Tami Roman swore off reality TV. Until ‘The Real World’ let her finish what she started

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Tammy Roman swore she was done with reality TV.

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In 1993, the 22-year-old aspiring singer was cast in the second season of “The Real World” and was central to its most memorable moments—including a miscarriage documented by MTV cameras and a physical altercation with her roommate David Edwards. Due to which he had to be out of the series.

Seventeen years later, as a divorced mother with two children, she returned to the medium in VH1’s “Basketball Wives” and later its spinoff, “Basketball Wives L.A.”, where she spent nearly a decade promoting the play. . Finally, in 2019, she said goodbye to the genre – for good, so she thought – to focus on starring in projects such as the Apple TV+ series “Truth Be Told”, the Lee Daniels-produced sitcom “The Miss Pat Show”. For. Popular web series, “The Bonnet Chronicles.”

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So when Paramount+ asked her to be a part of “The Real World Homecoming: Los Angeles”, she said no. Frequently. “I’m not coming back. I’m off reality TV, and I sure don’t want to do that to people I haven’t talked to in 30 years,” she recalled in a recent video chat Then Roman’s producing partner, Jill Ramsey, put it another way: “She said, ‘Tami, this is where you started. Finish what you started.’ Then it clicked. ,

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In August, Roman and his roommates returned to the same Venice Beach House they had shared for six turbulent months during Bill Clinton’s first term in the White House. There were long-standing conversations about race, body image, and the blanket pulling phenomenon, resulting in the first ejection of the “real world” – all documented in “The Real World Los Angeles: Homecoming”, now published by Paramount + Streaming on.

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Roman says the experience was productive – up to a point. “I’ve really learned that no matter where you are in life, you have to meet people where they are, and not everyone is an upward dynamic. Some people are still where you left them.” But returning to communal life as a 51-year-old woman also had its drawbacks. “I couldn’t poop for two weeks,” she says with typical candor.

Roman – then known as Tami Akbari – was working at an HIV healthcare center in West Hollywood and performing with an En Vogue-esque R&B girl group when a coworker told her that she ” Audition for “The Real World”. Roman had never heard of the show, but stumbled upon a marathon on MTV that weekend. “People are on TV, like, living their lives? I didn’t even know it was a thing. And so I said, ‘Okay, I could do that.'”

Using a heavy camcorder, she filmed an audition tape and delivered it personally to the production office of “Real World”, where she was told that the season had already been fully cast. “I said, ‘Well, I’m not leaving until you see my tape.'” The strong weapon worked: A few days later, producers Mary-Alice Bunim and Jonathan Murray called to tell her that he has cut.

“He had charisma from the time I first met him. He had this amazing ability to be vulnerable and be completely honest about who he is. There was a self-confidence that made her incredibly attractive,” said Murray, who was also compelled by her biography: Roman was raised by a single mother and was homeless for a time, a fact that fueled her ambition. “There was just a sense that she was going to get what she wanted out of life.”

Tammy Roman in January 1994, when her participation in “The Real World” made her a star.
(Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images)

The cast of that season was notable for their discordant array of strong-willed personalities, including John Brennan, a conservative Christian country singer from Kentucky, and Dominic Griffin, a spiky-haired Irish writer who had accompanied Roman in an RV. Driven cross-country. (“One thing we learned from L.A. was that we had to make sure roommates had enough things to keep them together,” Murray says.)

Enthusiastic and witty, Roman proved she was a born reality TV star before she was even a thing. In a landmark moment for television, “The Real World” documented Roman’s decision to have an abortion. MTV cameras followed her to and from the clinic where she had the procedure and captured most of the thoughtful conversations she had with her housemates, who held different views on abortion rights.

“I wasn’t necessarily trying to be a spokesperson for Roe vs. Wade, but I really wanted to show the emotional roller coaster that someone is on if they decide to make this decision,” says Roman. Roman anticipated the backlash, but instead received fan mail from grateful viewers — “women who had gone through the experience and felt no one would understand,” she says.

In another memorable moment of the season, Edwards tried to pull a blanket from Roman, who was lying on the bed wearing only his underwear. What had seemed childish until late at night quickly went awry as Edwards pulled up a growing distraught Roman, clinging to the blanket and shouting for him to stop down the hall.

