Home Moving Tips Susie Meister: From Road Rules to Brain Candy

Susie Meister: From Road Rules to Brain Candy

by Ali Wenzke

Interview with Susie Meister

Susie Meister, how did you make the jump from living in Pittsburgh, PA, to MTV’s Road Rules?

When I was cast on Road Rules I was 18 years old, just graduated from high school, and still living at home. On my 18th birthday, I sent my application to be on the show because I was so keen to be cast, and you had to be 18 to participate. I was a huge fan of the show. I believed it was my only chance to see the world and to be exposed to different kinds of people. Lucky for me it worked out!


You then continued to do six more reality shows. With cast members changing and various locations, did it feel like starting a new job in a different city?

When you do a reality show like Road Rules or The Challenge, it’s a strange experience in many ways. But, one of the odd things is, since there is a voting-off structure (like on Survivor), you don’t know how long you’ll be staying. So, you don’t know whether to settle in, put your clothes in a closet, or just make do with picking through your luggage. They eliminate a lot of the items that make your house more of a home (e.g. television, music, clocks, games), so it feels a little like living in a very dysfunctional version of Narnia. The world keeps turning while you’re away, but you’ve been suspended in this alternate reality.


In the early years, we could spend our downtime exploring the area, which meant I really got to experience London, Berlin, Prague, Tobago, and Capetown. However, by the time of my final show, they had resorted to keeping the cast in the house all the time except when we were doing the challenges. So, I did not get to see any part of Thailand at all even though I was there for eight weeks.

This photo is from Road Rules: Down Under.


You’ve been thrown into unexpected situations with audiences watching. What did you learn about yourself and what advice would you give to someone else facing unknown adventures? 

I consider it to be an incredible blessing that I had the opportunity to watch myself on all those seasons of reality TV. Of course, some of the things I did were regrettable, embarrassing, and ridiculous, but getting to see myself through other people’s eyes gave me an amazing opportunity to improve on the parts of myself that were unsavory. Even though most people don’t get to see a video montage of their highs and lows (put to a soundtrack!), we can still work to be self-aware and empathetic enough to see ourselves through others’ eyes. And ain’t nothing better than self-improvement and evolution.


After reality TV you decided to pursue your PhD in Religious Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. Was this an opportunity to reinvent yourself? Or, was reality TV a detour from the path you intended to take originally? 

I was on the original season back in 1998. It was before Survivor and all the other reality shows people take for granted now. I think Hollywood didn’t really know what to do with people who were “famous” (relatively) for being famous. So, after we finished filming, everyone just went back to their normal lives. I went to school, waited tables, and continued to live with my folks. It was a strange existence because everyone knew us, but we didn’t get rich at all. (I think we got $200 a week to do the show). So, for me, school was just a no-brainer. I would appear on The Challenge during my summer breaks, and it allowed me to pay for school. I’m very thankful that I had the chance to work in television and get credentials at the same time.


You moved 6 times in 10 years. Where did you move and why so many changes? 

I had grown up in the same house my entire life. My mom still lives in that house. So, moving around was not something I was used to. The first time I moved was when I got married. But my crazy moving era happened when I got divorced. That upended everything and created a lot of impermanence. My son is eight and he has lived in five different homes. He’s having a very different experience than I did. All the moves forced me to be intentional about my possessions, and figure out what was worth buying, fixing, keeping, etc. . . Yesterday someone said my home was the perfect amount of minimalism and coziness. I almost teared up because that is such a lovely thing to say. I want people to feel comfortable in my home, but not be overwhelmed by “stuff.”
Susie Meister

My 8-year-old son has lived in 5 homes.

In your TedX talk you advise us to be bold, be inspired, and to keep going. From both your religious studies background and your many moves, how do you recommend that we find inspiration when going through a difficult time like a move? 

I’m always squawking about the importance of mindfulness (which has now become a bit of a cliché), but I find it to be especially true during high-pressure times (e.g. new baby, new job, moving). If you focus on what’s up in the air, then it can feel like you live in a house of cards. But, if you focus on the more fundamental truths (e.g. I am here, I am safe, I am loved), it can bring a measure of peace. The thing about clichés is that they’re often the truth. The thoughts that we have are so powerful, but I love knowing that I am the boss of those thoughts (even though it doesn’t feel like it in the middle of the night when you wake up in a panic that you forgot that deadline, etc…).


You are the co-host of the award-winning Brain Candy podcast with Sarah Rice, and I loved chatting with you on Episode 334. Why did you decide to start podcasting? 

I started podcasting when I was getting my doctorate and I had a new baby. You might think that is the worst time to start a passion project, but it was the only thing that kept me sane during that tumultuous time. Brain Candy gave me a creative outlet, and something to get my motor running. Podcasting was for me. It wasn’t for my baby (who was literally sucking the life out of me at the time) or my professors. It was for me and it was fun. I had no idea it would become my full-time job.
Maybe the fact that it was just for fun is what made it successful and allowed me to do it for a living. All I know is I’m soooo thankful for it. After years of being produced and edited by others, I get to produce myself. That is so empowering and liberating. And I’m so glad people enjoy it. I love that many of the women who grew up watching me and my co-host can continue to follow us on our journeys as we make mistakes, celebrate victories, and laugh at life’s craziness.
Susie Meister and Sarah Rice

Where can readers find you or listen to your podcast? 

The Brain Candy Podcast is available wherever you can listen to podcasts–iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, and of course, thebraincandypodcast.com. Join us and have a giggle (and you just might learn a thing or two).

Thank you for taking the time to chat with me, Susie Meister. You’ve reinvented yourself so many times and it’s inspiring to learn from you.

Thank you so much for having me. I love the work that you do.



Susie Meister was born and raised in Pittsburgh. After high school Susie joined MTV’s Road Rules for the ride of her life. She has since participated in seven shows on MTV (but don’t judge her). Susie’s reality winnings went towards her education. In 2014, she completed her PhD in Religious Studies from the University of Pittsburgh. After Brain Candy’s success, Susie Meister founded WAVE Podcast Network with her husband, Adam. Their network’s shows consistently rank on the iTunes top charts. Her writing has been featured in the Huffington Post, Vox, Salon, and Jezebel. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their son.


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