CJ warmed his way into America’s heart on MTV’s ‘The Real World: Cancun’. He most recently appeared on MTV’s ‘The Challenge: Battle of Seasons’ as one of the few Vets! In the most intense arena in challenge history, CJ was sadly sent home. You can follow CJ on twitter here, or visit his fitness website here. Read our interview with CJ below. We discuss why Jonna didn’t go into the arena, Wes, CJ’s positivity on and off camera, and CJ’s favorite tweet he’s ever gotten.
Do you agree with Brooklyn’s choice to send Cancun into the arena?
“When it’s your time, it’s your time. Up until that point we were one of the teams who avoided going into the arena, either by winning or because of our alliance. At that time in the house Cancun was getting along with everyone for the most part so us going in wasn’t a negative thing. We knew it was going to happen and that it was our time. No hard feelings! I was confident in my team. I knew we’d go into the arena and do what we had to do. I hoped we’d win and come back, but I think it was definitely a smart move on Brooklyn’s side to toss us in, because initially our team was going against them.”
Watching the episode live it seemed you really wanted Jonna to go in with you and obviously that did not happen. Can you tell us more about the decision for you to compete with Jasmine. What happened off camera?
“In the beginning when TJ first showed us the different arena games and we saw what they actually were Jonna and I said we’d compete in the strength games since we knew we were the strongest two. What MTV didn’t show is that at the point of this elimination round we thought the next step was the final. We wanted to play a smart game and elimination round. So if I went home along with whichever girl partnered with me, we wanted our team to still play with a strong foot forward. After discussing the possibility of the final being next, we made Jonna not compete in the arena, because she is the strongest girl. We wanted her to stay in the house just in case I got eliminated. That’s how that conversation broke down. Even though Jasmine and I got eliminated, Derek and Jonna are still a strong Cancun team. Our overall goal was to leave a strong team in the house.”
What do you think the chances of Cancun winning BOTS are?
“I think they have a great chance! Jonna is really good with endurance and height challenges. In the past that’s what the finals have consisted of. In episode 7, when we had to run up the mountain Jonna did great. A lot of the challenges depend on the girls’ capability. I know Derek is a great competitor too. I have so much respect for him as an athlete. A lot of people underestimate him, which can also be his strength. He isn’t given enough credit. Derek and Jonna have great communication too. They’ve known each other forever. I really have a great feeling that they will do well. I’m excited to watch it from home and to see how they do.”
What was your biggest accomplishment during The Challenge?
“My biggest accomplishment was showing fans that you can go on TV and be a positive influence. There’s a lot of drama, drinking, arguing, and just negativity on TV. Just because you’re on TV doesn’t mean you have to get involved with the negativity. I stayed away from it. I do a lot of things with positivity and the youth and coaching. I think it’s important that kids can see that you don’t have to get involved with drinking or drama just because others are. I also made a lot of friends on this challenge. The Cancun cast as a whole became so much closer. We really became a family. On our season the guys were against the girls and we didn’t get a chance to really grow as a season. On BOTS we battled together, and put ourselves on the line for each other. When all is said and done, I love the fact that I can really call Jonna, Jasmine and Derek my friends and family. I would do anything for them.”
Do you still keep in touch with any of the other Cancun housemates?
“Yes, because of Twitter and Facebook! I went to the University of Massachusetts Amherst and still go to their homecoming games. Emilee comes to Amherst and hangs out. Joey (out of all people!) was the first one of us to have a kid. It was awesome to see Joey grow up, take some steps in the right direction, and become a father. Bronne is still hilarious! Believe it or not, the entire Cancun cast became so much closer after the show aired and the camera’s were gone. It’s a difficult situation to randomly meet people and then automatically become roommates. Being roommates is a lot more difficult than just being friends with someone. The entire Real World experience is so unique and something not a lot of people get to go through. It gives you seven strangers a communality and brings you closer. It’s really incredible!”
