Reality Dish Exclusive Interview: Katelynn Cusanelli of The Real World: Brooklyn

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The 21st season of The Real World is currently airing on MTV with the third episode premiering tonight, Wednesday, January 21 at 10 p.m. ET/PT. This season returns to New York City, but this time the setting is in Brooklyn. This was the first time that there were 8 roommates inside The Real World house. This was also the first time, since season 4 that the roommates didn’t have a “group job”. Each roommate got the chance to pursue their own interests. Like always, the house was made up of 8 diverse personalities. The other day I got a chance to talk to a couple of the roommates.

First up was Katelynn Cusanelli. Katelynn is 24 from West Palm Beach, Florida. Katelynn is an Italian-American transwoman who had a rough childhood. She first realized her gender dysphoria in high school and began living as a woman at 17, which was difficult given her rigid, Sicilian family.[13] She completed her gender reassignment surgery in Thailand in July 2008. She is a self-described computer geek, and holds a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. She has a boyfriend named Mike whom she hopes to marry. In the season premiere, she initially reveals her transgender status only to J.D.

Here is what Katelynn had to say about her Real World experience…


Josh Clinton: Hey Katelynn.

Katelynn Cusanelli: Hi.

JC: How are you doing?

KC: I’m doing good. How are you?

JC: I’m good. So were you a big fan of The Real World before getting on this show?

KC: Not so much. Okay, I was a 90s kid so I obviously grew up watching The Real World. But the last season I followed religiously was The Real World: Hawaii. Then after that, though, I didn’t really pay attention to it.

JC: Why did you try out for the show then or did they come find you?

KC: Well there was a casting call in Miami that my best friend heard about and she dragged me along with her. I totally didn’t want to go, but I had the day off and she was my friend, so I went. While I was in line waiting with her, one of people running the casting call, told me “hey, since you waiting with your friend, you might as well fill out an application”. So that is how it all began.

JC: Yeah. So after the initial application, what was the casting process like for you then?

KC: They did a bunch of different rounds. They did a couple of more interviews down in Miami, and every time I kept getting called back I thought that was the round I was going to lose it. Because I am nothing like what is on the current seasons of The Real World. I work 40+ hours a week, I have a steady job, my life is pretty normal and, what I would feel, is uninteresting. So every time I kept getting called back, I was surprised. I was wondering what was going on. Finally, in one of the last few rounds I said “why am I even here? I am so uninteresting and I am nothing like you have ever cast before, why am I here?” Then, I got the call that I was on the show. It was crazy.

JC: When did they know that you were a transgender?

KC: That came out fairly early. My life is an open book. I have been an advocate in the community for coming up on a decade now. So that is something they found out early on.

JC: Did you think that was probably the reason you got on the show?

KC: I honestly don’t know the reasons why I am on the show. I don’t know if it’s just because I am trans or because I am multi-faceted or the fact that I cam be kinda crazy at times. Any one of the above could be the reason why I got cast on the show.

JC: Right, okay. Do you feel any obligation of being a role model for others out there that might be feeling the same thing you did growing up?

KC: I kinda went on the show with that in mind. Once I got the call that I was selected, I had a choice. I could either go back to my “normal” life or I could take this as an opportunity to be a voice in the community that I have worked in so vehemently for the last 10 years. So I chose to be a voice instead, so yes, I take that full on.

JC: Cool. You had a boyfriend before you went on the show, right?

KC: Correct.

JC: Did you have any concern about your relationship with him because of the time and distance away from him?

KC: Well my boyfriend and I, up until the last few months I found out I was on the show, were in a long-distance relationship. So I had mixed feelings on being cast. I had just moved to Montana so that we could be together, and we are finally together, but now oh great we have to be away from each other again for four months. So it kinda sucked. Whether or not we could handle the distance? We had been doing that for a year and half prior to the show, so the distance wasn’t that big of a factor.

