Back in the mid-aughts, VH1 had a juggernaut reality franchise on its hands. What became known as “Celebreality” began innocently enough, with The Surreal Life, and then moving on to Strange Love with castmates Flavor Flav and Brigitte Nielsen. From there VH1 developed the Bachelor-type reality dating series with Flavor Flav called Flavor of Love which would go on to produce a gaggle of sequels, spin-offs, spin-offs of spin-offs and spin-offs of spin-offs of spin-offs to the point that it eventually became like one of those paintings within a painting that goes on forever.
If you’re anything like me, you gobbled it up. I watched all of the Flavor of Loves, I Love New Yorks, Rock of Loves, I Love Money — you name it. It was stupidity and schadenfreude at its finest, so basically the kind of thing that I live for. As such, I found this Vulture interview with co-creator Mark Cronin and casting associate Douglas Howington on how they cast the original Flavor of Love and subsequent sequels to be an absolutely fascinating read. Here’s some highlights:
Most of the first season cast were legitimate fans:
We had a lot of fan contact from when he was on The Surreal Life and Strange Love, and we used anybody who had directly contacted us or even posted about him.
The angle we had [during the search] was that this guy was a hip-hop legend. We were looking for women who either knew who he was or were interested in getting involved with someone like him, whether it was because he was an artist, a legend, a millionaire — whichever it was.
It was great to see people come in and know Public Enemy, but also know the essence of Flav and what Flav does. He’s one of the most dynamic hype men of all time. So we were trying to find people who knew Flavor Flav and also wanted to be with Flav in a relationship.
Stockholm Syndrome helped along the romantic process:
When you take a group of people, take them away from their homes, take away their cell phones and television, and their phone calls are bugged — and there’s this one guy who shows up and decides whether you’ll get to eat a nice dinner tonight or whether you’re going to be in a limo with him — it’s like Stockholm Syndrome and they become very quickly caught up in it.
This part made me really sad:
I’ll tell you a funny story. When we first went to Flav and said, “Flav, we’re gonna put in you in a house and there’s gonna be 20 women,” he said, “Aw, Mark, you know they’re never gonna pick me.” And I said, “Flavor, you don’t understand. You will be picking them.”
Straddling the fine line of crazy and psychotic:
You want the person to be super outgoing and super off-the-cuff and super unfiltered. Those traits can often be associated with lots of problems and disorders and all kinds of things. It’s a very tricky thing. They always went through some kind of psychological screening. The biggest fear in those days was, in a competition elimination show, are the cast members stable enough to not be a harm to themselves if they lose, or a harm to others?
The women involved in the sequels were probably not really there for Flav, if this wasn’t already crystal clear:
For the second season, it was women lined up around the corner for casting calls. In that way, it was not challenging at all. But it takes more time in the process to really weed out why this person is there. Because you can only fake the funk for so long. You can only act like you’re interested in Flavor Flav for so long. Eventually it’s going to come out that you’re just there for ulterior motives.
New York was a gift from the baby Jesus as I’ve thought all along:
I didn’t find Tiffany. I would love to know who did. This is actually something two of my casting friends and I have talked about through the years: Who found Tiffany Pollard? I thought she was a great marketer of her talent — of her quote-unquote talent. Whatever it is, she was it. She was just a walking time bomb of awesomeness for reality TV.
Seriously U Penn?
There’s some that still just make me shake my head, that I really just can’t figure out to this day. In the first season, we had this girl, Hottie. She was actually a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, which was where I went to college, and I just couldn’t believe it. Like, I was embarrassed for my school a little bit. She was such a piece of work. She really wanted to marry him and move into that mansion. She was not kidding. She was just real but real … crazy. One of my favorites.
When you know you’ve found that perfect candidate:
I won’t say who it was, but one woman, I asked her, “What was the freakiest thing you’ve ever done?” She says, “A six-way.” I’m like, “I don’t think anyone has enough holes for that to happen.” I asked her to elaborate what a six-way was. She said hands are involved, and a mouth, and I was like, “Wow.” Because she wasn’t just talking like that trying to be on a TV show.
Now that I’ve fallen down the wormhole, I’m probably going to spend the rest of the day stalking former Flavor of Love and Rock of Love contestants on social media, because why wouldn’t I do that? In the meantime, I will leave you with this — one of the most epic Flavor of Love fights and the spit heard round the world. Never forget.