Playing Against Archetype: Real World Cast Member Ari Fitz Is Black, Gay, and Androgynous. How Will the Rest of the World Cope?

Ari Fitz. She's not the wildcard of MTV's 29th season of The Real World, not the racist, the rich kid, or the hot-tempered hulk. She's the voice of reason in a setting where grease-throwing is a form of communication and hooking up while wearing bear suits seems cute. She's perhaps the most rational thing to hit the once-unprecedented reality TV series since, well, who knows? Initially recognized for its provocative young adult narratives, The Real World is now unequivocally known for showcasing nonsensical debauchery. This go-round, the difference is the previously absent substantive layer Fitz delivers.

It happened in San Francisco over 15 weeks last summer — the taping of The Real World: Ex-Plosion, the season MTV hopes will save the formerly relevant reality show from years of declining ratings. The twist: 30 days into filming, the exes of all seven cast members decide to plunk their suitcases down and move into the Tenderloin flat to add fuel to the already wild house fire.

Sounds fun, right? Fitz didn't think so. She agreed to play herself, not "one-half of the lesbian couple." And over the next three months, viewers will watch the whirlwind intensify while she sits at the eye of the storm.

Fitz (whose real name is Arielle Scott) is 24, black, gay, a model, a techie, an artist, an Aquarius. She's a Bay Area native, born in Vallejo, an Oakland resident for seven years, a frequenter of the city's streets before she was ever allowed in its bars.

She submitted her Real World application last spring and as she completed each stage in the three-month casting process, the concept of being selected felt steadily less ridiculous to her. Then she found her incentive. This past year, Fitz jumped into suspense and horror filmmaking, and when MTV promised to follow her as she created her second film, she was sold. A visceral storyteller at heart, Fitz brings to life storylines that highlight uncomfortable plots and themes, like killing her girlfriends, and blossoming queer polyamorous attractions.

"I've been a hustler all my life," she says, "always proactive about what I want to do. I imagined doing the show would be good for my filmmaking career. There are opportunities that can be built off the platform of The Real World. I don't need MTV's help because my stories are provocative and interesting; it's about expanding my reach. I went in to party but I also went in to work, and that's what I did."

Unapologetic about her aspirations, and shameless about every other aspect of herself. Real World haters might even find themselves tuning in every Wednesday just to watch her dominate the other roommates with her IQ, charisma, and an "old-soul" quality that's both endearing and challenging.

That's the thing: Fitz challenges. She plays herself. By doing so, her roommates and viewers alike are forced to confront their own ideas about what it means to be black, gay, and androgynous. Maybe that was the role she was handpicked to play.

"It would be a huge lie to say I know nothing about the stereotypes created by reality TV," Fitz says. "A family member told me I shouldn't go on to avoid being labeled the 'angry black girl.' But I really believe the network wanted something different, someone who didn't fit into boxes you can easily put people of color in. I think they're trying to reach an audience that's been turned off by stereotypical tropes of queer people and people of color. It was just my job to be me."

She certainly seemed placed as the contrasting archetype for the other roommates to bounce off of.

There's Jay, 26, a Bronx-born Italian who, within the first 15 minutes of episode one, asks to touch Fitz's natural black hair. Cory, 22, a personal trainer from Michigan now working in Los Angeles, does not handle conflict well, especially under the influence of alcohol — the consumption of which, on the show, is substantial. Jenny, 23, is another L.A. transplant by way of Kansas City, an unabashedly raw aspiring actress and the show's "voluptuous blonde girl." Texan tennis teacher Thomas, 22, claims he's not "a snobby rich kid." Jamie, 22, is also from Texas, a tattooed bartender who used to tour with her ex-boyfriend's rock band. Then there's Ashley, 23, from West Virginia, a San Francisco resident before she was cast. She says things like, "My family could buy and sell your family."

Throw them together, add alcohol, a jacuzzi, clubbing, and libidos against backdrops of the Golden Gate Bridge, Muni, Q-bar, Temple, and Dolores Park, and you get, well, an "ex-plosion." Surprisingly, Fitz says, there were no cue cards, teleprompters, or even soft-scripted scenes. This Real World was real. Or at least "real."

"We all watch reality TV and think, 'Really? Did that person just say that? Or did somebody feed them that line?'" she says. "I've been on both sides of reality TV, as a skeptical viewer and as a participant, and I'm amazed at how effortless it was for us to be that batshit crazy. Within the first 24 hours, all the producers did was try to calm us down."

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10 comments
Cresdan Maite
Cresdan Maite

They went back to San Francisco? What, did they run out of cities now?

William Dolan
William Dolan

Right, I also saw her drunk and running her mouth around Polk Street a few months back, and lets just say, she is as typical and annoying as the rest of 'em. The whole lot is worthless, and this chick is a terrible representation of someone from the Bay.

Thomas Mulhern
Thomas Mulhern

That's the chick who got knocked the frak out in the Alley next to Mayes by a Tranny lady of the night, yes a hooker dude. she was drunk, obnoxious & the camera crew had already quit for the night.

William Dolan
William Dolan

Just as annoying and lame as the rest of the brain dead cast. #realtalk4realworld

Ivonne Carley
Ivonne Carley

May the editing dept not make her out to be something she isn't.

Nia Nguyễn
Nia Nguyễn

Confidence is sexy, along with a quick wit and intellect. It seems I might just tune in after browsing through her bios.

Mel Greene
Mel Greene

Never understood the point of this silly show, or MTV for that matter. Where the hell is the music they refer to in their title? Gone, as should most of their programing, especially the stupid knocked up teenagers. Who the fuck has never heard of a God Damn condom?.

oh-really
oh-really

you saw her once... calm down, you don't know her.

 
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