After ‘The Real World’

MTV’s star Jose Tapia gives a glimpse behind the scenes of a reality TV showThe Real World After ‘The Real World’It’s Back to Business for Key West Cast Member Jose Tapia

By Rosanne Dunkelberger

After 17 seasons on MTV, we pretty much know the drill:
“This is the true story of seven strangers, picked to live in a house, work together and have their lives taped, to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real. The Real World.”

The most recent installment of the second-longest-running reality show on television (only “Cops” has been on longer) included 22-year-old Florida State University student Jose Tapia.

The show filmed in Key West from August to December 2005 and, afterward, Tapia was sent on a whirlwind of appearances – mostly at bars and college campuses. He enjoyed the ride for the better part of a year and has now returned for his senior year at FSU, where he is double majoring in finance and real estate.

After being exposed to his fast-talking, megawatt smile and high energy, it’s hard to believe Tapia was depicted as “the quiet, the laid-back, the mellow, the nice guy” on the show.

“I’m portrayed the way I am in real life,” said Tapia, who, at 20, was the youngest cast member in Key West. “They made me quieter on the show because they have to focus on the stuff that makes good TV. Me hanging out having an intelligent conversation with somebody, or one of the roommates freaking out – what’s going to make TV?”

Much of the season’s drama came courtesy of Mother Nature. While the show was being filmed, the cast and crew were forced to evacuate three times in the face of major hurricanes – Katrina, Rita and Wilma. It was particularly harrowing during Wilma, Tapia said, because they evacuated to a high-rise hotel in Fort Lauderdale that was hit hard.

“We got just demolished there,” he said. “Windows were shaking, walls were coming in . . . it was intense.”

Tapia said the show “absolutely” was not scripted and the cast members weren’t coached on what to say or how to react. But the setup – cameras everywhere, microphones during all waking hours, no cellphones, one house phone, one computer, no television, no radio – did heighten tensions.

He hasn’t done any of the multitudinous “Challenge” reunion shows that have kept some MTV reality show alumni busy.

“I’m not the type of guy that’s going to make (reality-show appearances) a career,” Tapia said. “I want to have a real job. I want to make real money. I want to have a 401(k). I’ll have my fun, but I’m going to go back to school.”

Tapia already has gotten a head start on a career in real estate. Despite naysayers and setbacks, he bought his first investment property when he was 18 and currently owns two rental properties in Tallahassee.

Tapia said he also is contemplating a career teaching young people how to buy and sell property.

If there were a reality show in his future, it’s more likely to be one of the “house flipping” shows on TLC or HGTV.

“I would love to do it,” he said. “Who would I call?”

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