Altered reality

Pledge from MTV's reality series 'Sorority Life' says it's tough to prepare for pitfalls of constantly being taped

Pledge from MTV's reality series 'Sorority Life' says it's tough to prepare for pitfalls of constantly being taped

July 29, 2003|by ANDREA ROWLAND

Reality can bite - and its teeth leave a lasting mark when your reality is captured on video, edited for dramatic effect and broadcast on national television. But starring in a reality TV show also can make you a stronger person - and land you a cool new wardrobe and other material perks.

Just ask Jordan Erlich, who spent 10 weeks on camera during the taping of the MTV reality show "Sorority Life." Erlich, 22, was one of six Sigma Alpha Epsilon Pi sorority pledges that five MTV camera crews and six directors followed 24 hours a day from April through mid-June 2002 at the University of California at Davis. The first season of "Sorority Life" with Erlich aired last summer.

"If the cameras can't go somewhere, you can't go. I slept a foot away from a camera. Three people followed me everywhere. They didn't film me in the shower, but they clipped a microphone on me as soon as I walked out in my towel," says Erlich, who is the girlfriend of Hagers-town Suns pitcher Erick Threets. The pair grew up together in Livermore, Calif.


Erlich says she didn't audition for the show; MTV producers showed up at Davis during sorority rush in search of pledges like Erlich, who waited until her junior year to rush Sigma Alpha Epsilon Pi because she was busy playing soccer at Davis before then, she says. Although she didn't have to impress MTV honchos with an audition tape, Erlich did get the impression that show producers were "looking for the most unique individuals," she says.

"I'm not trying to be conceited," she says, "but I knew I would be the pretty one who everybody picked on."

Reality show participants should be prepared for personality conflicts and for having their every action captured on film - and scrutinized, Erlich says.

"If you're gonna do it, be prepared for the fact that people everywhere are going to criticize you," she says.

And be ready to air your dirty laundry, literally.

The cameras zoomed in on Erlich's dirty laundry during the first day of filming, she says. She had to face her grandmother's death on camera. And then there was the time that a drunk Erlich ran into a sliding glass door and fell to the ground bleeding.

"I was mortified," she says.

But it was a great TV moment - one that made it into MTV's Top 20.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of appearing in a reality show is watching it on TV, Erlich says. You - and the people you care about - have to watch yourself in some unflattering situations, and you have to listen to the sometimes hurtful things that other people have said about you behind your back, she says.

"The sisters were so nice the first week. As time went on, it got more catty," says Erlich, who quit the sorority with fellow pledge, Mara, during the show's last episode.

And for the reality show star, anonymity flies out the window. Erlich says people recognize her just about everywhere she goes - and that's not such a bad thing.

"I still sign autographs. I don't think I'm famous or anything, but I think my life is going to be different forever," she says. "It was like a fairy tale. It was a dream. I feel proud that I was part of it. It was a gift."

In addition to making a new best friend (Mara), taking all-expenses paid trips to Las Vegas, Nev., and Lake Tahoe on the California-Nevada border, driving a cool car for 10 weeks, staying in a nice house, and getting oodles of free clothes, beauty products and other goodies from corporate sponsors, Erlich learned a valuable life lesson, she says.

"I used to care so much about what people thought of me. Now I don't," she says. "I'm living my life for myself."

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