Cornell's Evan Starkman talks about his MTV experience
Posted: Tuesday May 8, 2007 1:09PM; Updated: Tuesday May 8, 2007 1:09PM
Evan Starkman, a senior at Cornell, was a former contestant on MTV's Real World/Road Rules Challenge: Fresh Meat in 2006. He sat down with SIOC to discuss the experience.
SI On Campus: Let's start at the beginning. What was the secret to your success in your MTV audition?
Evan Starkman: It's so lucky -- the second time I went in I got picked, but it could have been anyone, you know? And that's what frustrates me about a lot of kids on the show -- they think they're special, or they poo ice cream or something. It could have been anybody. I don't know how it works, I don't know how they pick the people, it's just luck.
SIOC: What is it like to come back to Ithaca, N.Y., and try to be a normal Cornell student after being on MTV?
ES: It's definitely different. I think the challenge is that you do for a short time become the most recognized person in America. ... It's just kind of hard to walk into a class and people are taking pictures with camera phones or yelling at you or whispering.
SIOC: What's your life about at Cornell?
ES: Going to school is it. It makes you a better person, it's the best place to be, you're surrounded by people and you learn something and it's the best excuse for doing nothing. When you're in school, your grandparents are like oh, you must work so hard, here's money, don't worry about anything, and you're like, "I'm really not working that hard." Once school's over, what do you do? J-O-B? School's wicked.
SIOC: What are the best and worst parts of your post-MTV notoriety?
ES: I've given a lot of college speeches around the country just speaking about things from alcohol awareness to diversity to sexual health to youth empowerment. It's really cool to speak in front of kids, and just going to the VMAs or the Playboy Mansion is a ridiculously cool experience. But there's a lot of negatives too. ... Everyone has their top three questions that they get asked. My top three are generally: Is Coral really such a bitch? Are you mad at Wes or Is Wes really an asshole? And how is your hernia?
SIOC: Who's the strangest person that has recongized you?
ES: Mr. Belding [Dennis Haskins] was a big fan of mine. I was at a conference giving a speech and he came up and he was a big fan. It's crazy. When you go to the VMAs, Jessica Simpson comes up to you and crazy people watch the show and are fans of the show.
SIOC: Do you think your background as an athlete helped prepare you for the show and gave you and edge over everyone else?
ES: A lot of kids get a little wonky with the training. People get personal rock-climbing trainers and boxing trainers and swimming coaches. Mostly people want to look good on TV and have beach muscles and six packs and things that you could imagine are vain. ... I'd like to say these shows are about athleticism, but they're not. When you're carrying oatmeal in a Speedo you can't really call yourself an athlete. And it's more about the political s--- and screwing people over than actually beating someone physically. I mean it does help, and I think that I've won a lot of things just because I train like an athlete and not like a bodybuilder, but it's luck.
SIOC: On TV, we see the casts of these shows drinking, hooking up and doing challenges. What else do you get to do while you're in Brazil or Australia?
ES: Nothing, and that's the shame of it. The neat thing about the show is they don't tell you where you're going -- we just all go to an airport and get on a plane. So that's neat, but you're really on lockdown. It's not like fun time in Brazil. The doors are locked, you can't leave, there's no TV, there's no music, there's no iPod, there's no cell phones, so you're just kind of trapped in the house. ... It is embarrassing that all we do is sit around and drink and abuse the house but there's nothing else to do. You can't even leave the house, and there's nothing to do in the house.
SIOC: How do you think you'd stack up against the guys on the Inferno, like Abe and Alton?
ES: I've never met Alton, but he's a beast. So I really want to see Alton in some kind of elimination-type thing because he seems very good at everything. And Abram's crazy. He's really crazy. He's got scars on his chest, and every time he goes through a life-changing thing he goes out in the woods by himself for three days and scars himself. He's just the weirdest guy. When Coral broke up with him -- this is insider information -- he sat on her porch for a week and didn't move. He's a weird dude.