Sway and Heather pose with their morning show guests, Kim and Khloe Kardashian.
Long before Jessica Simpson questioned which food group Chicken of the Sea belonged to (but really, is it poultry or fish?) and Ozzy Osbourne's Satan-worshiping, bat-chewing public persona was replaced by that of a domestic gimp who makes ham sandwiches in his tighty-whities, there were seven strangers picked to live in a house, have their lives taped, and find out what happens when people stop acting polite and start getting real. And of those original seven was "Heather B." Gardner, a take-no-crap hip-hop artist on the rise. At the time, of course, Gardner thought she was simply signing up for a cool social experiment, and not the creation of a whole new television genre, but today, she humbly recognizes the enormous impact 1992's "Real World: New York" had on, well, the world as we know it. "It's still kinda hard to wrap my head around the concept," she told us earlier this week in an exclusive interview. "I will say, though, if the credit is deserved...I'm glad that I was blessed to do the first one."
Tyson delivers a uppercut to Heather's chin.
Contrary to "Real World" seasons of the 21st century, the first one didn't center much around partying and hooking up, but what did come of the housemates' time spent together were numerous heated conversations on the topics of race, gender and sexuality, which set the tone for the many years of the series that followed, in which hot-button issues such as homophobia were openly addressed, and staunch, ingrained opinions were often shifted as a result of the dialogue. Heather, Julie, Eric, Kevin, Norman, Becky and Andre deserve some big ups for being the first group to put themselves out there...even if they weren't quite aware of what they were getting themselves into.
Working it with Missy Elliot.
Despite the show being filmed over 20 years ago, Heather says she ALWAYS gets noticed on the street. "Since the very first episode aired I have never walked outside of my front door without being recognized by complete strangers," she shared. Most of the time, they say two things: "What's up, Heather B, you my girl!" and "Do you still talk to Julie?" You might be surprised to know that the answer is "of course!" -- she keeps in touch with all of her former loft-mates (though she speaks to Eric the least). It goes to show the bonds formed during filming run deep.
Hanging with a movie star, no biggie.
It's been ages since Gardner's tuned in for an episode of the series, but that's "not a hate," she says. "I'm truly happy for anyone who had or has the opportunity to do the show, but I'm grown as hell now!" (Even so, she couldn't help but laugh upon hearing that MTV was hosting a "retro" "Real World" marathon this weekend.) Besides, with her busy career co-hosting "Sway in the Morning" (yep, that Sway!) on Eminem's Sirius XM station, SHADE 45, she barely has a minute to watch girls fighting boys with table lamps. "I ain't got time for much these days but work, sleep and a cocktail," she explained. "Oh, and God! Switch the order around, God should come before cocktails!"
+ Tell us your favorite memories of Heather B, check out archival footage of her rapping, below, and keep up with her life through Twitter and her website, TheHappyHourwithHeatherB.com. And don't forget to tune in for the "RetroMTV: Real World" marathon this weekend, featuring all of Seasons 1 (New York), 3 (San Francisco) and 12 (Las Vegas)!
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