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Forget Parties in 'The Hills,' MTV Features Real Teens, Real Problems in New Series

by Anna Dimond, posted Aug 3rd 2010 4:40PM
Forget 'The Hills,' leave 'The Real World' and get ready for real teens with real problems.

Each episode of MTV's new docu-series, 'If You Really Knew Me' (Tuesdays, 11PM ET), visits a different high school across the country, and follows a few students for 24 hours while they participate in an event called Challenge Day. Part group therapy and part team building, Challenge Days bring together small groups of students with the mission of breaking down the typical social barriers that divide them and encouraging them to form bonds in ways that would otherwise be unlikely -- if not downright impossible.

This week, the show visits a high school in the working-class town of Belle, West Virginia, where students are divided up among the "Creekers" (rural residents), the punks, the outcasts and, of course, the popular kids, among other social designations. As the show prepares to make its southern arrival, TV Squad spoke with Katie, one of the students who participates in the Challenge Day there.

Largely viewed as the popular girl who has it all, Challenge Day at Riverside High reveals that Katie's life is far from perfect. Through tears and tissues, the homecoming queen admits that behind her pretty smile is real loneliness, and that her home life hasn't been perfect.

As she enjoys her summer break and contemplates her freshman year at college, Katie spoke with us about her experience with show, from having her every move caught on camera to baring her soul not only in front of her classmates, but in front of a national television audience. During this heartfelt show with good intentions, the teens won't be the only ones reaching for the Kleenex.

'If You Really Knew Me' travels to your high school in Belle, West Virginia this week. Can you describe the school and it social landscape?

My school is a larger school in a smaller town in West Virginia. I honestly ... don't see the cliques. That could be just because of who I am [because] I don't realize, but I don't think it's every cliquey, even if you're considered the Creeker, or you're considered ... popular, we all talk to one another. I think it's the West Virginia heart and love. We're just a completely different type of person. There are many different creeks that feed into it -- in WV, if you say, "I'm going up the creek," if you text that to someone, you know you're automatically going to lose service [in the rural area there] ... It's just people who take pride in being country. I mean, I hunt -- you'll definitely see that.

What did being involved with the show entail?

It's like I had my own little entourage. They followed me to lunch, they came to student council meetings, tennis practice, they put their big camera in my little convertible Volkswagen bug -- that was fun -- they came to my apartment ...

Was that weird, to have a crew with you all the time?

It was surreal. You expect to enjoy senior prom and graduation, and [here I was] experiencing life on national television.

It is a pretty personal show, and it's definitely not all parties and prom. Did you ever second-guess being a part of it?

It was nerve-wracking at first. But as I got closer to my [camera] crew, it became a lot easier, kind of like your friends hanging out with you. I never second-guessed anything. It's crazy, because you tell personal story and your innermost feelings that you don't tell your best friend, but you feel so comfortable with the people that you're with in the room that you feel like you can tell them that and they'll understand and be there to support you.

Can you tell us about the concept of Challenge Day, and how it happens?

You start out by having a lot of fun. You get to know the people in the room. Challenge Day says we're 90 percent fake, and 10 percent real. So 90 percent is what everyone sees of us, but Challenge Day breaks down those barriers. No matter who you are, no matter what you wear, no matter what you come form, everybody has a story that makes them the person they are today. You break down those barriers. You tell each other what has been in your life, and you feel like you're telling your family. Even with the cameras surrounding our circle, you totally forgot about them.

What was your reaction to other people's stories?

[The most surprising person's story] was probably Rachel, because she reminds me a lot of myself, and everybody always thinks we're always happy and smiling. And to hear everything that she's been through, and she's only a freshman, it surprised me.

What about sharing your own story? How did it feel to tell it?

I was nervous about it, I kept thinking, "Oh my gosh... " I don't even know how you become so close to the people in that room in a short matter of time, but when you're there you feel like you can open it. It completely made open it.

Challenge Day is clearly a moving, brave experience, but what bout the aftermath? Did it change students' relationships w each other?

It was only 40 [of us] out of 1,300 or 1,400 [at Riverside]. There are plans for next year [for more of the school to participate], but you can definitely tell the difference between the people who were in that room. It's like they were brand-new again.

What has been brand-new for you?

I've never bee the cliquey girl, but ... it's taught me to be more open. If I'm having a bad day, I know I can go to somebody that was there to talk to. It'll stay just between us. They'll give me a hug, and I'll feel a lot better about myself. I don't have to put on that front all the time...

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Other countries ? We have problems in our OWN country. These white prissy people have no problems! I'm don't care about how insecure you are about your hair! Or how your daddy was mean to you! You weren't sexually abused, your mom DIDN'T leave you, you have a nice home in a good neighborhood, you're not minority, you are NOT struggling the way I am. Take a look at life out of your comfort zone, see that our problems aren't pulled out of our imagination like yours are. Get the over yourselves and open your eyes! UGH!

August 11 2010 at 6:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Denise's comment

Denise, unfortunately, most here do not share our opinion. To read those who do, click Previous 20 Comments, and then click page 1. Walter began and then I added my two cents worth. Teens need perspective. They do not need to feel the "victim mentality" that the so called compassionate crowd continues to heap on them. If you've seen the Clint Eastwood film "Gran Torino" then you watch a wimpy boy, but a decent kid, turn into a confident young man. Eastwood's tough ex combat veteran personality treats the boy completely opposite the way these teens are treated on the MTV show. He goes straight to the heart of the matter and tries to show the kid responsibility, not once over sympathizing or appearing to feel sorry for him. Great movie. Eastwood's character would be a better mentor to boys than most "compassionate" therapies being offered today.

August 15 2010 at 4:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


August 05 2010 at 6:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

ban all shows such as the hills they are horrendous

August 05 2010 at 5:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
richard nicoletti

Finally, MTV does something that is profitable to viewers and not just is advertisers.

August 05 2010 at 5:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

cmon now dont talk bad about jersey shore its such a funny show i mean they have to deal with problems to tell u what let mtv make a show where the situation pauly d and the other jersey cast go to these high schools and they all talk bout there problems guarentee that show gets more ratings then anythang lol

August 05 2010 at 4:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bruce Williams

teen angst...prepubescent angst...infant angst...womb angst...preconception angst...fodder for a lot more docu-series...LMAO...

August 05 2010 at 4:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bruce Williams

Gag...everyone is a victim...double gag...teen angst...what's next...prepubescent angst...then infant angst...then womb angst...then preconception angst...triple gag...

August 05 2010 at 4:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If it changes one person it is worth it. It's a trickle down effect. I wish every child every year starting in middle school would have to go thru this program.
I'm glad MTV is finally stepping up to the plate.

August 05 2010 at 3:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I just wanna say that the show is so fake and it portrays Freedom Highschool in it's first episode totally wrong (I'm from the same area). It is nothing like that and MTV's producers totally blew everything out of proportion and put the school in a bad image in my opinion. Freedom is nothing like that, just because you're an A-Quadder doesn't mean when some "popular" kid comes over you're gonna shun them or something. It's not like that at all. They made us look stereotypical and cliquey.

Just my two cents..

August 05 2010 at 3:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If it's labeled a "reality" series, then it's fantasyland. More junk TV to spoon feed the rotting mind.

August 05 2010 at 3:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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