“Real World” cast members speak at University, accepting LGBT community


Katelynn Cusanelli, left, and JD Ordonez, cast members of of the MTV show The Real World: Brooklyn speak at the Illini Union on Tuesday, April 21, 2009.

By Shannon Failla

On Tuesday night, the Illini Union Board and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Resource Center invited “The Real World: Brooklyn” cast members, Katelynn Cusanelli and JD Ordonez, to speak at the Union.

Roughly 150 students and community members came to listen to the pair share experiences of being transgender and gay.

Cusanelli was the first cast member in the show’s history to be open about being transgender with her cast mates.

“The Real World gave me a platform to tell my story,” Cusanelli said. “I chose to be public because there is no transgender representation in the media.”

She said transitioning from a man to a woman is difficult because the process is physically draining.

Cusanelli said she hopes to promote tolerance and acceptance within the LGBT community.

“Let me be a voice for a community, a generation,” she added.

Ordonez, a gay cast member on the show, spoke about how the other people on the show became the family he never had.

“At the end of the day, we are a family at heart,” Ordonez said. “I still to this day think that it was not a TV show, but a documentary.”

Since the season came to a close, the pair has been busy with work, family, and “Real World” related events.

“I have not had a day off since the show,” Ordonez said.

Both Cusanelli and Ordonez said they felt blessed to be able to travel to different schools and educate the youth about safe sex and how the decisions they make today affect their future.

Some audience members, who followed this season, said they were excited to hear them speak.

“I respect that they came to promote their cause (about accepting the LGBT community),” said Rachel Yelin, freshman in LAS.