'The Real World: San Diego' cast reflects on Frankie Abernathy's death
By Christopher Rocchio, 06/15/2007
Frankie Abernathy didn't make it through the entire season as a housemate on MTV's TheReal World: San Diego in 2004. However she still spent enough time with her fellow housemates to become close with them -- especially Jacquese Smith -- who said he was "shocked" Monday to learn Abernathy had passed away over the weekend.
"It really didn't hit me until I finally said the words out loud," Smith told MTV News in a report published on its website on Friday. "I had called my mom and told her that it was true, and it wasn't until I started to talk about it that I got really upset about it."
Abernathy had been battling the genetic disease cystic fibrosis since she was a child, and her mother Abbie Hunter said her 25-year-old daughter moved into the family's Shorewood, WI home as her health began to worsen last fall and over the winter. That's where she died last Saturday night, with a specific cause for her death still to be determined.
"I'm thinking about her a lot," fellow TheReal World: San Diego housemate Jamie Chung told MTV News. "It's really sad, and it's really weird. Someone you lived with and experienced a show with, I mean, there's a certain bond there, and that person's gone. It's crazy how young she was."
With Abernathy's death causing pain for her TheReal World friends, Smith said if nothing else it's at least made them all realize how important the relationships they formed with one another were.
"I've been beating myself up over this, because I hadn't spoken with her in so long," explained Smith to MTV News. "We haven't really talked to one another in so long, so it's kind of like we lost her and now we're re-establishing our friendships and appreciating what we have with one another and taking full advantage of it. We're kind of doing what she would want us to do. It's just sad that this was the reason why we've gotten back in touch. At the end of the day, I know she knows I loved her."
"It's been a reality check for all of us that we need to keep in touch, because you never know what's going to happen," Chung told MTV News, echoing Smith's statement. "We're all going to miss her and are shaken up by this. It just came out of nowhere. I feel like a bad friend. The one person I should have kept in touch with, I didn't."
While Smith and Chung may have lost the opportunity to tell Abernathy how they felt about her before she passed, fellow housemate Cameran Eubanks had been in-touch with Abernathy as recently as six months ago.
"The way Frankie dealt with her disease, it was always something where she was prepared," Eubanks told MTV News. "She was never the kind of girl who was scared of the fact that she knew she was going to die early. She knew it. She told us. She said, 'You guys can look ahead to the rest of your lives, but I can't. I have to have my fun, I have to be young, and I have to live every day as if it's my last.' She had that kind of mentality. It was never like, 'Poor me, I'm going to die.' She was never that kind of girl. And I think that's what's made it easier for me to handle, I guess."
Chung described Abernathy as "too cool for school" when filming for TheReal World: San Diego began, but added her fellow housemates all quickly learned "she was the most caring person in the house."
"She was the most outgoing. She stood out, and she loved that, and she didn't care what anyone thought. And I thought that was so cool," Chung told MTV News. "She just didn't give a f**k what people thought about her. She just did what she wanted to do, and she did what was fun and always wanted to go try different things. I don't think they showed that [on 'The Real World'] much. They showed all of the house drama and her personal issues. But she was a really fun person."
Smith added that Abernathy "opened [his] eyes" to a lot of things, from cystic fibrosis to punk rock.
"She would do any and everything if you asked her to," he told MTV News. "She was never scared to go anywhere with me. She was willing to learn from me. We had totally different life experiences [up to that point], and we still got so close. If I learned anything from anyone on that show, I learned the most from Frankie. And I now have a greater appreciation for my life and my castmates."
He said it was Abernathy's unique personality the remaining San Diego housemates will remember most about her.
"Frankie was Frankie," he told MTV News. "You either accepted her as she was or you didn't. And I chose to. I'm just so upset that I didn't really get a chance to talk to her, that I never got a chance to tell her the effect she had on my life. I will never get a chance to tell her about some of the things she taught me, and how important her friendship was to me, and how special she was... how strong she was."
"Your average person, when they would meet Frankie, they would totally write her off as some crazed, in-your-face, ridiculous girl who has this disease and doesn't take care of herself," Eubanks told MTV News. "That's how I felt when I first met her. Then I got to know her, and realized that was all a show, and that's how she coped with it. I want everyone to know what a good person she was, what a rare person she was. She loved life, and we'll all miss her."
Services for Abernathy will be held Saturday in Blue Springs, MS, and a scholarship fund has also been established in her name at Blue Springs High School, MTV News reported.