The Realness of Reality TV: Emma Sweigard from MTV's 'Are You the One?' By: Camila Carrillo

There were Lorelei and Rory Gilmore, the witty and intelligent mother-daughter duo of the hit show, "Gilmore Girls." There was Oprah, the woman who managed to break down every wall and obstacle in the way of becoming one of the most influential women on TV. All these TV personalities, and more, fictional or otherwise, served as great role models for young girls who needed that extra push to not care about whether or not their crush called or to raise their hand and be the smartest girl in their class. Teenage girls looked up to women like these and wanted to dress like them, speak like them, and be as successful as them.

Now, I'm 19 years-old, and not only have the people who young girls view as role models changed, but so has the type of TV they watch. Reality TV is all the rage, not that it wasn't popular in the past, but now social media plays a role into how it affects young girls. Kendall and Kylie Jenner, 21 and 19 years-old, sisters of the famous Kardashian trio, are regulars on "Keeping Up with the Kardashians," not to mention social media moguls. They advertise using waist trainers to tighten the look of a girl's waist and post pictures of themselves wearing jewelry that costs more than my college tuition. Kendall is a great super model, and Kylie runs her own cosmetic company. Both are very successful and got great grades in high school, but they don't lend a hand at showing girls who aren't born into wealth what they can do in their everyday lives.

There's nothing wrong with caring about appearances, but now a days, girls like my 16-year-old little sister and her friends care only about looking and dressing like Kendall and Kylie. They watch "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" and wish that their lives could be as fabulous and luxurious, if not at least hoping they could experience some more of the exciting drama displayed on the show.

I have to cut them some slack though, because yes, I admit it! I love reality TV. But, when I was 16, people used reality TV as a way to feel excitement during their boring, plain and average lives (you caught me, I'm talking about myself). Despite this guilty pleasure, I'd only watch the reality shows on Bravo for entertainment and a couple of laughs, but never hoping that my life could be like those in reality TV shows. I'd never act the way these women did, let alone want to wear the same clothes or the speak using the same lingo. It wasn't until this year that I realized young girls viewing these shows are actually really influenced by what they watch (do we actually believe that 13-year-old girls would be twerking and spending $30 on Kylie Lip Kips if they weren't?).

One day, my sister and I started watching TV together and came across a show on MTV called "Are You the One?" We watched, we got addicted, and we noticed that it's not your typical present-day reality TV show. Surprisingly, it's not dedicated to showing off exuberant amounts of wealth or the lives of basketball/rockstar/politician/ football/doctor/plastic surgeon wives.

The show is all about love and people who believe they're no good when it comes to relationships. MTV chooses 10 boys and 10 girls and asks them, their family and their friends questions that will help MTV's "love experts" match them up with another contestant on the show. They keep the results of who their "perfect match" is secret (those sneaky people!) and leave it up to the contestants to find their perfect match using only their heads and their hearts. They all stay in a huge mansion on an island in Hawaii and every week, the contestants make new connections with each other and pair up to participate in a challenge. The top three couples who win are sent on adventurous dates outside of the house to get to know each other better. Everyone back at the house votes on one out of the three couples to send to the truth booth-- the only way to get verification of whether or not the person they chose that week is their perfect match. If the couple that was voted into the truth booth is a perfect match, they pack their bags and head over to the honeymoon suite where they are free to roam Hawaii and spend time with only each other. At the end of the week, there is a matchup ceremony where the men or women (it changes every week) choose who they think is their perfect match. The host pulls a lever and beams of light shoot into the sky indicating how many perfect matches are sitting next to each other... but not who those matches are. The cast has 10 weeks to find their perfect match and, oh yeah, if they win, they all get to split a total of a million dollars.

While watching season 4 of the show last year, my sister and I developed a love for our favorite cast member, Emma Sweigard. Little did I know at the time, unlike the other reality TV stars, she'd end up being the type that both I and my little sister could look up to.

Taken from Emma Sweigard's Instagram account. Pictured left, Emma eating ice cream while being herself, pictured middle, a photo of Emma, pictured right, Emma with cast members from the show.

