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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended June 04, 2000
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
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Sent on Mormon-News: 05Jun00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

BYU May Not Readmit Student On MTV's 'Real World'
Deseret News 2Jun00 P2
By Scott D. Pierce: Deseret News television editor

PROVO, UTAH -- An LDS BYU student who took a semester off to live in a house in New Orleans with four men and two women and be filmed for the MTV program "The Real World," says she is waiting to see if BYU will re-admit her for the fall semester. The student, known only as Julie, told the Deseret News in an interview published Friday that she was waiting to hear from the University.

In the interview, Julie says that she didn't really know what she was getting in to, "I don't have much exposure to MTV at all. I'd seen a couple episodes of 'Real World' at a friend's house, but that was it." She also says that she lived a somewhat sheltered life growing up in Wisconsin and attending BYU, "It was just basically mainstream Wisconsin culture I was living in. And then I go to BYU for three years, and I'm living this mainstream Mormon culture. And so then to be thrown in a situation where there's so much diversity," she said. "But it was great. It opened my eyes. I saw so much. I learned so much in four months that I've never even known about."

Julie also says that she didn't really intend to end up on the show. Thinking she would never get picked, she auditioned, along with 35,000 others, hoping to get to the audition finals. Julie was just after the free trip to Las Angeles for the finals."And when I went to L.A., it was just life-changing. I got out there, and I saw a whole new world that I've never seen before," she said. "I met some really cool people, and I realized, if this experience could be this cool in a couple of days, imagine four months in a new place with new people. I just wanted to meet new people, see new things, see what I wasn't seeing in Provo."

Many LDS Church members see the show itself as a challenge to LDS values and a clear violation of BYU's housing policies. The policy requires that single BYU students live in housing that is gender specific. But on "The Real World" the seven participants share a house. In the past the show has included drinking and frontal nudity.

Julie acknowledges that most of her roommates for the show had different moral standards, and that, as much as she was uncomfortable with it, she represented Mormonism on the show, "I went into this saying that I was not going to represent Mormonism," she said. "I recognize, though, that it being my religion, that I am a representative of it. And I think I have handled that responsibility in a good way because I've been true to myself throughout. I haven't tried to be a bad representative, I've just been myself."

She also says that she had a chance to deal with many Mormon myths, "I've gotten hit with so many Mormon myths, you don't even know," she said. "I've been dispelling a lot of them." Just in the first hour she is asked by one roommate if she is married, because he thinks Mormons marry at age 15 or 16. Other myths confronted include that Mormons can't drink Coke, date, dance or wear makeup.

In the end, Julie thinks she has opened eyes about Mormons and about BYU, "I've made it clear to these people that not all BYU students are the way that they seem. And I think I'm a shining example of that." Julie said. "But I will not deny the fact that there is an overwhelming stigma about our university of these sheltered, they-don't-think-they're-closed-minded-but-they-are kind of people. And I think I was more that way before I came here, and this place has opened up my eyes to a lot of things."

But Julie's family and BYU are decidedly not comfortable with her presence on the show. Addressing her family's worries, she teases her parents in a phone call in the first episode saying that she shares a room with a guy (she doesn't) but its OK because they share a large bed. But she evidently has a hard time convincing her parents that her participation will be OK because there are hints that her father comes to New Orleans to try to get her to leave (Julie can't comment on this because she her contract with MTV won't allow her to give away "plot" points).

And BYU spokesman Carrie Jenkins says school officials will be watching to see what Julie does during the show. Julie only told BYU about the show a few weeks ago, and the University tried to return her all, but were unable to talk with her because they declined to allow MTV to record the conversation for "The Real World." The University says no decision has been made on whether Julie will be re-admitted.

Regardless of that decision, Julie says she has no regrets, "I think that this is the best experience. I wish that everyone was afforded this kind of an opportunity," she said. "I really am so thankful. I really think this is a blessing in my life. And it is going to afford me the opportunity to touch a lot of people, and I'm thankful for that."


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