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What Happened to Real World/Road Rules Tonya Cooley?

Updated on July 7, 2016
Tonya Cooley in Real World Chicago Cast, second row far left
Tonya Cooley in Real World Chicago Cast, second row far left | Source

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What happened to Real World/Road Rules Tonya Cooley? What is she up to in 2015?

She made a great cast member on both Real World Chicago and Real World/Road Rules Challenge shows. A lot of cast members on these shows do things that are a little ill-advised, but they are also young at the time of taping. Tonya was great for the cameras, athletic, and brought drama to the show. I personally always liked her.


Tonya Cooley in 2015

Where is Tonya now in 2015? Tonya got married to Adam Esch in 2005 but got divorced in 2009. It is rumored she is working at a restaurant in Washington state, with a normal job for a living, like most of us. A few years ago MTV settled with her out of court for an assault/rape allegation. She has been through some tough things these past few years.

I like to think about Tonya in her early years of MTV.


Where it all started ...

Tonya was cast on Real World: Chicago, which aired in 2002. She had those blonde-haired, blue-eyed good American looks. When we first heard of Tonya, we learned that she spent some of her teen years in foster care. She got through her troubles and earned a bachelor's degree in nursing in her early 20s. Her goal at the time was to work with premature babies for a career.


But Let's Look Back on Some of Tonya's Crazy Real World/Road Rules Days:

  • Fights with Theo, Aneesa, and Cara on the Real World Chicago, which aired in 2002. She was also sent to the hospital a number of times for her kidney stones. In addition, she was in a relationship with a boyfriend whom she was always on the phone with, and this irritated her castmates. I remember thinking how pretty and all-American she looked on the show, even if she was a bit dramatic. (She was also on the show with Kyle Brandt, the guy who went on to play Philip Kiriakis on Days of Our Lives.)

Tonya's Last Challenge, $14.99

Remembering The Real World as 9/11 Unfolded (above)

In the video above, Tonya and her Real World Chicago castmates come together and watch 9/11 unfold on TV, and then hold a vigil outside their apartment. I don't think those castmembers will ever forget that year of their lives.



A Young Tonya Cooley. Tonya Cooley, where is she now?
A Young Tonya Cooley. Tonya Cooley, where is she now? | Source

Tonya Cooley, Real World/Road Rules Challenges

  • On the Real World/Road Rules Challenges, she was a great competitor and quite athletic. The two incidents that are most memorable are when she threw Beth's clothes in the pool for tattling to Robin about someone Tonya slept with. Then on The Ruins (the season she had the lawsuit for), Tonya appeared drunk occasionally and was sent home for slapping Veronica Portillo. Although Veronica was the one hit, castmembers acted angry towards Veronica because they said she was fueling the fire. Tonya didn't have a right to hit her nonetheless. I was worried for Tonya on The Ruins season.

Tonya earned a little infamy on her time at MTV, but I can't think of anyone, including myself, who hasn't made some mistakes in their 20s and 30s.

Good luck to Tonya, whether you're working in the actual real world or onto your next Hollywood gig!

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