Exclusive Interview: Tonya Cooley, Real World/Road Rules Challenge: The Inferno 3
Exclusive Interview: Tonya Cooley, Real World/Road Rules Challenge: The Inferno 3
Tonya Cooley, who made her MTV debut with The Real World: Chicago back in 2002, has since become a regular on the Real World/Road Rules Challenges participating in six challenges as of 2007. Tonya is currently and fittingly competing with the “Bad Asses” on Real World/Road Rules Challenge: Inferno III which airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Tonya took some time to talk to BuddyTV about the show, how it compares with past seasons, and what we can expect to see from her in the upcoming weeks.

Read the full interview transcript and listen to the MP3 audio below.

BuddyTV: You’re obviously a well-seasoned vet when it comes to the Real World/Road Rules Challenges. I think you’ve been on what, six challenges since your debut on Real World Chicago back in 2002?

Tonya: Wow, really? Yeah, that’s a lot. I mean, seasoned vet, I kind of like the way that sounds.

How did you initially get involved with MTV and the Real World in the first place?

Accidentally. I think that’s like most of our stories. But my best friend wanted to try out for the show and she asked me to go with her and I thought it was lame and I went with her and ultimately got on the show. I didn’t think the show was lame; I just thought her auditioning was funny. She’s my best friend so I went with her to support her and one thing led to another and I don’t know, I got on the show. We’re still friends.

I think it was on MTV’s True Life that you said that Fresh Meat was going to be your last challenge, but you ended up doing The Inferno 3, which is airing right now…

People always, always hold me to that. I think at that point in my life I really thought that I was finished, but it’s an addicting little family that we can’t get away from. And I think the other thing to is that I’d never won a challenge. I’m so tired of going through the airport and people asking me, “So Tonya, when you gonna win one?” So I think all that, all together I was like, “Okay, I’m gonna go. I’m gonna work out, I’m gonna get ready, I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna follow the rules and let’s see where we get.”

What would you say has been your best experience so far? Do you have a favorite challenge?

By far Infernos are my favorite challenges. I just love being on - can I say badass? – yeah, being on the badass team is just so much fun. I mean we get to be everything that we actually are and make it look cool. I like the Infernos, I like being pushed to the limit, I like having a second chance to redeem yourself. And obviously if anybody remembers Inferno 2, it was like, you know, Tonya’s show. So coming back on Inferno 3, you know it’s like do or die. I’ve got to do something different. So yeah, I don’t really have a favorite but Infernos in general.

We all know that when it comes to Tonya Cooley – you’re spontaneous, you’re full of surprises on TV, and I’m sure you’re certainly like that in real life as well. Can you give the fans any hints you know as to what they can expect to see from you this season on Inferno 3?

Oh my gosh. I’m like going through my head in a little slide show of what I can’t tell you. This is the craziest show I’ve ever been a part of. I mean from the fights, everything, I’m at a loss for words. I will tell you that the challenges are actually worth watching. Like every time I finished a challenge I was like, “Now that hurt.” So overall, the intensity of Inferno 3 is unbelievable and you’re gonna see the same old Tonya and I think you’re gonna be surprised with the rest.

How would you say that this challenge compares to previous challenges that you’ve been on?

It does not compare. First of all, Veronica, Rachel, Tina…all of those girls are not there so I kind of like that. For me that was like a whole new show in itself. And it just doesn’t compare. I wish that I could, I mean I’m ready to like tell you everything but I can’t. It’s gonna be a great season. It’s like the only season that I’m actually blogging on my MySpace page and like advertising and I totally want to be a part of. And I mean, I still do a lot of really stupid things on it, but just everything about it, the intensity, Africa, you’re gonna love it.

Cool. We’re excited to see how the season unfolds.

I’m scared.

So at this point in time, can you say that Inferno 3 will be your last and final challenge? Or is it up in the air for you still?

Oh I’ve learned to never say that this is my final challenge. I don’t know, you know, it’s so hard. One year rolls around and you don’t do it. It’s just very addicting. I think as much as we love to hate each other, the only people that we know are each other. The only people that can relate to living on TV are all these crazy people we fight with. So I think we gravitate, again and again and again. I guess you’re gonna have to wait and find out.

I know you’ve been involved with a number of different projects outside of MTV. Maybe can you talk a little bit about some of those projects and what else you’re working on right now?

Right now I am working blogging about the show, which is not fun. Because I don’t know how to censor myself and I’m also really like excited and intense. So I’m not really working on anything. I’m just working on, I don’t know…for the first time I just want to watch the show, absorb it, enjoy it and feel it. All the other shows, I’m on tour, I’m going from city to city, you know doing club appearances, and this time I just wanted to slow down and actually see what I really do. I watch it with my friends and like throw parties and I don’t know, I’m not really doing anything. I have a cat.

Tonya CooleyCan you talk a little bit about some of the other projects that you’ve been involved with outside of MTV?

I mean, yeah I’ve been kind of across the board I think. E! Entertainment, VH1, Celebrity Paranormal, that was frightening, a little bit of Cinemax. I’ve kind of just been all over the board. I’ll go wherever I get booked and wherever there’s work. I guess I do have my hand…I’m dabbling in a little project, working on a lot of, I don’t know, maybe you might see me in a calendar sometime soon. Working on some clothing, I don’t know, just random stuff. I mean if people buy, you know, something that you make even if it’s a tee shirt, you might as well make it. So yeah I just kind of have my hand in a lot of things. I feel like every Real World kid is always trying to say that they’re doing so well and they’re this and they’re that and I’m doing all right. I’m happy with my life, I’m happy with where I am and I’m totally psyched about the show.

I heard you recently got married.

Recently, I love that. In the bag. Yeah, a while back that happened. I think that you’ll see a lot of that unfold on the next season. So yeah, I don’t really have anything to say about that.

Well congratulations.

Thank you, thank you. I know it’s so funny that people know so much of my personal life. The other day somebody came up to me and they were like, “You can’t drink, you have kidney stones.” And I’m like, “Dude, that was like five years ago.” So it’s a trip but I really like the ride and I think the older that I get, I don’t know, I’m starting to enjoy my fans and realize that actually people do like me whether or not I’m, you know, they like it all. So I’m happy with it. They may not like it all but they watch it all.

Any final words out there for your fans?

Yeah, final words. First of all I love you guys, never thought I’d be saying that but…every Tuesday night right after the show I’m blogging my butt off on my MySpace page so you know, get to where everyone is at, MySpace.com, if you don’t know and it’s Ms. Tonya Cooley. And I’ve just kind of given it up; I don’t really care any more. I’m not making friends or enemies, I’m just kind of telling you exactly what happens on the show so check it out.

(Interview conducted by Royce Yuen)

(Photos courtesy of Jason Campbell)