12/04/2012 12:12 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

What Is It Like To Be on "The Real World"?

This question originally appeared on Quora.
Answer by Katelynn Cusanelli, TV Personality, UNIX Systems Engineer, @k8mnstr

Being on MTV's TRW is considered by those of us who were house mates (my season was 21) to be a million dollar experience some of us wouldn't pay a dollar to do again.

Every aspect of your life is regulated. From the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep, you are mic'd. You need to get permission from a producer if you want to change your clothes. If you want to go somewhere, you need to contact a producer to let them know where you would like to go and how many housemates intend on going. The producer will then contact the venue and get permission to film. If permission is not granted, they'll inform you that you cannot go to said location.

The thing to keep in mind is that nothing is really in control of the house mates. With the exception of the toilet, confessional, and phone room, there aren't any doors. You don't even control the lights to your own bedroom, a lighting producer controls it remotely. None of the walls reach the ceiling, and you are constantly surrounded by a team of three to five technicians: a sound technician, a lighting technician, a cameraman, a producer for that team, and occasionally a production assistant.

Computer access is heavily monitored and restricted, so as to prevent information leaks. All phone conversations are taped. You do not have access to your cell phone, you do not have access to television or radio, most of the time Internet access is restricted via a (laughably insecure) squid proxy/firewall combo. You also must "greek" any items you bring into the house that are off-brand from that season's sponsors. Also, contrary to popular belief, nothing is "scripted," and there is no such thing as a free meal. Federal law prohibits you from receiving special treatment at venues, so in most instances, we had to pay for drinks and services. You do get paid story rights for your time on the show, and though I'm restricted from discussing those exact details due to a NDA, I can say it is an insultingly small amount of money.

Having said all of that, and in spite of the severe drawbacks from being a cast member (including the complete abolition of personal anonymity), it is one of my most cherished experiences. The producers and production crew become like family and your fellow cast mates ... well, I can't speak for others, but some of the people from my cast will be friends for the rest of my life.

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