The Real World was once a ground-breaking TV show, noted for its “real” conversations and focus on diversity. While later seasons would divert attention away from the diversity and spend more time on the drama, there was a time when MTV was opening doors. Watching Pedro discuss AIDS in 1994 was a shock, and MTV continued to focus on marginalized groups. Even Season 33 would introduce a DACA recipient for the first time, proving these are many groups living in the US who do not see themselves represented on MTV.
It seems The Real World never really dies, and remains part of our pop culture lexicon. Recently, it appeared on Pluto TV, then we got a bunch of seasons on CBS All Access.
This list is fairly objective, as everyone brings something unique. We’re also lying to ourselves if we don’t acknowledge that Reality TV is a world run by stereotypes. Seasons will be noted for their representation of marginalized and underserved groups. Individuals with unique feats, conditions, or circumstances tied to “real” scenarios will be noted as well (for example, Kevin Dunn from RW: Back to New York will be noted because he survived cancer). As certain groups become more visible, both in real life and on reality TV, their presence will receive less weight. For example, having a gay roommate is less significant on season 23 (but still noted) on season 1 as reality TV has been including LGBT representation for over a decade at that point. Further, nonvisable diversity that is not discussed on the show will be given less weight, as it is not part of the season.
The most homogeneous cast, you might refer to this season as “the one with no black roommates.” Luckily, Isaac’s girlfriend Noirin kind of helped with that.
- Parisa is Iranian and Muslim
- Shauvon was bisexual, though only shown in heterosexual relationships
- DIVERSITY SCORE: 1/10
32. St. Thomas
Another season defined by its relationship over any type of personal issues with the cast, though Brandon’s struggle with sobriety was an issue.
- Swift and LaToya are black
- Brandon came onto the show after struggling with alcohol and drug addiction
- DIVERSITY SCORE: 2/10
The diversity this season mostly centered around Rachel being an Army veteran. The rest of the season centered around relationships.
- Nehemiah is black
- Johanna is Peruvian and moved to the US at 11.
- Rachel is an Army veteran
- DIVERSITY SCORE: 2.1/10
By this point, The Real World had tackled some of the expected issues invlving diversity. So, this season placed less of an emphasis on it.
- Stephen is black, and while he is now openly gay, he was not on the show. Apparently he confided in Irene (who outed him when she left), but it was not part of the season in an official capacity.
- Janet is Asian
- Lindsay deals with the suicide of her friend during this season
- Irene has Lyme disease, which is discussed when she leaves
- David and Nathan knew each other before filming. The first time the intro said “seven people,” not “strangers.”
- DIVERSITY SCORE: 3/10
29. Key West
The most unique story line deals with mental health issues, as Paula’s struggle was openly discussed. Tyler also deals with homophobia as some people in his house find gay jokes funny.
- Janelle is black
- Jose is Hispanic
- Tyler is gay
- Zach is Jewish
- Paula struggled with an eating disorder and body image issues
- DIVERSITY SCORE: 3.5/10
This season mostly introduces geographic diversity, as it was the first season to be filmed outside of the US. Most people this season are non-American, proving boring people from all over the world apply to The Real World.
- Neil and Sharon are from England
- Jacinda is from Australia
- Lars is from Germany
- Sharon is black
- DIVERSITY SCORE: 3.8/10
27. San Diego (2011)
This season is mostly noted for its conversations on LGBT issues, though this storyline had been explored on many prior seasons.
- Frank and Sam are gay/lesbian, though both a different points of expressing their identity.
- Alex is black and moved to the US from Zimbabwe
- Priscilla is Mexican
- Nate brings the topic of suicide into discussion while celebrating the life of his friend who committed suicide.
- DIVERSITY SCORE: 4/10
This season seems to get lost in the mix, mostly remembered for CT’s debut and the cast hearing about the state of war being announced in the US.
- Adam and Christina are mix-race, with Adam being half black and Christina being Korean and German.
