Eric Nies is a face familiar to anyone who grew up watching MTV. One of reality television’s first and brightest stars, Eric appeared in the very first season of MTV’s The Real World. The Real World: New York went on to shatter boundaries and inspire important conversations that are still relevant today.
Following his time on the series, Eric Nies went on to host The Grind, Dance Fever, and was a fan-favorite appearing on multiple seasons of The Real World/Road Rules Challenge.
We had the opportunity to chat with Eric Nies about his time on The Real World: New York, returning for a reunion in 2021 during a pandemic for The Real World: Homecoming, the transformational journey he has embarked on since his time on the show, and his thoughts on returning for The Challenge: All Stars.
Check out our exclusive interview and conversation with Eric Nies below:
Thank you so much for doing this!
I’m happy to do it.
How are you? How’s pandemic life treating you?
It’s been amazing [laughs] It’s been a blessing in many ways. I see a lot of positive things coming out of it.
I know there are a few exciting things that we can talk about but I wanted to start with The Real World: Homecoming, which was amazing by the way. How was that experience reuniting with your original castmates? What was your initial reaction when you were pitched the idea of a reunion?
I was excited in the beginning to see everybody. It was unfortunate that I wasn’t able to be in the same room with everyone so that takes away a lot of that face-to-face emotional content experience. I had to virtually be brought into the room. It wasn’t a great experience for me, personally, because I really value intimate face-to-face authentic emotional conversation. So that wasn’t able to happen. I have a feeling that something will come back around in the future and we’ll all be together at some point.
This may be corny but I actually ended up crying when I watched Homecoming once I realized you weren’t going to get to visit the original loft. I was so upset! I felt like everyone was robbed of Eric Nies hugs in your comfy sweater.[laughs] Aww that’s sweet. I was emotional too through a lot of it. I think all of us were. I guess the Great Creator had another plan.
It’s really interesting how those same conversations that were had during the original run are still so important and timely today. Was this your first time rewatching the old clips from the show?
Yes, I haven’t seen the old clips from the show in a long time and now they’re popping up everywhere [laughs] Every day in my Instagram or somewhere, somebody is posting something from way back when. It’s definitely fresh and in our faces. It seems like a lot hasn’t changed but I feel that a lot has. I think the topic is still there and the conversation is still the same but I think a lot of people are changing because of that. It’s helping people to really take a good look at themselves and their fears and their judgments and where they stand personally on these types of issues.
I know some clips were dramatic but some of them were lighthearted and fun. Was there anything that you enjoyed most that you got to relive again with the cast?
For me, it’s not really about one particular thing it’s about the whole experience. I welcome and am open to all conversations and all different types of feelings and opinions. I love to look at those things and talk about those things. So the whole experience for me was really refreshing and I just see a lot more opportunity in the future to come from it, like this conversation.
Yay! Do you think you’ll consider another mini-reunion to make up for that missed time?
For sure, I’m open to anything, I’m pretty easy.
The great thing about The Real World: Homecoming is seeing how the original cast has changed and evolved over the years. You’ve spoken about how your life has changed since your time on the show but can you talk a little about that transformation? Would you say your time on The Real World kind of set you on this journey and this path that you were meant to take?
Oh, absolutely. I talk about this often. Now we all have an opportunity because of social media and self-promotion and selfies and all those types of things but back in the day, 30 years ago, we didn’t have any of that. If a camera was to follow you around for 3 months and film everything that you do and everything that you say, and it records all of your feelings and opinions and judgments and fears… and to have to go back and watch that, if it doesn’t have an impact on your life [laughs] you’re probably in a coma.
For me, that was my first real taste of spirituality. People kind of flinch when they hear me say that but to me, I look at spirituality as looking at yourself. It’s not about a religion. It’s just about the experience that you have with yourself. And The Real World and reality tv really shined a spotlight on my life and my feelings and my emotions and all the experiences that I had.
I was very open to being vulnerable and sharing a lot of it. You can be presented with the opportunity to be transparent and vulnerable, but if your judgments and your fears are too strong, very easily you can put a mask on and pretend to be something that you’re not.
I think the beauty of our show being the first Real World, we didn’t have a reference. We kind of came in there fully vulnerable and transparent because we had no idea what was gonna happen. I think you see that with the reactions from castmates. There’s a lot of people that are hesitant to go back into that world and to share themselves in that way or expose themselves. It’s not an easy world out there. There are a lot of people that are very opinionated and very judgmental and also not very nice. I think it takes a special kind of person to be able to exist in that world and navigate through it and get something very positive out of it.
I saw you post something recently about reserving judgments and I thought that was a really great thing to challenge people with…to listen to others and not to assume you know what they’re going through.
If you are even a little bit awake and you’re aware of what’s happening on the world stage… we are seeing more division and more separation and more hatred in that world. But there is also another world that’s going on of light and love and acceptance and truth. Those types of things are not obviously reported on in the mainstream media.
Earlier I was saying there is really a beautiful lesson that’s coming out of the pandemic. That’s the point of the post that I put out the other day. I find it very dangerous for people to engage in debates and conversations about things that they know nothing about. I see so much division and separation in the world right now. People on the left or the right or whatever you want to call it. But the left wing and the right wing are all a part of the same bird.
The doom and gloom can be very overwhelming. But the important thing is that you’re healthy now. A big part of your life is health and wellness. You travel all around the world and you mentioned you will offer spiritual and healing retreats. Can you share a little about your work there and why that’s important to share with others?
