I was on ‘the challenge’ 5 times – interesting things about the show

  • I participated in MTV’s “The Challenge” and learned a lot behind the scenes of the show.
  • Throughout the casting process, I was surprised by how much the directors knew about me.
  • I found out that I wouldn’t be paid as much as I thought, but I quit my job anyway to be on the show.

In 2010, when I first appeared on MTV’s “The Challenge,” I never imagined the casting process would be so brutal or that I would be recognized from my time on the show.

I participated in the “Fresh Meat II” and “Cutthroat” seasons in 2010, “Rivals” in 2011, “Battle of the Seasons” in 2012 and “Free Agents” in 2014.

Here are 10 things that surprised me about “The Challenge” that even hardcore fans might not know:

I never imagined how long and brutal the casting process would be

The writer, Brandon Nelson, sits next to another candidate on a log.  Both are wearing black jumpsuits and helmets

The casting process for “The Challenge” was very thorough.


Although I auditioned for MTV’s “The Real World” and reached final call, I never imagined this process would take months. My anxiety was off the charts and the questions were brutal.

As a fan before casting, the show seems like a lot of fun, but doing it on “The Challenge” was definitely a chore. “Trust the process”, as they say.

I was surprised by how much the casting directors knew about me

Although I went through the casting process before platforms like Instagram and Snapchat were popular, the directors were still able to really dive into my journey. They had known things about me for years that I had forgotten.

At that time, they really dug deep and it felt like a next level job interview.

I really didn’t know how big the production was until I got on set

When you step out of an apartment in Arkansas for a massive production and you’re considered a talent, it’s the best feeling in the world.

While it’s not all glitter and gold, being seen as a talent is very empowering and allows you to put a lot of things into perspective. Ultimately, you are part of a show that is built around you.

You are as important as the people around you and, for the most part, you are treated as such.

There’s a lot of rushing and waiting

Since I had never participated in a production like this, I was definitely not prepared for the “hurry up and wait” mindset on set.

We only had two challenge days a week and due to the location, layout and the sun beating down on us, we had a very early call time to be up and ready…only to have to wait three more hours before they can even compete. And that was after the two hour drive to the site.

However, this process really didn’t bother me because I was just eating snacks, taking a nap, or listening to the divas complaining – you know who they are.

Before I got on the show, I assumed everything was paid for

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During my time on “The Challenge”, I discovered that not everything was paid for.

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I was wrong. That’s not a bad thing as the essentials are taken care of, but when you watch “The Challenge” from your couch, there’s a certain aspect to the experience.

When the production allowed us to go to the club or the bar, we paid for our own things. They may have hooked us up on the food once in a while, but the drinks were on us.

The contestants aren’t supposed to speak to production, but I can tell they have their favorites

It’s very clear from your first season that you don’t have to talk to the production team.

But after having a few seasons under my belt, I’ve seen some familiar faces, and whether they admit it or not, they have their favorites.

In my experience, unless you win, you really don’t win a lot of money

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I made less money than I expected for “Fresh Meat II”.

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After watching reality TV shows for so long (Thanks, Mom!), I just assumed that if you’re on TV, especially MTV, you’re rich and famous. I was wrong on one side.

Yes, over 10 years later the base salary has gone up – and it may vary depending on who you are – but I was very surprised to learn what I was going to be paid for my first season, “Fresh Meat II.”

The pay was bad – very bad – but I wanted the experience so badly that I quit my tech support job at Verizon Wireless.

Traveling the world is one of the biggest benefits of the show, and I learned a lot

Being on the show is a blessing in that we can travel the world. We shot “Fresh Meat II” in British Columbia and “Battle of the Seasons” in Turkey, for example.

I also learned a few things. For example, in some countries it may be considered rude to tip in a bar.

It’s a lesson I learned the hard way. I wish America…whatever.

I was surprised when I was recognized in public after my first season

Brandon Nelson and other competitors on the side of the hill in the forest during the elimination.  Brandon and another contestant are wearing green shirts and another contestant is on crutches and two other contestants are wearing blue shirts

I didn’t expect to be recognized so much after my first season on “The Challenge”.


After playing for four episodes, I really thought I was done with “The Challenge.”

But after my episodes aired, people started doing double takes and asking me for pictures. It was very surprising, especially since I was still living at home and thought I knew everyone.

Now a lot of new people say they know me. Also, I discovered that we all look taller on TV.

Above all, I can’t believe I succeeded on ‘The Challenge’ once, let alone 5 times.

And the most amazing thing about being on the show is that I made it.

Of the thousands of people who have auditioned, I’ve been deemed fit five times – and who knows what will happen.

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