Star-Bulletin Features

Tuesday, June 15, 1999

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Ruthie of "Real World Hawaii" lounges on a bed
at the Real World set.

Ruthie on real time

Local girl Ruthie scores a gig
on MTV and says her Real World
antics are the real her

By Tim Ryan


Ruthie, 21, sits on a stool at a bar next to a muscled, smiling guy. After several drinks, Ruthie's eyes seem to drift around in their sockets; her head tilts side to side, back and forth.

When she turns to the side, she loses her balance and tumbles pathetically to the floor where a couple of her MTV "Real World" roommates rush to help their new friend.

A security officer lifts Ruthie off the floor by her stomach and hurries the woman outside, despite her protests about leaving and demands for another drink.

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Cast members Kaia (left), Matt, Amaya,
Ruthie, Colin, and Teck.

While three roommates decide to stay at the club to party, the others take Ruthie in a cab to their $10,000-a-month beachfront Diamond Head home where they strip off her clothes and try reviving her in the shower before she goes into convulsions. Ruthie's rushed to Queen's Hospital to have her stomach pumped.

All this drama occurs within the first few minutes of the hourlong first episode of the series, and may explain why "The Real World" is MTV's No. 1 show.

This latest season's installment of "The Real World" begins airing at 7 p.m. today on MTV, preceded at 6 p.m. by a casting special. Twenty-two half-hour episodes will air.

At another point during the taping, which ran from January through May, the Diamond Head beach house was broken into by a 39-year-old man with a long criminal record. The suspect was observed throughout by closed-circuit television cameras in the kitchen, where he allegedly took a daily planner. It is not known whether any of this footage will be used.

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Although Teck and Kaia shared a room,
they never slept together.

"The Real World" is part soap opera and part documentary, following the housemates 24 hours a day, depending on the drama. The series, launched in 1992, also has filmed in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, London, Miami, Boston and New York City.

The housemates, selected from a self-nomination process, represent people ages 19 to 23, from across America, and in some cases, from Europe.

Ruthie, a Campbell High School graduate, is one of seven roommates on the show. No last names are given to protect participants' privacy. That seems ironic considering almost every aspect of the roommates' lives are photographed for five months. Within minutes of arriving at the RW home, Ruthie and new roommate Teck remove their clothes to swim naked in the shoreline pool.

Ruthie says her "Real World" antics are "who I am and you can accept that or not; I really don't care."

On the day of this interview, Ruthie, a pretty woman wearing tight pants and a low-cut blouse, was about to remove her top after a photographer asked the roommates to do "something wild," until a MTV executive yelled "No!"

When asked if she has an alcohol problem, Ruthie at first seems embarrassed, then defensive. "You only saw the first show," she said. "There's also a middle and an end to the situation."

Not only will she not elaborate, but as she says in episode one, she believes someone spiked one of her several drinks.

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
MTV still photographer Jimmy Malecki snaps
a few photos of Kaia inside the MTV house.

"OK, it hasn't been documented, but the bartender there said it's happened before a lot," she said. "Passing out has never happened to me before. On my 21st birthday I drank like 17 shots and I was fine."

But alcohol, Ruthie admits, is "definitely an issue with me, part of my lifestyle. But I'm very positive about myself now, having gone through this. I understand myself more."

Being thrust in a living situation with six strangers and being filmed around the clock may have made her so nervous early on that she sought solace in drinking, Ruthie says.

"I mean, these were six total strangers and all with pretty strong personalities," she said. "You have to survive; learn how to survive. That, in itself, is a challenge but that's what made this experience so interesting."

When it's suggested that she may be in denial about her use of alcohol, Ruthie's smile turns sour.

"That's the word you're using to describe it, not me," she says. "It's just your opinion, but whatever."

Her gaze switches back and forth between the ocean outside the window and a MTV spokesperson in the room.

"It definitely, uh, was strange to see myself passed out," she said. "I was intoxicated and I don't ever really see myself like that person on the tape. It was definitely mind blowing.