30 years ago, I started my own spiritual journey. I wanted to understand why I was feeling the way that I was feeling. My behavior patterns and where they came from and why do they exist? My belief and my choices in life at an early age were causing suffering and pain within me.
When I was about 25 years old, I met my first teacher who was an 8th generation Grand Master of the far east. I lived with him for 6 years and trained in meditation and the universe and detoxing and martial arts. I started to learn a lot about what’s happening in the world. I started researching and studying a lot of different things. That kind of led me down this road of healing and transformation. I got really hungry for knowledge to basically understand how to liberate myself from my own suffering.
I started researching and studying masters, teachings that were left behind thousands of years ago. I started fasting like they did and meditating like they did. Wanting to have my own personal experience of that information. I did like, a 43 day fast in the desert and started traveling around the world, sitting with monks in Tibet and meditating and chanting with them.
Then I was introduced to plant medicine. Plant medicines that have been around for 1000s of years that people have been using to heal the physical body and help to heal and transform from emotional traumas and abuse and also psychological compulsive disorders, obsessions, anxiety, depression…
*raises hand*[laughs] Yeah. I realized along the road that in giving we receive. I just saw a lot of lost souls. So, 15 years ago I created a program called The Beauty Way, which is a very intensive transformational journey. And I would bring people out into the desert for 3 to 4 weeks and guide them through a life-changing experience with meditation and fasting. Superfoods and mineral baths, saunas.
Help people to understand why they behave the way they behave. Why do they react the way they react when they get triggered? To help them understand where those suppressed emotions are coming from. So, that’s the work that I have been doing and that I’m doing now. I’ve been able to travel the world and see really amazing and beautiful things.
I saw this quote you gave that I loved where you said that when you first walked onto the set of The Real World, you felt like Jasmine from Aladdin and now you feel like The Genie. I love that.[laughs] Yep! I feel like I’m on a magic carpet.
Speaking of health and wellness, this is a terrible segue but I’m gonna make it anyways. I saw recently online a list that fans had gotten together of former Real World/Road Rules Challengers and you were number 1 of the fan favorites that viewers voted or are hoping to see return for a future season of The Challenge All Stars with the OG cast members. Is that something you might consider?
I was! I did. I was invited to go to the first one and I agreed to do it because Mark is a good friend of mine.
Yeah! I know that he’s behind organizing all of that. But the timing, there were a couple of factors that happened. Number 1, I didn’t have a passport. I lost my passport. I had to renew it. Then our Homecoming show was the week before The Challenge. I was going to do it. I was going to go right from Homecoming to The Challenge. But I didn’t have a passport.
They invited me to go to the second one and I said “Yes, I’m open to it.” But they never got back to me. I got busy because I’m here in Peru and I’ve been here for 3 months working with the retreats. So maybe the third one! We’ll see. It has a lot to do with my schedule and timing and all of it but I’m definitely open to doing it.
Is there anyone from your Challenge years you would be excited to reunite with?
I love hanging out with the Big Guy, that’s Mark. We always have a good time, that’s my brother. I really enjoy doing these things. I enjoy meeting people from different walks of life who have different opinions and different styles. I’m always up for an experience. I just love doing stuff like this. I don’t think if I could say one person in particular. For me it’s about the whole experience, always.
Let’s start the campaign to get you on season 3.[laughs]
You’ve spoken a lot recently about memories on The Real World but do you have any fun or favorite memories from your time on The Challenge that stick out to you after all these years?
When I was younger, all I cared about was athletics and playing sports. Competition was my life. My brother who is 4 years older than me is an incredible athlete, much bigger and stronger than I was. Competition for me, then, was burning in my blood. The Challenges for me, especially back then, that innate fire that burns inside of me for competition, will probably always be there. So, I love that. It’s like in the core and essence of who I am.
I love being challenged like that physically and mentally. And they come up with some really creative things to do which really test your endurance, agility, and balance. But I’m a little bit different nowadays because of the journey that I’ve been on. So I don’t have that hunger to go back and do it. When I think about going back and doing it, I’m actually now thinking about the conversations that I can have with people about where they are in their life. How has The Real World and Road Rules affected them emotionally and psychologically? Where are they at? Those are the types of conversations and things I like to engage in now. We’ll see.
That’s what made season 1 of All Stars so great. The more interesting part, for me, was the conversations and seeing everyone again and how people may have grown or evolved. It wasn’t necessarily about who had the biggest muscles. It really made it an enjoyable watch.
So, I have to ask. Do you still have the jump rope?[laughs] No, I don’t carry my jump rope around with me anymore. The reason why I had that jump rope is because I did these jump rope videos and I was trying to use that platform to promote the jump rope workout videos. It didn’t really work. Now everybody remembers me from having that jump rope around my neck all the time. That’s so funny. It’s around somewhere in storage probably. [laughs]
You’ve made quite an impact on people and you’re responsible for many smiles. Thank you for talking with me today. I’m glad we could have this conversation.
Thank you! May I ask, what is behind you?
*Realizes virtual background has been on* Oh, it’s Hogwarts from Harry Potter. I didn’t know how to turn it off.[laughs] No, I like it. I love Harry Potter. I love magic.
We’ll start the campaign to get you on season 3 of All Stars. I’m telling you, give the people what they want!
Alright! [laughs] I have a good feeling it will happen. I’m not sure when but I’m sure that it will happen one day.
It will align when it’s meant to.
And you’ll win.[laughs] Maybe.
Thank you so much to Eric Nies for taking the time to speak with us!
Be sure to keep up to date with Eric by following him on Instagram.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.