The three female actors, including Roman, concluded that they did not feel safe at home with Edwards and, in the first “Real World”, were kicked out. The situation was dire: some viewers believed that Edwards, a black man, was unfairly stigmatized with an ugly stereotype and when a white woman, Beth Stolarczyk, compared his behavior to that of a rapist. So, he was stopped. Still others thought that Edwards had clearly crossed a line, even if the controversy had started off playfully.

The controversial decision is addressed in the first episode of “Homecoming,” and three decades later it’s clear that feelings remain raw—particularly for Edwards, who says his comedy career has suffered.

Two women and a man are sitting around a table outside in the courtyard.
Tammy Roman, left, reunites with housewives Beth Stolarczyk and Glenn Nessens in a scene from “The Real World Homecoming: Los Angeles”.
(Adam Rose)

Roman is firm in his belief that when a woman says no, “she needs to be respected.” But she is sorry for the consequences Edwards experienced and puts some of the blame on herself for not disclosing some of the traumas in her past that contributed to her emotional reaction. “A lot of the story was missing, mainly because I wasn’t as open and transparent as I should have been,” she says. What Roman did not share at the time was that she was a sexual abuse survivor. She also struggled heavily with negative body image. (In one particularly disturbing episode of “The Real World,” Roman had his jaw cleaved to lose weight.)

“Body dysmorphia is something I was diagnosed with until later in life. I didn’t know I had a disorder. Little did I know that I abused laxatives, I starved myself, I was throwing up food.” ,” she says. She explains that the majority of her body on camera was “the last thing I ever wanted to be”. “David didn’t stop because he didn’t know what Tammy was doing in his mind.”

Roman, whose recent weight loss has raised fans’ concerns on social media, says she is still fighting demons. “When I think I look great, everyone thinks I look like a crackhead,” she says. “Every day is a challenge for me to get up and go, ‘I love everything about myself.'”

Roman married NBA star Kenny Anderson shortly after filming “The Real World” and spent most of the next seven years in wife-and-mom mode. After their divorce in 2001, she started focusing on working in film and TV. The “Basketball Wives” franchise, which she joined in 2010, provided a steady paycheck—and introduced her to a whole new generation of reality-TV viewers.

four women at a restaurant table
Evelyn Lozada, Tammy Roman and Suzy Ketchum, from left, in a scene from the VH1 reality series “Basketball Wives.”
(VH1)

“The only thing I knew how to do,” Roman says. “And I think that’s always been my blessing and my curse.”

Although Roman started out as one of the show’s most believable drama queens, she eventually grew tired of the fictional catfights, especially in later seasons, which coincided with the rise of Black Lives Matter nationwide. “We had to be able to offer some substance and value to the people watching. And when I saw that wasn’t happening, I said, ‘I don’t need to do this because I really know how to act. ‘”

She returned to the audition trail and quickly landed roles in “Karl Weber’s the Family Business” as well as “Truth Be Told”, where she played Octavia Spencer’s stepmother. Starring opposite Oscar-winner and Ron Cephas Jones in the series, who recently returned for a second season, is like “my own personal master class,” she says.

Tammy Roman stretches out on a couch on an outdoor deck.
Tammy Roman revisits “The Real World: Los Angeles” house.
(Maria Touger /)

“I am able to cross” [reality TV] Because they just showed you a one-dimensional view of who I am,” says Roman, who is now married to former NFL player Reggie Youngblood. “I don’t walk around wearing boxing gloves, I’m not cursing people. And I think That I’m too funny sometimes.”

Roman says he gets the drive from his mother, who died of cancer in 2013. “She wasn’t a touchy kind of mother, but she always provided. I feel like I am too: I only know how to provide and work for my family.”

While still on “Basketball Wives,” Roman began sharing videos of himself wearing bonnets and whatever was on his mind, often in the midst of cigarette drubbing. This led to “The Bonnet Chronicles,” a popular Instagram account turned web series featuring Roman, as his alter ego Patty Betty, with everything from ugly kids to people talking over Bluetooth in public. Tells about.

Two women greet a man at the door of a house
Tammy Roman…

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