Film Law: Can Allegedly Raped ‘Real World’ Star Beat MTV’s Strict Reality TV Contract?


No Gravatar

This is some really interesting stuff. I think I’ll let this play out just a little longer before discussing, briefly, reality tv contracts and what you should know.

“By now, it’s pretty well known that reality TV stars sign pretty producer-friendly contracts for the pleasure of appearing on television and potentially becoming famous. But when the Village Voice obtained a copy of MTV’s standard Real World cast member contract two months ago, many were still shocked just how far it went and whether the network really needed to insulate itself from liability from such acts as cast members possibly being humiliated or forced into “non-consensual physical contact.”

Now, that contract is likely to be front-and-center after former Real World cast member Tonya Cooley filed a lawsuit on Thursday against MTV and Bunim/Murray Productions, alleging she was victim to much sexual abuse during the Thailand season of the The Real World/ Road World Challenge. Cooley is alleging some pretty gruesome stuff, including being raped by a toothbrush by two other contestants when she was passed out.

But still, MTV doesn’t have legal exposure because of the waiver, right? Not so fast. In her complaint, Cooley is offering a theory that MTV has violated various labor laws. At issue might be the question of whether TV reality stars like Cooley are really network employees.

In Cooley’s complaint (below), she makes some pretty graphic accusations about the nightmare she experienced on the show.

The defendants are said to have supplied unlimited alcoholic beverages to encourage participants to engage in scandalous behavior. Male contestants are claimed to have done things such as forcibly removing female bathing suits and touching intimate areas of female cast member bodies. And a couple of the contestants are alleged to have engaged in rape, as described above.

When Cooley brought her concerns to producers, she was allegedly told to “just deal with it.”

Meanwhile, the producers are said to have rewarded scandalous behavior with perks such as being named team leaders and getting more air time. Eventually, after a slapping incident, the producers are said to have “terminated” Cooley and sent her home.

Now Cooley is suing for sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination and other violations of labor law. . .”

THR, Esq. has the full story.

Photocredit: Wireimage


WHAT IS Fashionentlaw™: It is a law blog discussing hot topics in pop culture that arise primarily out of the fashion industry and intersects/ collides with the law. WHAT I DO: My name is Uduak Oduok and I am a California licensed attorney who helps creatives and business owners sleep better at night by protecting their creativity and reputation, securing their rights, and helping them with the monetization of their intellectual assets. WHO I WORK WITH: I have counseled a range of clients from musicians, models, actors, actresses, and designers, to diverse business owners in numerous areas of the law including contracts, business law, fashion and entertainment law, copyright, trademark, and intellectual property law. I bring over two decades of first-hand knowledge and experiences that are as diverse as they are deep in the fashion and entertainment industries (modeling, retail, production, public relations, journalism, and publishing). I am an attorney who “gets it” when it comes to resolving legal issues for the fashion and entertainment industries. INTERESTED IN TALKING TO ME ABOUT LEGAL REPRESENTATION? To arrange a consultation to discuss your case, contact me today at 916-361-6506 or email me directly at ( Full bio: Ms. Uduak Bio/ Twitter @uduaklaw