“It’s kind of like a football team.”: Sam McGinn returns to MTV on tonight’s “The Challenge”


On The Real World: San Diego, we met Sam McGinn, a 20-something lesbian from Virginia Beach who had a drag king alter-ego and some major game, picking up girls in every bar she went — much more than her straight male counterparts. But what was most evident about Sam from that season was her heart. Her penchant for kindness and keeping herself out of drama didn’t mean she didn’t stand up for herself, though, and often schooled her homophobic housemates on what is not OK to say about gay people. She was also able to wordlessly communicate to her peers that she is just like them and deserves the same respect, which likely won over some viewers who had never met a lesbian, or at least someone like Sam.

Tonight Sam joins three past San Diego castmates on MTV’s The Challenge, so we caught up with her to find out what she’s been up to since her last reality show aired and what we can expect this season.

AfterEllen.com: So what have you been up to since the airing of The Real World: San Diego?

Sam McGinn: I’ve been traveling quite a bit, and I’ve moved in with my girlfriend. We’ve been together since the end of November, and we moved in together in March. I work at Buffalo Wild Wings in the kitchen, and I’ve been doing appearances and volunteering — really a bunch of stuff.

AE: So now you’re attached! How did you meet your girlfriend?

SM: We met at a bar!

AE: So where are you living nowadays?

SM: Still living in Virginia Beach, Virginia, my hometown.

AE: In this season of The Challenge, you, Zach and Frank are reunited and thrown on a team. At the end of The Real World: San Diego, Zach and Frank were not on good terms. Did they get over their differences and work as a team?

SM: You know, it’s kind of like a football team. You work with a bunch of different people, and sometimes you don’t like those people, but when it comes to game time, you suck it up and make it work.

AE: The trailer for The Challenge shows a lot of blowouts, fighting and general insanity. Frank, unsurprisingly, is featured prominently making a scene. Do you generally stay out of trouble this season?

SM: Just like in The Real World: San Diego, I don’t want to be involved in drama. Frank was portrayed as kind of an asshole that season, and he saw it and realizes that, “Oh crap, I can’t do that.” I try to stay out of anything that will make me look bad, due to the fact that I represent a community that doesn’t have a lot of people in the limelight to look up to.

AE: Homophobia was an issue tackled in the Real World house, with Nate maturing and getting over his discomfort with gay people. Is this an issue in The Challenge house?

SM: The difference between The Real World and The Challenge is that there is money involved. It’s not just seven people hanging out for a summer. So differences just get put aside.

AE: Have you kept in touch with cast members from Real World: San Diego, or is the challenge the first time you’ve seen or heard from any of them since you parted ways? Are you close with anyone from that season?

SM: Through the airing of our season I kept in touch with my entire cast, but after the reunion I sort of lost touch with a few cast members. However, I will always stay close with everyone because we have an unspoken bond.

AE: Reality TV magic tends to exaggerate the more extreme situations or reactions for dramatic purposes, and often times, people are portrayed as “types” — was Zach really that homophobic last season or was all that animosity simply because he personally didn’t like Frank?

SM: Frank instigated many of their arguments and fights, but you see how they really work together on The Challenge.

AE: Some of the challenges look life-threatening and are really scary. Who is the biggest wuss on the San Diego team, and who was the bravest?

SM: Everyone on my team has their strengths and weaknesses and we’re all team players with the ultimate goal in mind: prize money.

AE: Does your drag king alter ego $hawn Jade make an appearance this season?

SM: $hawn Jade has taken a back seat, due to the airing of The Real World: San Diego, doing appearances, moving out of my parents’ house, working all the time, filming The Challenge and life with my amazing girlfriend Serataren.

AE: What was your favorite experience that you had in Turkey that you would like to share with AfterEllen readers?

SM: The landscape and beauty – that was one of the best things about going to Turkey.

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