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The original Real World cast member is now a health and wellness facilitator

By Breanne L. Heldman
February 24, 2021 08:19 PM
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In the 29 years since The Real World premiered on MTV, original cast member Eric Nies has gone from a loud, outgoing model to a spiritual health and wellness facilitator. It's a transformation that surprised even his former roommates while they filmed Paramount+'s upcoming reunion series, The Real World Homecoming: New York.

"People are going to be very surprised by the type of person Eric has evolved into," his costar Kevin Powell tells PEOPLE. "It's really profound, his transformation. He's next-level."

Nies, who was on probation and doing community service while he filmed the show following an arrest for possession of steroids, says that the experience of being on The Real World was a game-changer for him — and not just because it led to fame.

"My life is filled with angels and demons and everything in between," Nies, 49, admits to PEOPLE in this week's issue. "When I watched [The Real World] for the first time, and I'm sitting there with my family and my friends and I'm observing myself, I didn't particularly like all of the things that I saw. So, it was my first spiritual experience of observing myself and really taking a hard look at myself."

the real world new york - Eric
Eric Nies
| Credit: Zach Dilgard/MTV

But a few weeks later, Nies received the call to host The Grind, MTV's dance music show which aired from 1992-97.

"When The Grind happened, my life just completely went crazy," he says. "It was a dance party wherever I went."

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Eric Nies on MTV's The Grind
| Credit: Frank Micelotta/Imagedirect/Getty

"If The Real World didn't happen and my life didn't go where it did, I might've been dead," said Nies in a teaser for his reunion with Julie (Oliver) Gentry, Heather B. Gardner and Norman Korpi on E's For Real: The Story of Reality TV. "There were a lot of wounds I was suppressing from my childhood and I was on a self-destructive path. I was using a lot of drugs at a young age. I was able to look at myself and see the things I didn't like about myself that I wanted to change. In a way, The Real World kind of saved my life."

"I've been able to travel around the world and chant and meditate with 2,000 monks in Tibet, and travel to New Zealand and the Far East and all over the world and had many, many incredible experiences," Nies explains further to PEOPLE. "The Real World made that happen in a big way. I have a really, really strong connection to that experience and what that has provided me. And I have a ton of gratitude for the experience and everything that's happened since."

eric nies personal photo
Eric Nies
| Credit: Barry Silver

In the last two decades, Nies has been focused on wellness, even training for years under a Vietnamese martial arts Grand Master — and now he's helping others.

"It's been one long, 29-year spiritual healing," Nies says. "When I first walked into the [Real World] loft, I felt like Jasmine from Aladdin — I even said this was a whole new world — but now I feel like the genie. I kind of play that role in people's lives: I'm a spiritual guide, and I assist people in liberating themselves from their own suffering."

The Real World Homecoming: New York premieres March 4 on Paramount+.