MTV “Real World” Star Dies of Mesothelioma

Fans of the popular MTV reality show “Real World”, which has aired for more than a decade, are mourning the death of a well-loved individual who wasn’t really a cast member of the show but became part of the plot due to his love relationship with 1994 cast member, the late Pedro Zamora.

The news media reports that Sean Sasser, age 44, who has been HIV positive for 25 years, died this week – not of AIDS but from the rare asbestos-caused cancer, mesothelioma. He was diagnosed with the disease just last month.

Sasser became famous for his relationship with Zamora, who lived in the “Real World” house during the show’s third season. For many people who watched the show, this was their first experience with an openly gay couple. When Sasser and Zamora were part of a commitment ceremony that aired on the show that year, they were part of history in the making and many critics believe that that particular episode broke down many cultural barriers. Zamora died of AIDS in November 1994.

Sasser continued to be an AIDS activist throughout his short life but most recently worked as a pastry chef at RIS in Washington, D.C., where he moved from Portland, Oregon just this past year.

Friends report that his illness evolved quickly, starting with an abnormal blood test in June and followed by a diagnosis of Stage 4 mesothelioma cancer in July. There is no report of how Sasser developed the disease, which is caused by exposure to asbestos.

Because of his celebrity status, word of Sasser’s death spread quickly across social media, and both the gay and straight communities who were fans of the show were saddened by his death. Gay rights activist, Wilson Cruise, wrote on Twitter: “My heart breaks. Another beacon of light in our community is darkened tonight with the passing of Sean Sasser.”

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