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The Job Search Will Be Televised

Brown grads hit the reality TV scene

By and
Wednesday, May 24, 2006

While most recent college graduates head off to a boring desk job – if they’re lucky – or their parents’ basement – if they’re not – a select few try their luck on one of the numerous reality TV shows flooding the airwaves. And Brown alums are no exception: In the past two years, at least five Brown students and alums have competed on reality television shows.

Looking to uphold Brown’s illustrious reality TV tradition, Herald columnist Andrew Marantz ‘06.5 – whose housemates set up a “Real World”-style video confessional in their off-campus apartment – is one of a handful of current students who applied to be on an upcoming MTV show where contestants compete for a job at Rolling Stone magazine. The show will be shot in New York City this summer.

Marantz sweated through the 11-page application, putting in “more work than I did for my Brown application.” The application included questions like “When was the last time you cried?” and required an audition video.

In spring 2004, former Herald Sports Editor Maggie Haskins ‘04.5 lost in the final round of the ESPN reality show “Dream Job,” on which contestants competed for a year-long contract as an anchor of the network’s “SportsCenter.” Haskins was joined by Lori Rubinson ’86, the show’s only other female contestant.

In fall 2004, Yaya Johnson ’04 came in second on UPN’s “America’s Next Top Model,” a show on which aspiring models compete for a contract with cosmetics company Cover Girl.

Then, in summer 2005, Austen Earl ’01 made it to the top two on VH1’s “Kept,” which pitted 12 men against each other in a quest to become former model Jerry Hall’s new male companion.

Most recently, Rafe Judkins ’05 was on CBS’s “Survivor: Guatemala,” where he came in third after releasing another castmate from a pact they had made.

Like “Dream Job” and “America’s Next Top Model,” the Rolling Stone show provides more than just an opportunity to humiliate yourself on national television. “I don’t know how people get sweet jobs like (writing for Rolling Stone) except for nepotism or reality TV,” Marantz said.

According to Dean of Admission Jim Miller ’73, the willingness to take risks and the entrepreneurship that make students appealing Brown applicants also make them good reality TV candidates. “The same sort of spirit that leads them to save the world also leads them to reality shows,” he joked.

Associate Professor of Modern Culture and Media Lynne Joyrich said casting directors might select Brown students because of the stereotypes associated with the University. Identifying someone as an Ivy League student becomes “shorthand” for an upper-middle-class, East Coast intellectual, whether or not those characteristics are true. Brown in particular could signal a liberal, radical, “kooky” character, she said.

Acknowledging that good reality TV is more about creating entertaining characters than actually portraying reality, Marantz admitted that he played up the “New York Jew, neurotic intellectual, slightly hip” aspect of his personality in his application.

But why Brown students, once they’ve been cast, never quite come out on top is up for debate.

“It’s fun to participate, but at some point if you actually win a reality show then you’re someone with a Brown diploma who’s going to be Jerry Hall’s escort,” Miller said.

But Marantz said reality TV is not the only area where some Brown students have come up short. “A lot of Brown kids wanted to go to Yale, right?”

MCM concentrator Matt LeMay ’06 speculated that the University’s open curriculum could be to blame. “Given the fact that we’ve all been allowed so much freedom to choose our own path, we kind of suck when it comes to conforming to what other people want us to do,” he said.

But despite their losses, Brown alums have had the support of their peers back on campus. Students created Facebook groups like “Brown Students who Know that Yaya Should Have Been Voted America’s Next Top Model” and the “Rafe Judkins Fan Club.” Members of Out of Bounds, the sketch comedy group in which Judkins had performed, met regularly to watch him in “Survivor.” Judkins’ brother, Landon Judkins ’09, created “Play it safe, don’t vote off Rafe” T-shirts for fans to wear.

Brown students seem proud to be part of a University that has produced so many reality TV stars, and chances seem good that the tradition will stay alive. “I think there’s an unusually high proportion of kids here that I’d want to watch on TV,” Marantz said. “I wouldn’t want to watch any Princeton kids – let’s put it that way.”

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