Almost everyone gathered in the Student Center ballroom Tuesday night had their heads on a swivel.
The atmosphere somewhat resembled a high school gymnasium prior to a homecoming pep rally as Ball State students waited anxiously for her arrival -- and why not? For 22 weeks last year she was in their face, on their minds and all over their television sets.
In an entrance resembling a bride walking down the isle, Melissa Howard, cast member of MTV's "The Real World New Orleans," strutted to the front of the room, took the microphone from the podium and "got real" with a standing room only crowd of 450.
Howard didn't deliver a pre-scripted speech, instead she allowed the audience do what camera crews did for months during filming of the ninth season of MTV's cornerstone reality show -- she let them probe.
"I guess I would be here to entertain you," she said.
What proceeded was well over an hour of questions touching on subjects ranging from her relationships with fellow cast members to product placement on "The Real World."
THE "REAL" WORLD?
From 6 a.m. curfews to five guest limits to plastic pillars in front of the now extinct Belfort mansion, Howard was quite frank in response to questions about the show's secrets.
"Product placement was huge in our house," Howard said. "After awhile our whole fridge was filled with Dr. Pepper."
She said each cast member was allowed only to use a Sony Walkman when listening to music. She also said she was not permitted to take furniture or dishes from the house when the show ended.
"Everybody in the house hooked up with Jamie except me," she said, jokingly.
Howard said although the two's relationship never quite had the romantic edge MTV played up, she has kept in touch with him. According to Howard, Jamie now lives in Colorado, runs his own business and is "into spirituality."
"Yeah he was moody," Howard said in reference to David -- a roommate she often said she had "all too real" arguments with.
Howard said she thought MTV made their relationship seem strained due to racial identity differences -- she, on the other hand, has a different theory.
"I'm a drama queen." Howard said, "Why would I need (David) to help me out?"
Howard poked fun at Julie's naive attitude several times during the course of her appearance.
"I wanted to put pins and needles in her bed," she said, referring to Julie's use of the word "colored" in connection with blacks and her initial attitude towards gays.
"Every year the show casts one or more people that (race) is their issue," she said.
Howard said she felt isolated at times, knowing that the show cast her in anticipation of racial tension between the two.
"I had to take the high road," she said. "I can't be a spokesperson for the whole black community."
HER LIFE NOW
Howard currently lives in Los Angeles and sells her artwork online.