Tonya Cooley was featured as a member of the cast in the eleventh season of the MTV reality television series The Real World, which was set in Chicago. She was born on January 7, 1980 in Visalia, California. When she was 12 years old, she was placed into a foster home, though she also has three brothers and one sister. During her appearance on The Real World, she hailed from Walla Walla, Washington, and had never before communicated much with either gay people or African-Americans. Cooley was also often together with her boyfriend Justin, and the show marked a period of separation for them.
On the show, Cooley was much less sociable compared to her other housemates, to the point of them alienating her at times. She also underwent hospitalization no less than three times during the season, because she was suffering from kidney stones, and also left for a week in order to head home. Cooley was often shown arguing with her former best friend Cara, with Aneesa, and with Theo. Her confrontations with Theo even involved a glass being thrown at one point. She was also constantly on the phone with her boyfriend, which was a source of irritation for the others.
(Photo courtesy of MTV)