The Untold Truth Of Jesse Camp

Josiah "Jesse" Camp garnered fame after becoming the winner of MTV's Wanna Be a VJ contest in 1998. He was an unlikely winner to most, besting his more professional opponent and pop culture junkie, Dave Holmes, who also eventually became an MTV VJ. What Camp lacked in finesse and qualifications, he made up for in his off-the-wall personality, his eccentricity, and his stylish yet outlandish outfits. It didn't take long for the high-pitch voiced, metal music-loving teenager to become one of the network's most popular personalities.

After his stint on MTV, Camp tried his hand at a music career with his band, Jesse & The 8th Street Kidz. His popularity with MTV's youthful viewers surely meant his album would be a chart-topping success, right? Wrong! After selling just 10,805 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan (via Rolling Stone), the band's lackluster self-titled debut album signaled an unceremonious dip in his 15 minutes of fame.

Aside from his battle with drug addiction, facts about this television personality have proved elusive, thanks in part to Camp's tendency to concoct robust stories about his childhood. We finally got to the bottom of this once-popular MTV VJ's true identity. This is the untold truth of Jesse Camp.

He bucked college to hit the open road

After attending public school, Jesse Camp received a scholarship to enroll in a prestigious boarding school in Connecticut. He accepted, graduated high school in 1997, and had another scholarship lined up to enroll in the drama department at UCLA. But college and a formal education weren't his cup of tea.

Instead of sitting in a classroom all day and keeping his nose in the books as a college coed, Camp fueled his need for wanderlust when he and his twin sister, Marisha, packed up a 1982 Volvo and headed out on a cross-country road trip, he told Complex magazine.

Living life as a free spirit has always been Camp's thing, which may be why he only stayed with MTV for a year before bidding the network adieu. He told Rolling Stone the gig was "a whole lot more work than I thought, man," while telling Complex his time with the network equated to a "fairytale thing."

The real reason he went to therapy

Camp admitted during a 2015 interview with HuffPost Live (via The Fix) that drinking and smoking pot were his vices during his MTV VJ days, but after leaving the network, when he was between the ages of 23 through 29, he says he faced his "hardcore drug-time era."

He told The Fix he had cleaned up his act, but a May 2018 arrest for alleged possession of methamphetamine contradicts that claim. Despite his alleged struggle with addiction, Camp headed off to therapy for an entirely different reason.

During the early days of his MTV career, he caught a lot of heat for lying about his upbringing. Rolling Stone tallied a list of many of those stories, which included a lie about his parents being divorced, a fib about his dad owning a roofing company, and the falsehood that his pa had to pull strings to help him graduate from high school. Lies. All lies. Camp justified his tall tales by saying they were his "way of dealing with a lot of other issues."

His storytelling became a major problem when he became a celebrity. Publications would publish his made-up fables in the press, which reportedly ticked off his parents. Camp later decided to go to therapy to deal with his penchant for stretching the truth.  

Parents just don't understand

What's the truth about Jesse Camp's family life? According to Complex magazine, he was raised in a typical, middle-class household in a Connecticut suburb. His mother was a special needs elementary school teacher, and his dad was a professor at the University of Hartford. Coming from "really straight" parents with jobs in the school system, we can assume they wanted their son to value education just as much as they did. When he didn't, that supposedly proved to be a point of contention in their relationship. 

"I had a tough time with my parents. They didn't really understand me, and they got really frustrated and took a lot of their own anger and hostility at the world out on me," he told Entertainment Weekly. "But I think they loved me the best they could." He told MTV his parents' main concern was his decision to pursue music instead of going to college.

A 'master thief' with sticky fingers

With his high school diploma in tow, the Connecticut native headed to California to pursue a heavy-metal music career. "I've always had these fantasies and dreams of rock & roll and all this s**t," Camp told Rolling Stone. "Basically, it's all I've ever wanted to do with myself. I was never going to go to college or any s**t like that. Give me a break."

He shacked up in a "kind of seedy" room in North Hollywood, but his life eventually went into a tailspin. Camp began stealing groceries when he ran out of money. "I fell to real new lows," he said. "I mean, I always stole s**t, but I became the f*****g master thief. I'd go to the grocery store with a big baseball jacket on, and I'd zip it up, pile all the food down the front and then just walk out with my hands in my coat pocket to cover the bulge."

According to Rolling Stone, he eventually hitchhiked from Cali to New York, stealing clothes and food along the way. "Some of the clothes he wears on MTV are even shoplifted," said his sister, Marisha. "Everything except the pants."

Fame may have caused PTSD

It's difficult to deal with all of the lights, cameras, and attention that go along with being famous, especially for those who are new to the entertainment industry. Jesse Camp essentially went from living a life of obscurity to being shoved into the limelight at the age of 18, after winning MTV's Wanna Be a VJ competition in 1998. How many people can say they left the classroom one day and interviewed Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit the next day? 

"There's probably some post-traumatic stress from that year [as a VJ,]" he told Complex. "But that was such a crazy, intense year. Basically, I mean, this all happened within nine months of graduating high school." 

Was his 'dumb' shtick legit?

Was Jesse Camp's dopey and nutty personality just a front? He admitted to Rolling Stone, "I kind of acted dumb during the contest because that's what I thought people were really digging on, so I kept that up."

Sadly, he wasn't thinking of the long-term implications of playing a screechy-voiced airhead. He apparently didn't realize he'd have to keep up the "goofy-doofus character" if he won the contest. "Now it's really hard for me to dissect how much of the character was me, but the bottom line is, it was a character, very much along the lines of Cyndi Lauper or Pee-wee Herman, or even Alice Cooper or Marilyn Manson. It was kind of an Andy Kaufman sort of thing," he said.

However, when Wanna Be a VJ opponent Dave Holmes was asked what Camp was like in real life, Holmes told Vulture, "Yes, Jesse Camp was really like that all the time. And I mean all the time." Though Holmes lost the competition, he was also hired by MTV, so he spent a lot of time within close proximity to his rival. Holmes said it became "a little game" around the network to see if anyone could hear Camp's "real voice."

"We'd sit next to him when his energy got low, or hover nearby when he'd wake from a nap, and I can say this with authority: If it was a put-on, the kid can commit," Holmes said.

His sister reported him missing

The Riverside Police Department told Entertainment Tonight that Camp's sister, Marisha, filed a report on July 19, 2018, stating she had lost contact with her brother on the "11th or the 12th" of that month. She said it was "unusual" to not hear from her twin, noting that he "may have been depressed lately."

Though the police didn't suspect foul play, Marisha took to Instagram Stories to plead for help. "If anyone has seen or heard from my brother Jesse since Saturday, please, please, please reach out to me or ask him to call home!!!" she wrote (via Entertainment Tonight). 

In another post (via People), she said, "What he needs more than anything is kindness and love... please keep him in your prayers. If you see him, please let him know that many, many people care... (He does not need to be the subject of tabloid journalism, making everything worse)."

Days later, on July 24, 2018, he was found alive "at a shopping center and not in need of any assistance," a police spokesperson told People

Whew! What a relief! Are we the only ones hoping the newfound attention, as dire as it was, helps Jesse Camp make a positive comeback on our TV screens? Someone get MTV on the line, STAT!