L Is for ReaLity

BY Ari Karpel

May 12 2010 5:00 AM ET

THE REAL L WORD XLRG (ONDREA BARBE/SHOWTIME) | ADVOCATE.COMUnlike most reality shows (sorry, Nikki!), The Real L Word airs on a premium cable network, which means that nudity, language…anything goes. “Were the cameras [in my bedroom]? Yes, but I kept it pretty PG-13,” says Rose, a real estate adviser. Her story line on The Real L Word involves her struggle to commit to her girlfriend and her search for support from her traditional Puerto Rican family. “I didn’t get into the X-rated side of it. That I’ll leave to Whitney.”

Whitney is a special effects makeup artist for movies who knows her player reputation and feels no shame about showing off her body on camera. “It’s not weird because I’m comfortable with myself,” she says. “I don’t see it as a vulgarity.” (Rose jokes that she’s going to give Whitney the Golden Strap-On Award when they all get together to watch the show.)

Also on the show are Mikey, a motorcycle-riding fashion show producer who’s too focused on her career to plan her wedding (to someone not in the cast) and Tracy, a newly out TV and movie executive involved with Stamie, a woman who has two children and a very present ex.

“I hate to use the word ‘titillating,’ but it is from time to time,” Chaiken says. Her partner on the series, executive producer Jane Lipsitz, whose company Magical Elves created and produced such gay-friendly reality shows as Top Chef and Project Runway, agrees. “The Real L Word is going to be a sexy and salacious reality show series,” she says. “We shot everything from bubble baths to actual sexual activity.”

Not that every woman was willing to be completely “real” on TV. Nikki, for example, instituted a no-sex-on-camera rule for her and her partner. “I’m not here to open up my bedroom door to cameras,” she explains. Plus, she and the other women had higher-minded reasons for participating, she adds. “If we can help one person who’s struggling with being gay, it’s worth doing.”

Nikki decided to be on the show ­after participating in a 2006 episode of Oprah Winfrey’s talk show, where she told the world how she came out of the closet to her husband and ended their marriage. “Reviewing all of that on Oprah was very cathartic,” she says of the segment, which later won a GLAAD Award. “I have received so many letters from so many women saying ‘Thank you, thank you for helping me, thank you for showing the community in a positive light.’ Those letters really touched me.”









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