Even 29 years after its first season, The Real World is still keeping it 100% real.
The Real World’s inaugural cast, which features rapper and media personality Heather B. Gardner, and activist and author of 14 books, including When We Free The World, Kevin Powell, is back together again for The Real World Homecoming: New York mini-series on Paramount+.
And according to Powell, some things haven’t changed.
“The L.A. rebellion happened while we were filming the show, which was a response to Rodney King being beaten on videotape, you know, over 80 times. And here we are filming the show now in the middle of Black Lives Matter after what happened to people like Breonna Taylor and George Floyd,” Powell said.
What has changed, however, are some of the conversations he and the other cast members are having about race and racism this time around.
Powell, who never shied away from discussing racism and inequality during his season, said white folks who watched the show have even begun reaching out to apologize to him via Instagram, Twitter, and beyond—all these years later.
“America needed to be woken up. And it’s sad that it takes the death of Black women and Black men and just our Black bodies being destroyed over and over again for people to wake up,” said Powell.
The Real World franchise is widely known for being way ahead of its time, especially during season 1 where issues like racism, homophobia, and homelessness took center stage. But not everything said in 1992 resonates the same way nearly 30 years later.
“Sitting there watching some of the things that came out of everybody’s mouth at that age, you had to cringe. Some of it was like, ‘Oh, you know what? You shouldn’t have said that,’” said Gardner. “You have to look at yourself sometimes and know where you were wrong. And I think doing this reunion and this homecoming was an opportunity to correct some things.”
Gardner points to a heated exchange between Kevin and another housemate, Becky, during the first season where he called her “the B-word” and has since apologized.
“He was trying to correct wrongs,” she said.
Powell’s said it was Black women who first challenged him right around the show’s initial run about his “own sexist, toxic behavior,” which he’s had to deconstruct through therapy and spiritual work in different spaces.
“I can’t sit here and say that I’m anti-racism, anti-oppression as a Black man and then turn around and be a sexist, patriarchal, misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic, straight man towards people who are different than me,” said Powell whose activism work has grown more intersectional in nature.
“At the end of the day, do we believe in justice and opportunity and equality for all people? Do we practice love for all, or do we practice hate for all? I choose love,” he said.
The Real World Homecoming: New York is as relevant as ever, allowing viewers back into the same SoHo loft the cast lived in for 13 weeks in the ’90s as flies on the fly and still serving as a conduit of necessary and relevant conversations about this country and our world.
In the midst of it all, Heather B. remains open and hopeful.
“As you have more experiences in life, you may realize that you have more in common with a person than not. And sometimes just two or three things that you may have in common with a person is enough to have a conversation to lead on to healing in some other areas,” said Gardner.
Watch The Real World OGs Kevin and Heather B. reflect on filming during this #BlackLivesMatter moment and more in the video above.