There is no doubt that reality shows from the early 2000s have definitely inspired a generation. One of those shows being BET’s College Hill. The show ran on the network from 2004-2009 and followed the lives of students at different HBCU’s, and showed how they juggled their social lives, as well as the college life.
One of the most memorable seasons from the series is Season four when they switched things up and took students from California and put them in a house with students from the Virgin Islands as they all attended The University of the Virgin Islands, and let’s just say some people are still talking about that season till this day.
I was able to catch up with JayTee, Willie, and Vanessa from that fourth season of the series to talk about the impact of the show, whether or not they would be up for reuniting with their former castmates and what they’ve been up to over the years.
Continue to read below to see what they had to say:
Q: You guys were a part of what is being considered the golden era of reality television. However, at the time you guys were also college students, how was it balancing a college career, but also you’re filming a reality show at the same time?
JayTee: “For me, the balance was easy. It was outside entities and distractions that were my problems. When I was at the university, it allowed me to truly be myself. My purpose for joining the show was to have that opportunity to attend an actual university, so filming was never an issue because I never allowed it to distract me from getting my education.”
Vanessa: “Balancing wasn’t difficult. Once I was selected, I made sure that I could keep all my classes so it wouldn’t interrupt the flow of the semester. I was able to do video conference calls for some classes so it worked out for me. Just having cameras in my presence 24/7 was new and different.”
Willie: “It was interesting because we were young kids with cameras following us around in a place where people don’t want to be on camera. So many times us and the camera crew were like light to roaches (not calling them roaches so don’t take that out of context) they would scatter or shy away. I reveled for the camera I’m a Leo lol so it was fun. I was originally going to school in LA, but for the show they made me transfer to the University of the Virgin Islands. But I originally moved to Cali from St. Louis chasing a female, I only went to school to have a place to stay. I never used my degree, even to this day just a brotha who is $60k in student loan debt! But I got my degree! You’re welcome momma, lol.”
“While on the show we didn’t give a damn about school. We were going to be “stars” we left out a lot for filming, missing days to go to Miami to go to photo shoots and stuff. I took up Poetry, Fencing and Caribbean History. Poetry because I was a ladies man, I really was interested in Caribbean history and fencing because just in case the apocalypse came I’d be ready.”
“I’m sure the teachers hated us because we were gone a lot. BET and Tracey Edmonds is about making a show they give no f*cks about educating us or seeing that we were taken care of past that. But it’s not a shame on them thing we just didn’t know any better. Luckily for me, there were a couple of women Leslie Gay, Tosha Whitten Griggs and Momma Lynn Jeter who took a liking to me and helped me become the stand out I became and showed me some of the ropes behind the scenes and because of those three I’ll always appreciate them.”
“We didn’t get paid a penny to be on that show. While we were on tv we were working regular jobs, I tried acting but none took reality stars, especially black ones serious as a credit. I worked telemarketing while I would get hundreds of messages from fans and I would party with Nelly, Lil Wayne, and Chris Brown then have to rush to work afterward. It was crazy.”
Q: The entire “College Hill” franchise highlighted different HBCU’s. At any point in your experience did you realize you were a part of a brand that would help encourage more students to enroll in historically black institutions?
JayTee: “I never realized it! To be honest, prior to joining the show, I never knew anything about HBCU’s or what they were. Coming off the Eastside in South Central Los Angeles, we’re not taught about HBCU’s and the importance of them. So experiencing going to an HBCU was a major culture shock for me.”
Vanessa: “To be honest I had no idea the magnitude of this show. I didn’t know how big it would be! It was so great to see we had such an impact on and in people’s lives! After the show aired I had so many people hit me up inquiring about the Virgin Islands and our HBCU. Not sure how many actually enrolled but such a great feeling to know I was part of the first group that put the V.I. on the map, we were international! People not only from the U.S. contacted me but from Europe and all around the globe! All people remember is the fight (which was a highlight) but for me, it was being authentic and that made my true fans want to experience our culture and land!”
Willie: “Naw I didn’t think about it until students were like we didn’t know that the V.I. even had a college and people were going to HBCU’s so they could get a chance to be on College Hill lol. That’s how powerful we were and that’s really cool to have help HBCU’s grow and become recognized more. It was a great experience.”
Q: Although there were seasons before your cast and after your cast, season four has been named one of the most memorable. One reason being this was the first season to be filmed outside of the U.S. Also, because you guys had memorable moments, including the fight between Vanessa (you) and Krystal. What can you remember from that very night, and what was the biggest lesson you learned from that moment?
JayTee: “The fight…lol! Man, it was crazy! I remember the tension in the house was HIGH! We all were in the heat of our emotions and sh*t just got crazy. Everything happened so fast. We allowed misunderstandings and miscommunication to happen and the fight followed plus a lot of sh*t beyond the camera was being manipulated. We had things to get off our chest and so did they. Bottom line, it shouldn’t have happened. We all supposed to be there enjoying ourselves.”
Vanessa: “Lol! Mehson! My rass was lit! We had just come from the club, I was not sober at all! So the fight might not have happened if I was. I just remember being so boiled inside from so much that I was going through in life and her lack of thinking before she spoke set me off!”
Willie: “There was tension built between everyone and you have to look at it from more than just a cultural thing because it was also family like. Have you not fought your brothers and sisters? Uncles and grandparents? When you have that many personalities mixed up a fight is bound to happen. Hell even me and Chicky got into it they didn’t air it because they said they wanted us to stay the likable characters and the Vanessa and Krystal storyline of them fighting was way better for TV. Me and Chicky fighting would’ve been like watching two teddy bears like ‘ok you two cuties stop that before you pull some of your fluff out.’ But when they fought it was painful because we knew one was leaving and we didn’t want either to go and Vanessa became close to me, the same as Krystal.”
