`Real World' housemate shares stories
By JASON McFARLEY
"The Real World" is nice, but Matt Smith would just as soon use live appearances — not television — to convey his message.
Not that television hasn't been good to Smith, a former star of MTV's "Real World" New Orleans cast. It's just that a stand-up chat like his talk Friday in Notre Dame's Hesburgh Library Auditorium allow him to communicate the … well, real story.
The inside scoop: He's a self-confessed in-your-face punk who, since leaving the popular show about seven strangers picked to live together, has used his MTV-initiated fame to parlay his way into lecture circuits and guest spots across the country.
Don't misunderstand. He's no sell-out; his faith is his topic of choice.
"I'm just the most obnoxious, irritating punk," Smith, a Georgia native, said Friday to an audience that filled the library auditorium to overflowing. "I'm so cocky about my faith because it's so real to me."
Smith's appearance was part of the No Greater Love project sponsored by Campus Ministries. The self-proclaimed national "spokes-pimp" for Life Teen, a U.S. Catholic youth organization, Smith told a rapt crowd Friday that his Catholic values have been a fundamental part of his life — pre- and post-"Real World."
"There is no greater love than when you are giving everything you have to God," he said, alluding to the appearance's theme. "It took me 21 years to realize that, and ever since I have my life has never been the same."
In a quasi-stand-up comedy routine that saw Smith inhale allergy medication with his microphone in sounding distance and dish on his ex-castmates, the former Georgia Tech University student mixed his antics with serious reflection on his faith.
One of six children in a Catholic family, Smith said he only became passionate about his faith as a college student, following his break-up with his longtime girlfriend.
Religion, especially Sunday Masses sponsored by Life Teen, provided him solace and gave Smith a different perspective on life.
"I began to realize that it was only when you're in synch with God's plan things really start to happen," he said.
And things did begin to happen for Smith. Really.
Soon after his spiritual revival, Smith submitted an audition tape and was selected for "The Real World" — an experience he said brought new struggles to his faith daily. Faced not only with temptations from "Real World" groupies in the Big Easy, Smith said living with six housemates much different from him helped him delve deeper into his faith.
Not that followers saw much of Smith's Catholic character last season.
While romantic plots and bickering involving his roommates inevitably aired on MTV last summer, Smith said his portrayal as the "quiet one" was misleading. His daily Mass attendance and role as peacemaker in the house didn't lend itself to exciting television, but Smith takes offense at being pegged as reserved.
If the blue plaid pants, trademark wrap-around sunglasses and stacked-heel white sneakers weren't an indication, then audience members may have taken a clue from Smith's habit of sipping his mike and speaking into his glass of water.
"I'm not quiet. I'm a punk, and I'm loud," Smith argued.
Apparently so were some of Smith's co-stars.
"Julie didn't cry all the time," he said. "She just cried most of the time. Melissa didn't talk about race all the time. She just talk about it most of the time."
The barbs were good-natured, and Smith also took aim at housemates Danny and Kelly, who he said "lucked out" because they were really more irritible than they were portrayed on screen.
Smith also gave other hints that the grandfather of reality shows, approaching its 10th season, is plagued by editing that makes "The Real World" not so real after all. He described a scene involving a kiss between co-stars Jamie and Julie at the foot of a staircase. Smith said in reality the two were only talking with their faces close to each other, but through various camera angles and dubbed-in kissing sounds, MTV aired an allusion of a smooch between them.
"They [the crew and editors] can do anything. I've seen a sentence chopped up from three different scenes and spliced together," said Smith, who stays in contact with the cast through frequent appearances and promotions together.
While many some ex-"Real Worlders" have used the show to kickstart their careers, Smith's work with the non-profit Life Teen takes him to middle and high schools and college campuses across the country.
He said he has no plans to end his work for the organization, and he urged his listeners Friday to find comfort in their faith.
"You can all just re-experience your faith and explore new depths of it. That's when you'll find happiness," he said. "In `The Real World' or elsewhere."
All News Stories for Monday, March 26, 2001