"But I've forgiven myself and am moving forward with my life."

Part of that progress is returning to Rutgers University to complete her journalism degree, attempt some travel writing and write poetry.

During the show, Ruthie also ended her relationship with a girlfriend, but she won't say why. The two women in episode one are heard discussing their fondness for one another.

Ruthie left Hawaii, she says, because "the world is too big and experiences too grand elsewhere to limit herself to an island.

"But someday I know I'll have a home here I can come back to," she said, eyes sparkling.

Ruthie also is unconcerned about how she represented Hawaii as the show's only local.

"I couldn't care less, I already told you," she said. "I am what I am. I don't care if people see me naked; I don't care if people see me kissing another girl; I don't even care that people see me drunk.

"My friends dared me to get naked on the first day, so I did. No big deal. My mom will probably freak, but I really, really don't care."

Ruthie said she was raised in a foster home by strict Filipino guardians, who, she says, favored their biological children and discouraged her from educating herself. After high school, she left her foster home and did not contact her foster family until she enrolled at Rutgers.

The show represents only a fraction of her life, Ruthie said.

"There is so much more that I am but that's not portrayed in the show. It's a phase ... I'm still growing. For me, this show will be like a reference point in my life that I can always look back to to see where I was."

Ruthie will stay in touch with some of the roommates but declines to say which ones.

"I got closer to them than I thought I would," she said.

The feeling of intrusion at being filmed faded after a couple weeks, Ruthie said.

"I'm just glad they didn't take my picture when I was on the pooper."

Click here for a May 17 story on "The Real World"

First episode is
Trash TV at its best

By Treena Shapiro


NUDE swimmers splash around a volcano. Three young adults make a home in a petroglyph-lined cave. A dark-haired girl frolics topless on a beach.

It's Hawaii, 1999, MTV "Real World" style. The volcano is in the middle of the private pool. The cave is part of a tropicolor-enhanced Diamond Head beach house. The girl, well, she's 21-year-old Kaia, a self-proclaimed narcissist out of UC Berkeley.

By this time, anyone who cares knows the "Real World" is a misnomer. MTV's formula is to stick a bunch of twentysomethings who wouldn't otherwise be friends in a house without enough bedrooms to go around, then force them to go into business together and film the chaos that erupts. It works. The show is in its eighth season.

Producers added a local girl to the mix, 21-year-old Ruthie, a Campbell High graduate who makes the show interesting for Hawaii folk.

While the rest of the cast revels in the scenery, Ruthie is bent on tearing down any pretense of paradise. In the first episode, she doesn't go into much detail about her childhood, but it's quite clear that a lack of support from her Filipino foster family did some severe damage to her self-image.

(Lois-Ann Yamanaka's head hunters may have a new target).

This is backed up by a conversation with Ruthie's girlfriend Jess, who is not part of the cast, but Ruthie's actions are even more persuasive. Hint: the "Real World" crew isn't going to make voyeurs wait too long for crisis to erupt.

The rest of the cast is rather bland compared to Ruthie, at least in this first episode. Teck, 23, shows some spunk, but his presence in episode one is overwhelmed by Ruthie's antics.

Teck is crass. His first question to freshly arrived roommate Justin is, "Are you gay?" Justin is, in fact, a 21-year-old gay activist from Harvard. Thanks to Teck, we know Justin is going to have a rough time of it this season. It's a pity for Justin, but more fun for viewers.

Colin, 19 and Matt, 22, do nothing worth noting this episode, but contrasted with Kaia and Amaya's constant obsession with their bodies (Kaia loves to look at herself naked, Amaya's reluctant to bare her ample "twins"), the guys' lack of character is welcome.

The first Hawaii episode has all the ingredients for good trash TV: nudity, attitude and alcohol. If you're crazy enough to tune in once, I bet you'll watch again.

Real World: Airs 7 p.m. today, MTV

Do It Electric
Click for online
calendars and events.

E-mail to Features Editor

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1999 Honolulu Star-Bulletin