When the university’s image doctors conceived the “Temple … We’re Just Smarter” advertising campaign, one wonders what would happen if it was tested in the jaws of reality television. Sophomore biology major Svetlana Shusterman certainly made the cut, with or without university clout on the 17th installment of reality institution The Real World.
For two decades the show has resonated with 18- to 34-year-olds. Hot tubs and binge drinking serve as fodder for “real” twentysomethings, seven of them to be precise, as they live and work together in the name of high conflict for this distinct brand of Abercrombie voyeurism. Shusterman, hailing from Richboro, Pa., is in the middle of her first publicity junket and reflects on the impending episodes.
“I don’t want it to air,” Shusterman said, laughing nervously about the girl that America has already seen labeled “Slutlana” on promo ads for the forthcoming season, shot in Key West, Fla.
“I left the experience a new person. The one on the show is not necessarily [one] I like,” Shusterman said.
For a reality show with such a notorious legacy, Shusterman said she walked into the house looking for the usual suspects – the characters in place to inspire certain kinds of events, discussions and the occasional catfight.
“Who’s the weirdo? Who’s gay? Who’s calm?” Shusterman said. She eventually pegged everyone down but couldn’t find the outcast, wondering if she herself filled that void. At 20, Shusterman was the youngest cast member and arguably the most irreverent.
The self-proclaimed “Jim Carrey with boobs” talks in circles, is self-absorbed, yet sweet. Ultimately, she’s everything you’d find in a Philly girl dropped in the lap of a cultural phenomenon.
“I missed Wawa,” Shusterman said, discussing homesickness during her unconventional stay in Key West. During filming the cast and crew were evacuated twice due to Hurricanes Rita and Wilma. Mother Nature, however, may have brought the cast closer.
“We created a new family,” she said. This is not to suggest that the cast was all cuddles. Every season the roommates are expected to perform a job together, usually service or media oriented. Shusterman could reveal little, but suggested that major kinks came with work.
“We ran into major problems with the job, especially me,” said Shusterman, who comes from an immigrant family. “I’m the youngest but I’m a very hard worker, and no one wanted to listen to me.”
To vent their frustrations, cast members have a series of taped interviews with producers, a process long-scrutinized by former cast members accusing behind-the-scenes staff of asking loaded questions to elicit good television.
“The interviews were like therapy sessions … the directors are very, very good at their jobs,” Shusterman said. While she does question the reality in the reality show (“Are [the roommates] real? Do they make them say these things?”), she said she is pleased with this coming-of-age vehicle and foresees no problem in becoming a Real World alum, bar-crawls and all.
Shusterman maintained she wants to be a doctor and will do her best to complete her biology degree at Ambler Campus.
“It’s the cutest campus I’ve ever seen,” she said. “But don’t mention it in the story because more people will come and it’ll get crowded.”
Spoken like a reality star on the verge – already she’s anticipating fans.
Matt Donnelly can be reached at email@example.com.