I had the opportunity to speak with Sarah Burke, of The Real World: Philadelphia, the fifteenth season. She offered some great insight--here is what she had to say.

sarah burke

Q: Why were you first interested in doing The Real World?

A: I was in 5th grade when the 1st season aired (NYC) and I fell in love with the characters, it was the first reality show, and it fascinated me. I told my sister that I was going to be on it and ever since then I knew it was something i had to audition for.


Q: Was your experience on the show what you expected it to be? Or did it exceed/not meet your expectations and why?

A: I knew going into it that I can't have any expectations. I knew it would be unique and fun, but I also had no clue how intense it was and how emotionally challenging it would be. It definitely exceeded my expectations in the fact that it changed my life. I went in thinking that I knew myself really well, but when you have a whole staff of people watching your every move and asking you questions about it, you realize that the way you think you come off is not necessarily the way you do to other people.

Q. How has being on The Real World changed your life (or not)?

A: It has changed my life. Up until the show I had never taken any risks in my life. My greatest fear in life was being judged by other people, in a way Real World was my version of skydiving. When the show aired I was subjected to a lot of judgment and criticism and it hurt. However, I came to realize that judgments from people who truly don't know me do not matter, and that its my friends and family's opinions of me that matter the most. The show still affects my life now, especially living in a small town like Gainesville. I lived in NYC right after the show, so being on a reality show was not a big deal to people living in the city. Here in Gainesville people talk about me a lot more and seem to care about my actions a lot more. I was very naive to this fact when I first moved here, but sometimes when I start dating someone its hard because they have to deal with people who don't know me giving their opinion of who they think I am, for better or for worse.

Q: If you could go back, would you do it over again? What would you change?

A: I would definitely do it again. I would change nothing. I don't believe in regret. People are not perfect, I certainly am not, and I was not afraid to show that on TV. I have learned so much and I like who I have become from this experience.

Q: Do you think The Real World properly portrayed your personality and actions on the show?

A: The show is 4 months of constant filming and it is edited down to about 10 hours of footage. It is entertainment, and they turn us all into "characters." I am not upset about the way they portrayed me, however, people assumed that I was having all this sex on the show, and the truth is, I was the only one in my house to not have sex during the taping of the show. I am just very open about my sexuality,I had been in a string of three long term relationships before the show and had not been single for 5 years. People like to assume the worst, but if they paid attention, I never said I had sex with anyone, people just wanted to think I did.

philly cast

Q: Do you still keep in touch with your other cast members?

A: I talk to most of them. I talk to Willie, Landon, and Mel. MJ has lost touch with most of us, I tried to maintain a friendship with him, because I was the closest to him after the show, but he is really busy. Mel and I are very close and we talk all the time. I lived in NYC for two years and Willie and I spent a lot of time together there. I just saw Landon in Orlando two weeks ago. They are all like family to me and we have a bond that is unique and strong.

Q: Do you still ever watch any other seasons?

A: Sometimes, once you are on the show it is not the same. I prefer not to.


Q: Any advice for people trying to get on the show?

A: If you want to do it to be famous do not audition. If you want to do it for self-exploration and growth, and you truly believe you have a unique and stand-out personality go for it. You have to something different to offer, they like people who have gone through hardships. Also DON'T LIE!!! They will see through it, the interview process is intense and intimate, the interviewers are very smart and intuitive. Don't think that by being super outrageous you will be chosen, they are looking for authentic, not crazy.

Q: Anything else you'd like to say about your experiences on the show?

A: People always ask me why I have not done a challenge, and despite the fact that I have been asked to the last 5 I have chosen not to. My experience on the show was great, but I don't want to be identified and defined as a reality tv personality. I am in law school and have higher aspirations in my life that can provide me with a steady and normal life. I love what the show has given me, it has made me a stronger and more self-assured person, but it was a chapter in my life that has ended.