Keeping It Real
BY William McGuinness
June 19 2009 12:00 AM ET
Before everyone arrived, before all eight beds were claimed, and before names had been exchanged, members of The Real World: Cancún cast asked the gay question. They knew there was one among them. This year (the season kicks off on MTV Wednesday), Derek Chavez says he's anything but a token, for-your-entertainment gay. After taking a four-month break from earning his kinesiology degree at Arizona State University, the 21-year-old speaks of each real world -- the taped and the almost ordinary.
What motivated you to apply for this season? It's something that I've always wanted to do when I was younger and growing up in a small town. TV was one of the only things you could do without getting into trouble. I've always watched MTV. After moving to Phoenix for school, I was offered the opportunity [to try out]. I was actually going to try out for the Hollywood season, but I was really sick and didn't go. Then all of a sudden, my roommate got an invitation to try for Real World 22. The line was about a mile long. When I was down there, I didn't think they would pick me because I was sick and didn't sound good. But as soon as they called me back from the first interview, I got my hopes up again and really wanted to do it again. If I did get picked for this experience, I just wanted to share my side of the story.
I'm not your stereotypical gay guy. I like to play sports; I'd rather go hang out at a straight club or do stuff outdoors.
How did you approach the tradition of having at least one gay housemate? Did you feel a need to set yourself apart from the others? Yeah, I just wasn't going to go inside the house and say, "I'm the gay guy." I wanted the other people to see if they could figure out that I am gay. There were some suspicions going in; but when I told everyone, they said, "OK, we have a gay guy."
First off, I thought I was going into a house where people were uncomfortable or not used to having a gay person in their lives. I was going in with a wall up just to save myself for four months so I wouldn't be uncomfortable.
Describe your feelings on the flight to Cancú;n -- the quiet time when you got to think. It was nerve-wracking. From the moment Jonna [a friend from home who, against standard Real World operating procedure, was also cast] and I left, a producer made sure we didn't talk to each other. I had time to think by myself, and all I kept saying was, "Derek, your life is going to change from this point on. The minute you land, this is going to start. It's going to provide opportunities to you." I was nervous, but at the same time, very excited and eager to see what was going to happen.