- Simon is gay and from Ireland
- Leah has a cancer scare this season, though it comes back negative
- DIVERSITY SCORE: 4.3/10
Mostly focused on drama, it seems like the Denver cast tried to force diversity into the season by casting two black men from completely different walks of life. The season also employed the cast to help victims of Hurricane Katrina through the Upward Bounds program
- Stephen and Tyrie are black. Stephen held conservative values while Tyrie was much more liberal and politically educated.
- Davis is gay
- Colie is Jewish
- Jenn is Puerto Rican
- DIVERSITY SCORE: 4.6/10
24. Washington DC
This season seemed really diverse on paper, and an interracial roommate relationship gives it some organic diversity points. But the season was supposed to politically charged, though most people held similar values. Ty was just argumentative. Otherwise, most people grew up conservative then became more liberal.
- Ty is adopted, black, and atheist
- Emily grew up in a religious “cult,” but now is sexually open/ potentially bisexual
- Josh was Puerto Rican and had experience with gangs and incarceration
- Mike was bisexual, but predominately involved in homosexual relationships on the show.
- DIVERSITY SCORE: 4.8/10
23. San Diego (2004)
The original San Diego season had some representation for multi-cultural backgrounds, but much of this is overshadowed by roommate relationships and drama.
- Jacquese is black
- Jamie is Korean-America, and much of her family does not speak fluent English
- Frankie suffered from cystic fibrosis, a terminal illness, depression, and self-harm
- Charlie is from Serbia, though most of his story is lost due to footage from this season being confiscated.
- DIVERSITY SCORE: 5/10
22. Las Vegas (2002)
The season that felt the most voyeuristic, Vegas has a diverse cast but seemed to be missing LGBT representation.
- Irulan and Arissa are mixed-race
- Alton is black
- Stephen is recently divorced
- DIVERSITY SCORE: 5.1/10
Heading south of the border, this season swapped the diversity for one big party. Yes, there was some variety, but little emphasis on it.
- Derek and Ayiiia are Mexican
- Jonna is multi-racial
- Jasmine is black
- Jonna and Emilee were adopted or lived in foster care
- Jonna and Derek has worked at the same bar together, so they knew each other
- DIVERSITY SCORE: 5.3/10
The Miami season was the first season to give the roommate jobs. While this forced some drama into the house, a lot of this is at the expense of diversity.
- Dan is gay
- Cynthia is black
- Melissa is bilingual, Cuban, and a Miami-native
- Mike had a threesome, not that this is real diversity
- DIVERSITY SCORE: 5.5/10
This season has a much bigger cast thanks to the exes. While this may make the cast more diverse, the diversity was secondary to the twist
- Arielle is black
- Cory is mixed race and at least partially black
- Jamie is Korean
- Arielle is queer, and her gender identity is discussed during the season. She dates women and dresses androgynously
- Ashley C. is part Vietnamese
- DIVERSITY SCORE: 5.6/10
A refreshing blend, the Boston season had a good amount of diversity plus a lot of storylines revolving around life issues. In fact, this season was probably years ahead of its time, covering issues like consent and online dating.
- Syrus and Kameelah are black
- Genesis is a lesbian
- Elka is Mexican
- Montana is an atheist and feminist
- DIVERSITY SCORE: 5.8/10
17. New Orleans (2010)
During a time when The Real World as shifting some of its priorities, New Orleans seemed to find a good balance between partying and social-focus. It was also noted for helping Hurricane Katrina disaster relief half a decade after the storm hit.
- Preston is black and gay
- Sahar is Middle Eastern and Muslim
- Eric is black
- Jemmye discussed abuse in her prior relationship
- Knight struggled with addition to pain killers prior to the start of the season
- DIVERSITY SCORE: 5.9/10
This season centered around relationships and drama. Beneath that jagged surface is a quiet diverse cast.
- Nia and Marlon are black and Marlon comes from a religious background
- Averey has a multi-racial background, including Mexican and Native American
- Joi is half Korean
- Marlon calls himself “bisexual” and is part of the LGBT community
- Jordan has a disability and has struggled with suicidal thoughts
- Daisy is a dog
- DIVERSITY SCORE: 6/10
The Philly cast is mostly remember for MJ and Landon on The Challenge, their least diverse cast members. It is also notable for Karamo’s major television debut, who adds quite a bit of diversity to the show.