It all started with an Instagram picture she posted of herself in a black leotard. The picture was taken before she was casted by MTV, and the caption went on to describe the struggles she faced since then. She said that she missed the confidence she'd once had and how she had felt depressed after filming the show. Emma encouraged fighting the struggles we battle everyday, and loving ourselves for who we are. Because of that post, I decided to reach out to her and ask about what it's like to be on reality TV and what it's like being able to spread such a positive message.

( The photo mentioned above) This photo is a screenshot off of Emma Sweigard's Instagram account.

The 22-year-old California native first auditioned for the show as a joke after being turned down by the popular reality show, the Bachelor.

"I was almost on the Bachelor, Ben’s season, and I didn’t end up getting picked and was devastated so my sisters were like, 'You should do this show!'... I jokingly sent in an application and said, 'I’ve dated professional atheletes, millionaires and idiots and I’m willing to make a fool out of myself on TV if you can actually find me a good guy.' Joke was on me because they called me the very next day and the rest was history," Emma said.

On the show, Emma was feisty, real, trendy, and blunt in the absolute best way. She seemed to be having the best time meeting new people and enjoying the beauty of Hawaii, but this wasn't the case. It turns out, that reality TV is not always exactly how it seems (who would've thought?). Emma has Celiacs Diseases, and for those who don't know what that is, it's an autoimmune disorder that is caused by a reaction to gluten. While on the show, in the midst of partying and spending time with castmates, Emma was accidentally ingesting gluten through SKY vodka and gained a total of 25 pounds while filming the show.

Long story short, she started feeling miserable. As a result, everything you wish wouldn't happen to you, happened to her. She developed severe acne, her hair was falling out, and she'd cringe at the thought of watching herself on TV. Life wasn't easy for Emma after the show. When an episode would air, nasty comments about her weight and appearance made her feel worse than ever.

"I think going on reality TV made me super self conscious. Which is something I had never felt before... I didn't look or feel like myself." Emma said.

After the show ended, her social media accounts gained more followers and fans started to pour in. Emma didn't hesitate to use social media as a platform to show off her fit and healthy life style, spread words of encouragement and self love, prove that girls do eat more than just a salad for lunch, and show that negativity on social media is never okay.

"I just want girls to know whatever it is, it can and will get better if you work on it every day. I felt so so horrible at certain points that I honestly didn’t know what else to do. I refused to post that I was 'happy.' I have to be authentic no matter what. And honestly, you guys made me feel so much better. I felt accepted, even though I didn’t feel accepting of myself or my situation," Emma said.

Emma has moved on, and is working on becoming the best version of herself she can be. She used her winnings from the show and opened an online boutique (a really great one I may add). She, Camille and Victoria, all "Are You the One?" veterans, are now "soul sistas," and talk everyday because, let's get real, no one else can really understand what happened behind the cameras.

The realness of reality TV is that it sometimes produces stars who don't realize the impact they make on young girls. It's not always the way we picture it in our minds and not everyone gets thrilled about the thought of watching themselves on TV. There's more behind the scenes, and even the stars who I believe are idolized by thousands get criticized by millions. Basically, folks, it's not all that it's cracked up to be.

So, let's face it. The world isn't perfect, and it certainly won't produce role models like Rory and Lorelai for every generation (sobs internally). But it doesn't take the Beyoncé's of the world to impact young girls, such as myself, in a positive way. Emma did nothing but live her life and star in a reality TV show for a single season. She's not rolling around in billions of dollars or leading a multimillion dollar incorporation, but she's doing just enough to do what people with greater power fail to do. She is spreading a positive message with the voice she does have. She is working and creating a business with the money she won from the show and is working on herself. Whether or not she realizes it, her 80K followers look up to her and view her as a great role model. All it took to get my attention was a simple post on Instagram.

Above is a video Emma made for me to include with this article as a message to her fans. You can follow her social media accounts by pressing the links below!

Above is a trailer of MTV's show, "Are You the One?" for Emma's season.

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