The Real Reason You Don't Hear About Jesse Camp Anymore

If you were an MTV-watching teen in the late 90s, you probably have a pretty good idea who Jesse Camp is. After all, he made quite an impression after winning MTV's first ever Wanna Be A VJ contest in 1998. Camp actually beat out another future MTV television personality, Dave Holmes, for the opportunity. During his nearly two years with the network, Jesse Camp co-hosted Total Request Live (TRL) in addition to hosting shows Lunch with Jesse and MTV Rocks Off. Camp's visibility ended when he parted ways with the network, and as times and tastes changed. Here's why we don't hear much from the once-popular MTV VJ these days.

Some feel he should not have won

Not everyone was thrilled with Jesse Camp's VJ victory. In fact, some have speculated the contest that put camp in the MTV spotlight was rigged. Interestingly enough, there may be evidence to back these claims up. A 1998 article by the Village Voice revealed a New York teen hacked the MTV contest and gave Camp thousands of extra votes.

The young hacker, who went by the name Ugly Pig, said he did it because he felt that unlike Jesse Camp, every other hopeful was part of MTV's "corporate bull****." The hacker admitted he didn't know Camp personally and he acted alone. As for the contest, MTV never moved to confirm or deny if the hack resulted in a win for Camp.

Unfortunately for Ugly Pig, shocking information emerged that proved the winner he assumed to be authentic wasn't exactly who he claimed to be.

His persona was fake

During an exclusive interview with Rolling Stone, Jesse Camp admitted his famous (and sometimes grating) persona was actually a character"he made up for the contest. At least partially. "The Jesse Camp you saw on television was at least 50 percent who I really am. But was Jesse Camp a character? Oh, no doubt, yeah, it was a complete character."

Camp was completely in character when he claimed to Spin he was a homeless guy from a poor background. In actuality Josiah "Jesse" Camp, was the son of a University of Connecticut professor and had grown up attending private school. It was a startling revelation, one that outed the former MTV VJ as something of a poser.

It would be understandable be very hard to stay in the limelight maintaining this act that so many would now consider to be phony.

His initial music outing failed big time

Perhaps after a year of hosting MTV and proving somewhat popular with the pre-teen crowd, Jesse Camp believed he'd amassed enough fame to make his slide into a glam rock career seamless. Well...he was wrong.

In 1999, Camp brought together former members of the bands Vixen, LSD and Dogs D'Amour to form a new group: the 8th Street Kidz. He released the LP Jesse & the 8th Street Kidz in May of 1999 and by his own admission, the debut was a complete commercial failure. "I really thought I could do it [until] the week my album came out and it sold, like, nothing."

His band Green Denim flopped, too

If you're only aware of Jesse Camp's initial dive into music (and subsequent failure), that's not surprising. By the time Camp's band Green Denim arrived on the scene in 2015, the former VJ was just a speck in the memories of 90's pop culture enthusiasts. As Esquire's Nathan Rabin noted (in cringe-worthy fashion), despite being the so-called headliners at their own June 2015 gig, by the time Green Denim took the stage, only 40 people bothered to remain — most showed up for the opening acts. Of that paltry number, most were supportive family members. Jesse Camp, despite using his non-existent celebrity to promote the band, was not the frontman. He did play guitar, but Rabin's description makes it seem like "play" is too polite a description for his less-than-stellar efforts.

It's painfully clear that despite his enduring interest in music, Jesse Camp isn't cut out for rock stardom. He'll have to make do with simply looking the part.

He allegedly had serious drug issues

When it comes to Jesse Camp and drugs, not many people are exactly sure what the situation is or was. After all, his "drugged-out glam rocker" character was revealed to be mostly fake. Was Jesse as into heavy drug use as he claimed?

Well, there is this infamous piece of footage from 2008 where Camp is on filmed talking on the phone to someone named Brian. During the conversation, Camp requests "two eight balls." If you don't know, that's druggie slang for cocaine. During an interview with Complex, Jesse Camp admitted he spent much of his twenties doing drugs. "I'll put it to you this way," said Camp, "at my worst, I was only doing about an eight ball of a speed a month." Jesse's fraternal twin sister Marsha described him as a "functional addict."

Camp insists he's been completely sober since 2009. He even has a fundraising program called Musicares, which helps others recovering from addiction.

His tastes were out of sync with the times

Do you know what was popular in 1998? Swing music. You know what wasn't popular in 1998? Many of the glam and hard rock musicians that Jesse Camp attempted to introduce to the MTV audience during his brief heyday. As the Rolling Stone notes, "the TRL crowd at that time was more into Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys, not New York Dolls-derived glam/garage/metal."

Interestingly enough, glam rock did have something of a revival in the early 2000s, as evidenced by the hit Darkness track "I Believe In A Thing Called Love." Jesse Camp was either too early or too late to ride of the wave of this particular genre's popularity — a fact that contributed heavily to his subsequent irrelevancy.

He took on bit movie parts

Not only did Jesse Camp's music career fail to take off, but he didn't exactly set Hollywood ablaze, either. Camp put in a couple of movie appearances after leaving MTV. His most high-profile starring role was as an audition applicant in the Britney Spears movie Crossroads, and that was back in 2002.

It seems that Camp pretty much gave up on acting, as his only noteworthy appearances within the past decade or so are tied to popping up at random to discuss his brief moment in the spotlight back during his MTV heyday.

Drugs might still be a problem

Although Camp previously claimed that he was no longer taking drugs and has been sober since 2009, a Page Six report seems to cast doubt on that claim. While attempting to offer a "news tip" to the New York Post, Camp made a few outlandish statements he later blamed on recent drug use. Said Camp, "I'm zipping it 'cause I am on a very bad acid trip at the moment and I think I'm being interviewed for the New York Post — so clearly I'm not in my right head."

It's possible Jesse Camp is merely playing up his "druggie rocker image" but it's also sadly possible that Jesse Camp did indeed fall off the wagon.

Can Jesse Camp turn things around?

It can be difficult for people heavily associated with a specific moment in pop culture history to become relevant again. With Jesse Camp, he's still very much linked to what was cool in the late 90s...and he was a divisive figure then. Still, it's possible Camp could find his way back to the spotlight. Camp's work with recovering addicts through Musicares could bring him positive attention if he reaches out to more famous or relevant rock artists with a similar passion.

One other option? A complete self-makeover. He could bury "Jesse Camp" the rock star and become an entirely different character altogether. After all, he did admit that his "campy" persona was just a character. Why not create a new one, a character more in keeping with the times?