- This is the first season to feature two gay men, Karamo and Willie. It is noted for showing someone who presents this identity more stereotypically as well as someone who is far less obvious to many people.
- Karamo is black
- Willie is Puerto Rican
- Melanie is adopted
- Sarah has body image issues, mostly relating to her weight
- DIVERSITY SCORE: 6.2/10
Chicago seemed to have some diversity responded, then the sum of all diversity manifested itself in Aneesa. This season will more likely be remembered because it was filmed during the 9/11 attacks.
- Theo is black, coming from a conservative Christian background
- Cara is Jewish
- Chris is gay and struggled with alcoholism
- Aneesa is mixed race with a black father and Jewish mother. She identified as a lesbian and loved nudity
- Tonya went through the foster care system and health with medical issues, notably kidney stones on the season.
- DIVERSITY SCORE: 6.3/10
The twist is central to this season, but the cast has some diversity. The twist also allows us to explore some other social issues on the season. For example, this season has no gay male cast members but Bruno’s brother and Tony’s brother are gay. This opens some discussions.
- Jason is black and grew up without knowing his father.
- Sylvia is Mexican
- Violetta was born in Moldova and moved to the United States as a child
- Nicole is a lesbian
- Jason is now a father, but was expecting his daughter during filming
- Madison struggled with addiction
- DIVERSITY SCORE: 6.4/10
12. Back to New York
Some seasons place a bigger emphasis on certain identity groups than others. Back to New York placed a strong focus on multi-racial issues with their strong African-American representation.
- Coral is black
- Nicole and Malik are both half black and half white, but have different views on mix-race relationships
- Lori is half Filipina
- Kevin has survived a cancer diagnosis
- Mike and Rachel come from sheltered backgrounds, allowing Coral to aid in Mike’s social awareness.
- DIVERSITY SCORE: 6.5/10
11. Las Vegas (2011)
The original return to Las Vegas was just as over-the-top as the first trip there. The cast did feature some diversity, but that clearly wasn’t central to the season.
- Leroy is black and lived in foster care growing up
- Nany is Dominican
- Naomi is Puerto Rican
- Cooke is Filipina
- Nany did not know her father growing up, and she found out he had died while filming the season
- Adam want to juvenile detention as an adolescence
- Dustin had a history performing in gay porn
- DIVERSITY SCORE: 6.7/10
10. New York
The original season, New York was designed around the concept of merging diversity in one dwelling. Groundbreaking in 1992, mundane in the 21st century. Aside from Julie all roommate had lived in NYC at some point.
- Heather and Kevin are black, with Kevin dedicating much of his work to social justice.
- Norman is gay
- Julie is from a conservative southern background, but challenged her beliefs well.
- DIVERSITY SCORE: 6.8/10
9. New Orleans (2000)
While there is some diversity to be seen here, this season is more notable for its portrayal of social issues. Perhaps it is most notable for Danny’s boyfriend whose face was blurred all season.
- Danny is gay. His boyfriend served in the military during the era of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, so he could not be shown on screen
- David is black
- Julie was mormon and attending Brigham Young University, where she’d eventually be kicked out due to living with the opposite sex
- Melissa is half black, half Filipina
- DIVERSITY SCORE: 7/10
8. Los Angeles
As one of the first seasons, LA focused a lot on the differences between the roommates. Even the ones with less visible diversity exposed some of their upbringing on the season. On a later season, these differences likely would have been ignored.
- David and Tami are black
- Beth A. is a lesbian
- Tami got an abortion during the season, and had experience work with HIV+ individuals
- Irene is engaged, then gets married on the season
- DIVERSITY SCORE: 7.2/10
Most notable for having more than one LGBT roommate, Hawaii seems to be a mix of huge personalities and somber undertones.
