In Bids for Congress, “Real World” and “Apprentice” Stars Find That Reality Bites

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Starring in a reality show is a good way to become an actor, a swimsuit model, or a prison inmate—so why not a member of Congress? “I’ve gotta put this on my dude resume!” MTV’s Real World: Hollywood contestant David Malinosky once said, in a quote that referred to a foursome…but could also summarize these political times. Three former reality-show stars are seeking seats in Congress this year; two of them face primaries today. Their television fame will boost their name recognition but not necessarily their credibility, especially in the cases of two former Real World contestants who’ve starred in hours of dudely video footage.

Sean Duffy, the leading GOP candidate for the House seat of retiring Wisconsin Democrat David Obey, appeared on Real World: Boston in 1997. In one segment, he dances on a pool table in his boxer shorts while drinking beer. In another, he attends a drag-queen show. It’s provocative stuff for a candidate who’s backed by the tea party. Duffy’s Republican primary opponent, Dan Mielke, used the footage to criticize him for being gay-friendly. But the video seems to show the opposite. After the drag show, Duffy says that he “felt out of place the whole time” and then grabs a woman’s behind in an apparent reaffirmation of his masculinity.

In Brooklyn, former Real World: New York star Kevin Powell is running for the second time for the seat of Democratic Rep. Ed Towns. Even before Powell was outed for owing the IRS upwards of $615,000, he was carrying some political baggage. In episode 11 of the show, co-star Julie Gentry accuses him of throwing a candleholder at her (the video is not available online). “She is scared of Kevin, thinks he is a psycho, and never wants to be alone with him again,” says MTV’s summary of the segment. “Kevin denies brandishing the candleholder and says the fight wasn’t his fault.”

The Democratic nominee in Ohio’s 2nd Congressional District, Surya Yalamanchili, may have an easier time turning his reality show past to his advantage. He was a contestant on season six of Donald Trump’s The Apprentice, where he had the chance to show off his business chops. Nevertheless, his final episode involved a brutal mutiny by his teammates that convinced Trump to axe him. “I happen to think you are going to be a very successful guy,” Trump concludes, “but for now, Surya, you’re fired!” 

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate