggles and issues surrounding diversity. He has also showcased the beauty within diverse communities and given a platform to people who may otherwise be voiceless. We owe a lot to him and Mary-Ellis Bunim, as their efforts have given us many great television shows and introduced us to many remarkable people.