Nasser Sultan: Reality behind reality TV

While you (arguably) have real-life people and situations, we’ve come to know that reality TV can be far from reality. From your dramatic one-liners, to your season villains and favourites that make the best memes – there is a natural scepticism for what is real and what is not.

Egypt-born Nasser Sultan, an Australian reality TV veteran, shares with us some of the realities behind reality TV. With Married at First Sight catapulting him to the spotlight, Nasser has also expanded on his reality TV experiences including Pawn Starts Australia, Trial By Kyle, and most recently, First Dates.

Nasser Sultan. Credit: Christina Ueltzen

“I’ve been on three shows, and every production and network [in Australia] are different” Nasser says. Although he reveals that his experiences on Blind Dates was genuine and an example of “real reality”, others were … not-so-pleasant.

Nasser has been openly critical about Married at First Sight (MAFS) based on his previous experience in Season 3 that aired in 2018. It’s no question that MAFS is the most explosive and talked-about shows in Australian reality TV, with the season showcasing cheating scandals and affairs, bombshells and interesting characters.

Source: Married at First Sight

Nasser admits that the “12 hours of filming a day” was exhausting and took a toll on his relationship with his “wife” on the show, Gabrielle Barlett.

“You don’t have time to get to know the other person on a genuine level,” he says. “By the time you’ve finished, you’re so tired, you don’t care anymore.”

Nasser Sultan, and his wife on the show, Gabrielle Barlett

In a Now to Love article, past contestants of MAFS reveal that producers play a big part in what is said — whether the show is scripted or not. Often, the participants are made to repeat certain lines, until they are happy with how it sounds.

“You’re mic’d up at all times, and if they want something, they pull you aside and question you, asking you to elaborate on that subject,” Nasser says, with producers asking you to present it in a certain way.

While Nasser trusts that audiences really want to see someone “genuine” or a person they can relate to, producers tend to selectively pick people who they feel will entertain the masses.

“They think everyone wants to see tits, ass and abs,” Nasser adds. “TV needs a spark – there’s the same people, same jokes and same faces.”

“If you’re too straight or too boring, they don’t want you,” he says.

In an open letter to future contestants of MAFS on Now to Love, Nasser adds how the producers have a final say in how you come across and there’s “nothing you can do about it.” With some of the unfavourable edits from producers, a contestant can easily be illustrated as the season’s villain, often leaving them vulnerable to online trolls.

Nasser Sultan on Married at First Sight

Being of Egyptian background, Nasser admits that the racial backlash was “beyond belief.” Although he experienced no more than condescending behaviour by the other contestants of the show, social media backlash post-episodes were the real villain. Minus the race-based hate, Nasser says that he would find notes left on his car and scooter, getting followed and trips to the police.

“Things like, [referring to the social media comments] you bloody wog, treating women badly, bit of the terrorism and the war that’s happening in Syria … blah blah blah.”

Being thrown into the lion’s den for online criticism, this often takes a toll on the contestants’ mental health. While Nasser acknowledges that MAFS provides facilities for counselling, he believes they can only do so much.

“Don’t go on there if you think you can’t handle it, or you have kids … it’s harder than it looks,” he says, emphasising that contestants are particularly affected based on how people interpret your personality, or being edited in a certain way.

Nonetheless, Nasser says that the backlash didn’t affect him “at all,” and he acknowledges he has the thick skin for it. He admits that he loves the media and being out the front and outspoken. “I feel like I’m almost made for it,” he confesses.

“The only thing it has affected is getting into relationships,” he says, due to the façade that the media can create on reality TV personalities that don’t necessarily illustrate them in the best light. “If you’re going to date someone, they have to understand how the whole thing works, and feel secure about it.”

Now, Nasser states that reality TV is becoming predictable, and most people are becoming accustomed to the “blueprint of reality TV.”
“It’s not reality anymore … it’s not genuine.”

Despite this, he believes that going into reality TV was the best thing that happened to him and has learned a lot from his experiences. “At least, I can proudly say that I’ve made a dent in the media.”

Jostina Basta

I’m a fifth-year Bachelor of Communications/Bachelor of Laws student, majoring in journalism, and I have…

Jostina Basta

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