JC: What about the temptation of being around new people, especially inside the house?

KC: There wasn’t any real temptation while I was on the show. None of the housemates seemed to have any real sexual tension between them. At least I didn’t feel like there was any. But even if there was, my boyfriend is someone I would envision sharing the rest of my life with. So temptation was never an issue either.

JC: Okay. So how much of the show have you seen so far? Just the first couple of episodes?

KC: I have seen the first three episodes. We get advance copies of the episodes about a week before they air. So I have seen a bit more of the show than you have.

JC: So far then, do you think you have been portrayed accurately? Is the Katelynn we see on TV, the same person we would find in real life?

KC: The show pretty much portrays you true to form. Even though I know a lot of people had issues with the editing of the show. The only issues I have with editing was the chronology of everything. Some things happened at different places and times than were actually shown. But the actual portrayal of their personality and character, that is really them. That is who they really are.

JC: Okay. Sometimes it seems like the Real World producers cast people with conflicting personalities just for the sake of drama. Do you think they try to force the drama?

KC: Well how is that different than everyone’s everyday life? When you are forced to interact with co-workers you don’t necessarily like or you run into someone on the subway who is being a real jerk. How is that different than your normal life? Yes, there are conflicting personalities out there in the world. Whether or not they cast them specifically for the purposes of drama, I think they cast them more to see how well different cultures and personalities interact and live together. How they can coincide and life together.

JC: Yeah, I understand. Do you think any of your roommates played to camera at all? Like if the cameras weren’t around, do you think they would be doing what they did?

KC: No, not really. To be honest, you learn to ignore the cameras pretty quickly. Because if you always play to the cameras, the camera crew tends to recognize that fairly quickly.

JC: Okay. This is the first season since season four to not have a “house job”. You could all do what you wanted to do. How do you think that all turned out?

KC: I think it turned out great. For a lot of us, our jobs became our sanctuary. Which is really different than how normal people live their lives. Normally you go home to escape the world. For us, we went to work to escape our life in the house. I think it worked out really great, because all of our interests were so different this time around, that having a group project would have been really bad.

JC: Yeah. So you don’t think it hurt the bonding between you and your roommates then?

KC: If anything, I think it helped it. When you are forced to live with someone, the more time you spend apart, the better it is. So we all would work different jobs and when we came home we would want to spend time with each other. I couldn’t imagine having to work with everyone else that I lived with. It would have just made things so much worse.

JC: Okay. Did your opinions of any of the roommates change from the beginning of the show to the end of it?

KC: The roommates as a collective, all of 8 of us, experienced that the suspicions we had of each other changed dramatically as time progresses. And that definitely all plays out on camera.

JC: Alright, cool. Did you learn anything about yourself while being on the show?

KC: Immensely. I learned a lot about myself. I did a lot of introspection and a lot of growing as a person while on the show.

JC: Cool. Do you think this show will help you further be an advocate for others like you?

KC: Well I have been doing community work for the past decade, as I said. I think this show will only further that or at least provide some validity to what I did previously. So far the reaction has been extremely positive and that has been awesome. I do want to continue being an advocate and an activist in the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender) community.

JC: Great. Have you had any fans come up to you yet?

KC: Yeah, it’s all been positive. I haven’t had anyone come up to me yet and said “you suck!” That hasn’t happened yet, and I hope it never does actually.

JC: Yeah. Would you ever want to do like a Real World/Road Rules Challenge?

KC: Well they have to invite you out. If they want you out there, they will invite you. But if I get the invitation, yeah I will go.

JC: Cool. Anything else you want to tell everyone that you are doing now?

KC: Right now I am just taking a break from life and spending time with boyfriend, who I have been away from for too long. So I am just living my normal life at the moment.

JC: Good. Well that’s all I have for you, but thanks for your time and good luck with everything.

KC: Thanks!


The Real World: Brooklyn airs on MTV on Wednesday nights at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT time.

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