- Justin is gay and Ruthie is bisexual
- Ruthie is Filipina and a Hawaii native
- Ruthie struggles with alcohol issues, allowing the season to deal with drunk driving.
- Tech is black
- Amaya is Jewish
- Kaia majored in African-American studies, was a feminist, and struggled with body/eating issues
- DIVERSITY SCORE: 7.5/10
Despite the fact that no one cared about the Facebook Watch season, it was actually a good attempt to bring back the tone of the early Real World seasons. The cast was very focused on social issues and represented many background
- Arley is a mother and DACA recipient. Her family is Mexican and her mother’s face is blurred out for her protection
- Justin and Dondre are black. Like Real World Denver, they are on opposite ends of the political spectrum. Dondre is more conservative while Justin is very liberal
- Dondre is pansexual
- Yasmin is pansexual, Muslim and body-positive
- Tovah is Jewish and discussed sexual abuse
- DIVERSITY SCORE: 7.9/10
5. Bad Blood
While most people forget about this season, it’s actually incredibly diverse. The cast had a lot different life experiences and many different backgrounds were represented. Where the showed lacked was the use of the diversity and the lack of representation in certain areas. The most notable lack of diversity comes from the absence of LGBT cast members.
- Theo, Tya, Anika, Kassius, Orlana and Will are black
- Jordan and Kimberly are partially black
- Mike spent a brief time in jail, but claimed he joined the Aryan Brotherhood during that time.
- Jenn dealt with relationship abuse in the past and that resurfaced on the show
- Will and Kassius have children
- DIVERSITY SCORE: 8.1/10
Visually, this cast looks very diverse. Many of the cast members bring unique background stories to the show, though the season may be noted as one of the seasons without LGBT representation.
- Will, Greg, and Nick are black. Nick was born in Jamaica
- Brianna and Brittini are mixed raced, Brittini being half black
- Joey struggled with substance abuse, and Brianna had experience with substance abuse as well
- Sarah was a feminist and was vocal about her views
- Brianna dealt with domestic abuse and had to deal with legal ramifications during the season
- DIVERSITY SCORE: 8.3/10
3. Go Big or Go Home
Many people would rather forget this season, understandably. The cast was diverse, but that’s also the reason the cast was so cringey. Mostly because the influx of diversity was met with a great sense of intolerance.
- Ceejai and Dean are black
- Kailah is Puerto Rican
- Dean is going through a divorce
- Sabrina is adopted and meets her biological mother on the show
- Amo, who went by Chris at the time of filming, is pansexual and exploring a genderqueer identity while filming
- Amo left the Mormon Church, Jenna was Mormon during the time of filming
- Jenna is very conservative. This causes her to clash with her roommate when she discusses race and sexuality
- DIVERSITY SCORE: 8.6/10
2. San Francisco
A season that focused on HIV/AIDS awareness, this season was both diverse and socially based. This season also had a lot of focus on social change, but is often noted for emphasizing some cast members more than others.
- Pedro was gay and HIV-positive
- Perdo is Cuban
- Mohammad is black and Muslim
- Pam is Asian and a medical student, helping the roommates with Perdo’s condition
- Rachel comes from a conservative, Hispanic background
- Jo is from the UK, Pedro immigrated to the US from Cuba at age 8
- DIVERSITY SCORE: 9.5/10
The first season to feature a transgender person, there was much more diversity on this season. Designed to be a more socially-conscious season, Brooklyn was noted for being more reminiscent of the early Real World seasons.
- Katelynn is a transgender woman who has undergone surgery prior to the start of the season
- JD is gay, Hispanic, and struggled with abuse growing up
- Sarah identified as bisexual, having had a relationship with a woman in the past. She also discussed her past sexual abuse during the season
- Devyn is black
- Ryan is an Army veteran, who is called back to duty at the end of the season. He also discusses his post traumatic stress
- Chet is conservative and Mormon
- DIVERSITY SCORE: 10/10
Keep in mind, this list is subject to change if I am reminded of other diverse topics explored on Real World seasons.