“We were the best season for many reasons besides the fight. This was a great mix of people and the seasons declined afterward because they could never replicate it. Lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice. They played us on MTV, Vh1, all overseas, and they lucked up with having me,lol. I mean the thing that makes every dish good is that one thing you do different and I think I added to that recipe because I was the comic relief. They say comedy heals all and because I was cool on both sides and was goofy and fun I brought the show back to normalcy. The producer Sean Rankine came to me before we filmed and was like ‘Willie this season may be very dramatic we need you to be you and be the comic relief to balance things out,’ and I did that. Then the seasons afterward they tried to create this again and couldn’t. There’s only one Vanessa, Idesha, Krystal, JayTee, Fallon, Dre and one Willie Macc.”
Q: What would you say was your fondest memory from the entire experience?
JayTee: “My fondest memories were the people on the island and the island itself. One thing about the V.I, they love the skin they’re in. They love being black! They’ll take the shirt off their back to give to you if you need it. Greatest people you could ever meet! Also, glad to say, the entire experience helped me find myself. Anyone who has done reality TV knows the politricks and bullsh*t beyond the lens that goes down. Reality TV can either make you or break you! I was blessed and fortunate to survive my break. Two suicide attempts, a few dances with the devil and I’m still here…all praises TMH.”
Vanessa: “Oh man, our first night, all of our travels, me rubbing Tyrese’s head at Rip the Runway! Lmao! (Ask Idesha about that)! We had so many great moments it’s so hard to just pick one! Being grouped with this cast was amazing! Sure I’d probably swap one or two of em but it wouldn’t have made the show what it was.”
Willie: “My fondest memory from all of that was the people’s who lives we touched. I’ve had women propose to me, hung out with celebrities many people could only dream of meeting. I met Janet Jackson and she knew who I was, smoked weed with Dave Chapelle, and it helped build my stand up comedy presence. I miss the V.I. I never went back since we left and I keep saying I will but never do. I miss the chill vibes, eating conch fritters, making ppl laugh. Plus the V.I. is beautiful and the people are great. The best time was when we ditched the cameras and snuck out to see the island by ourselves with the local students. We told BET we were in class, skipped class, and got to see how things really were because no one wanted to be cool with us because they didn’t want to be on camera. Adult truth or dare and drinking games, threesomes and all kinds of debauchery they couldn’t air even if they did get us on camera. That was the best of times for a 21-year-old. I love it all, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Q: We’re currently in an era where there are a lot of remakes and reboots. If given the chance to reunite with your castmates for another show, would you be here to do it? Why or why not?
JayTee: “Would I reunite for another run, no! Most definitely not! I had my fair share of reality shows…no more for me. The reason why because I allowed it to chew me up and spit me out. It served its purpose in my life. Before, during and after the show I knew there was more to life then ‘College Hill.’ I never went on the show to be on TV, I went to be the first in my family to say I attended an actual University. The Most HIGH used me for what he needed to use me for. Those that it’s for, more power to them and God bless them but me, naw…never again.”
Vanessa: “I definitely would reunite with them! We all keep in touch for the most part and we have a blast every time we link up, it’s been a minute, so #ShadeRoom make it happen!”
Willie: “Yeah I’d do it! It’s different than the Myspace era that I grew up in. Knowing now what I know I could flip it like I’m Jay-Z. I loved my cast, the fighting, the good times, the partying, and just laying in bed together cuddled up and watching movies. There were talks of bringing ‘College Hill’ back from Michael McQuaran, Tracey Edmonds’ little brother and executive producer but nothing happened.”
Q: What have you been up to over the years?
JayTee: “Over the years I’ve been proudly fathering my beautiful children, recording music, directing films and running my Entertainment company #Ryda4LifeFilmz. Working on a highly anticipated debut album, a documentary, and a book. Our award-winning film ‘Hands Up Don’t Shoot’ has been featured on the Aspire TV Network and is on Amazon Prime and our award-winning feature film ‘Frank BLUE’ is currently out now on BluRay and could be streamed on Trindie Media TV. I just finished a feature film I’m starring in called ‘The Council’ which will be in theaters next year and recently directed a web series comedy called ‘Eugima’s Village’ set to premiere next summer. Just been staying busy, productive and grounded in faith. It’s a lot of crazy things happening in South Central Los Angeles, so I’m doing my part to bring the soul of the city back. Applying the knowledge acquired from the Most HIGH and applying it to my everyday program.”
Vanessa: “I’m a mother of 3, relocated from St. Croix. Single (lol)… and just full-joying every bit of life with my little ones!”
Willie: “Since ‘College Hill’ I became a TV commercial actor being in over 40 national commercials traveled to New Zealand to be the face of a company called Pump Water and I’m working as a traveling comic. I haven’t had to work in 4 years and that’s a blessing! The money I made in commercials I took home to St.Louis and bought real estate giving me more time to write and build my stand up to where it is now. I talk about life after college hill, I talk about being the father of a 17-year-old son. I had my son in high school! First time I ever had sex I knocked up a lesbian who wanted to try out men! So freaking crazy and I talk about our family dynamic. We are like a black modern family. My baby momma, her girlfriend, my son his sister who is 14 and gay (not mines biologically but I adopted her because her real dad isn’t in her life at all) and me trying to be a big happy dysfunctional, by society’s standards, family. I’d love for yall to see me I have headlining dates in 2020 and I’m one of the featured comics on TruTvs ‘LaffMobb LaffTracks’ with Donnel Rawlins, Owen Smith, Chris Redd, Chante Wayans and more.”