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Cast members are paid a small stipend for their participation in the show.

The cast of the first season, for example, was given ,500.

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The show also gained widespread attention with its third season, The Real World: San Francisco, which aired in 1994, and depicted the conflict between David "Puck" Rainey, a bicycle messenger criticized for his poor personal hygiene, As the show increased in popularity, Zamora’s life as someone living with AIDS gained considerable notice, garnering widespread media attention.

Zamora was one of the first openly gay men with AIDS to be portrayed in popular media, and after his death on November 11, 1994 (mere hours after the final episode of his season aired), he was lauded by then-President Bill Clinton.

Cannatella has also appeared on other reality shows, such as The Surreal Life, Battle of the Network Reality Stars, and Kill Reality, the latter of which also featured Hill and Cooley.

Mike Mizanin has also found fame as a WWE wrestler wrestling under the name "The Miz," a character he debuted during the Back to New York season.

Such is the lot facing the wayward wastrels of The Real World, something new in excruciating torture from the busy minds at MTV." Shales also remarked upon the cast members’ creative career choices, saying, "You might want to think about getting a real job." Nonetheless, the series was a hit with viewers.