When you talk to Mike “The Miz” Mizanin one thing is clear — he loves “The Real World.” The WWE Superstar was only 20 years old when he first appeared on “The Real World: Back to New York” (Season 10) in 2001.
It was on the show that he created “The Miz,” a wrestling alter ego that would follow him for the rest of his career. Mizanin is so equated with the nickname that it’s hard to remember that The Miz was actually born on the show instead of a personality Mizanin brought into the house.
“[The Miz] was probably on maybe two episodes of the 22 that we did. After that episode of ‘The Miz’ aired, literally I was no longer Mike from ‘The Real World.’ It was always The Miz,” Mizanin explains in a phone interview with Zap2it.
“It was the turning point not only for the show, but for my life in general because after The Miz became who he was it allowed me to realize maybe I could do WWE as a career.”
Mizanin has been playing The Miz for WWE for over a decade now, traveling the world and appearing in movies. He’s done nine reality shows in total and it’s a life he could have dreamed of before he walked through those doors in New York.
It is not just the career opportunities that Mizanin has been able to reap from appearing on the show. He also credits the experience with transforming a naive kid from Parma, Ohio into a more accepting and educated man.
“I sit back and I’ll watch the VHS tapes. I would watch these things and I just cringe at some of the things that I say, but I’m glad that I said them because it made me learn so much more,” Mizanin says. “Sometimes the worst things that you can say really teach you a lot about what you can learn. It made me realize where I was at in my life. I’m glad I went through it because it allowed me to open my mind even more and get educated.”
One of the things Mizanin needed to learn about once he was in the house was not pigeon holing an entire race of people into a stereotype. During the first full day in the house Mizanin made the mistake of telling Coral Smith and Malik Cooper, two of his African American roommates, that his father didn’t hire black people because where he’s from black people are less educated than white people. Smith’s reaction triggered what may be one of the hugest fights in “The Real World” history.
“She wasn’t sure if I was racist, ignorant or just stupid. One thing was for sure she wasn’t going to let me off the hook,” Mizanin says. “I wasn’t racist. I was just telling how my life was and trying to be as open as possible. Then it was more of a learning curve for me for being on the show and being around people that I normally wouldn’t hang around because I wasn’t subjected to them [back home].”
Mizanin is also quick to credit his roommates for helping him grow as a person and for showing him the potential he didn’t know he had before coming onto the show.
“Malik took me under his wing and started educating me. He took me to museums and taught me about certain things. I was more than willing to be open about it.”
While Mizanin was determined to be open from the beginning, that isn’t the case for everyone that comes onto the show. As the show approaches Season 30, there has been more than one person disgruntled with how they were portrayed during their time on “The Real World” — but Mizanin doesn’t have any sympathy for them.
“Let’s put it this way — whatever you give out on ‘The Real World,’ that’s what you see. Some people don’t know how to be real on camera so they don’t like what they see because they just don’t know how to be,” Mizanin says. “When you don’t give all of who you are then you see the person you try to portray and maybe it isn’t you.”
While Mizanin admits that he isn’t a fan of the current reality TV climate, he understands the need for “The Real World” to evolve and stay relevant — and you won’t catch him saying a bad word about it.
“You have to always evolve to keep the audience captivated in what you’re doing and that’s exactly what ‘The Real World’ has done,” he says. “I haven’t looked back since my time on the show. I am all smiles and have nothing but great things to say about MTV as well as ‘The Real World.'”