On a challenge that was pretty much all Rookies, how did it feel to be a Vet and on a team with other Vets? How did BOTS compare to Fresh Meat II for you?
“On Fresh Meat II I was asked to join Wes’s alliance and did. At the beginning of BOTS Wes tried to get me to join an alliance with him again. Obviously, I turned that down, but in a nice way! I didn’t really trust him at that point, not saying I couldn’t in the future, but as of right then I think the best decision for me was to play the game not aligned with Wes. I wanted to play BOTS honestly. After I turned down Wes’s offer, he told me he was going to come after me and Cancun every time. Because of Wes’s threats Cancun formed an alliance with San Diego, New Orleans and Vegas. In Fresh Meat I was able to slide under the radar. I didn’t have to get involved with the politics because Wes and other players were. In BOTS I was almost forced into the role of decision maker for Cancun. That definitely makes you stand out a bit. It was nice to have a challenge in my back pocket that I’d already done. For BOTS, obviously it wasn’t just you and one partner, it was you and three partners. You work together as a team. Jasmine and Derek are great in political games. I can help with athletics, and Jonna is very intelligent. Overall Cancun was a well rounded team. It was nice that Cancun had past challenge experience. We were Veterans when it came to our mentality, but we didn’t mind acting like Rookies when it came to going against the grain.”
Your Hall Brawl arena elimination was the craziest thing I’ve seen this season! On a scale of 1-10, how difficult was it for you?
“[Laughs] I would say a 15! Once Jasmine lost, it was swimming uphill for me. It was crazy! I knew at that point I had to win either two out of three games or four out of six. Going against a beast like Zach was tough. I give Zach so much credit! He’s a physical specimen. He’s 6’4″, 250 lbs, and played football in College. Hall Brawl was his game. Knowing I had to go against him was insane. Not a lot of people expected me to even win one round. I took the arena very seriously. Zach and I both come from athletic backgrounds, so we both know how to compete, and we both went into that athletic mode (where you go crazy for little bit!). Hall Brawl was definitely a 15. The best part was seeing people’s reaction to the arena when it aired live. People on Facebook and Twitter were loving it! Fans really appreciated the way Zach and I gave that arena our all. After the arena Zach and I remained friends, and that’s one of the most important things. You are going to lose at some point in your life, but just because you lose doesn’t mean you can’t win. I won that night. I beat Zach three out of five times, and I showed people that you could lose without getting pissed and cursing/cussing. It was an intense night. I ended up going to the hospital after the arena to get my neck checked (they didn’t show that on TV obviously). They thought I broke my back. It was nuts! I can’t even fathom it. I had to get X-Rays, but it turned out the lighting on the initial X-Ray is why they thought my back was fractured. Thankfully, it really wasn’t!”
Now that social media is so huge. What has been the best tweet you’ve gotten from a fan while BOTS has aired?
“I really appreciate all the tweets! I had a mom tweeting me saying “I hope my daughter marries a guy like you”. That was really nice! I’m very fortunate to have a positive following. I’ve only gotten like two or three negative tweets throughout the whole BOTS process. The mom’s tweet was pretty sweet!”
What type of music do you listen to?
“All kinds. I go country line dancing. I love Techno and Dubstep. I love some Rock depending on the lyrics. Country is my all time favorite though because I really do love going dancing. I love everything. You put it on and somehow I’ll find a way to like it!”
You really are the moral compass on these challenges. Do you plan on doing another?
“It’s a catch-22 because I love competing, but at the same time you don’t have a lot of say in how the show airs and portrays you. I always want to maintain that positive character, but as an athlete the challenges are so difficult to turn down. Being a college athlete you get used to waking up on Saturday mornings and going to compete. It’s an intense feeling. There’s a really good chance that if MTV invited me back for another challenge I’d say yes. However, you do have to give a big chunk of your time away, and things are going really well for me with work at home.