The Untold Truth Of Johnny Bananas

A reality TV contestant with the name of Johnny Bananas (well a nickname anyway) was always going to create their fair share of headlines. And the man born John Amadeus Devenanzio did just that during his multiple stints on MTV's long-running hit "The Challenge."

In fact, Bananas essentially built a career on causing chaos in "The Real World" spinoff, whether that entailed being turned into a human backpack by Chris "CT" Tamburello, reportedly duct-taping Amanda Garcia in a prank that got out of hand, or denying partner Sarah Rice more than a quarter-million dollars. With friends like these, eh! Per Entertainment Weekly, the West Coast native has appeared on no fewer than 20 seasons, winning a record seven and raking in a lot of money along the way.

But it turns out that there's more to Bananas than acting the boo-hiss villain in an extreme challenge elimination show. From humanitarian efforts and tabloid romances to bizarre lawsuits and side hustles, here's a look at his untold truth.

Johnny Bananas helped deliver aid to Ukraine

Reality TV super-villain Johnny Bananas proved that he can sometimes also play the hero in 2022 when he traveled to Ukraine on an aid mission. The MTV regular joined the humanitarian effort organized by Humanosh, a refugee foundation, to help deliver essential supplies to those affected by the war.

In an interview with E! News, Bananas explained why he decided to make the trip: "I just wanted to contribute in some way shape or form. And it's easy to be like, 'I want to donate money to the Red Cross,' or whatever. And that's all fine and great, but I feel like I am able bodied enough ... my skills would be better put to use if I was actually able to like go and contribute and be on the ground."

Bananas also visited Poland to give out items like diapers, tinned goods and sweets to Ukrainian refugees. And ever the entertainer, he couldn't resist bringing out his guitar to help raise spirits, too, evidence of which later appeared on Instagram. He added, "It was just another way for me to just kind of use ... one of my talents to help put a smile on people's faces."

Johnny Bananas has some thoughts on The Challenge

Johnny Bananas has not only appeared on a ton of seasons of MTV's "The Challenge," but has graced spinoff-from-spinoffs such as "Champs vs. Stars" and hosted a podcast for The Ringer about the unscripted reality genre. But the Penn State graduate still isn't afraid to tell it like it is about the MTV juggernaut responsible for his entire career.

In a 2021 interview with E! News, Bananas argued the last few seasons of "The Challenge" — coincidentally the ones that he didn't appear in — had lacked the usual spark. The seven-time winner took particular umbrage with the increasing number of newbies to the franchise as well as the amount of unnecessary twists: "I feel like sometimes it if ain't broke, don't fix it. And what has always made "The Challenge" so incredible is its simplicity. You don't need all of the bells and whistles and gimmicks."

Bananas used cold hard stats to back up his argument, adding, "Listen, the fans know what they like. I think it's very apparent in just how the ratings are now that it's like they are trying to force feed them something that they don't want." Proving that he's lost none of his showbiz tendencies since taking a break from the franchise, the Californian then referred to himself in the third person: "You can't just take out a Johnny Bananas and plug in a whoever and have fans be like, 'OK, that's a fair swap!'"

Johnny Bananas' washed bedsheets caused concern

In 2021, reality TV star Morgan Willett took to social media to reveal that she and Johnny Bananas were no longer an item. Oh, but she didn't leave it at that. In an Instagram story captured by People, she wrote, "The person I truly loved more than anything else cheated on me and I found out and I had to leave. I don't know what else to say but I physically hurt."

Willett, who began dating Bananas in 2018, later explained to Gabrielle Stone of podcast "FML Talk" that a mutual friend had alerted her to the apparent infidelity but that she'd already had her suspicions. And some freshly washed bedsheets was responsible for sparking them. Referring to a particular day she returned home, the former "Big Brother" star explained, "They were not put back. They were just taken out of the washing machine and clean sheets were ready to be put back on. I don't know what made me think that, but I was like, 'This is off. Something is so wrong right now. ... He's hungover and he just picked me up. He said he wasn't out that late. Why? Nothing else is being cleaned.'"

And Willett's concerns were compounded later on in the evening when her boyfriend failed to give her a goodnight kiss: "That's when I was like, all right. I knew something in my heart of hearts is really wrong." Bananas has never confirmed or denied that he strayed.

Johnny Bananas likes his privacy

Johnny Bananas has been a regular on our screens since the 2006 season of "The Real World." But that doesn't mean he necessarily wants his private life plastered all over the tabloids. Indeed, while ex-girlfriend Morgan Willett relished spilling the tea about their split in 2021, "The Challenge" star largely kept schtum.

Shortly after the break-up, Bananas told E! News that while he's a public figure who is no stranger to being at the center of speculation, headlines, and drama, the typically verbose MTV star wanted to keep a lid on this particular situation. "I think we're both really going through it right now and I wish her all the best and I'll just leave it at that," he said. 

Bananas did just leave it at that for several months. But during an episode of his "Death, Taxes and Bananas" podcast in January 2022, he was keen to point out his public silence didn't mean he'd moved on right away, nor did it mean he was not hurting. The reality television veteran added, "If it were up to me, I would have chosen obviously to keep all the salacious details private because once things did go public, all the sharks out there smelled blood in the water. They tore us both to pieces, I felt somewhat fairly and unfairly, and it really tarnished and overshadowed some of the beautiful aspects of the time that we had spent together."

Johnny Bananas reportedly had a sex tape leaked

In 2017, Johnny Bananas was a victim of a sex tape leak — or at least, someone who looked exactly like Johnny Bananas was. According to YourTango, footage of what appeared to be Bananas and then-girlfriend, snowboarder Hannah Teter, getting intimate was uploaded to the internet by Celeb Jihad. The site, renowned for sharing private images and videos of the rich and famous, seemed to be more interested in the female half of the pairing — the clip was posted alongside numerous other revealing pics of the Winter Olympian. But as the more famous of the two, it was the reality TV regular that ended up unwittingly grabbing the headlines.

Neither Bananas nor Teter have ever publicly commented on the leaked tape. The pair began dating in 2012, but when he competed in "The Challenge: Vendetta" some years later, Bananas revealed that they had gone their separate ways. Per Us Weekly, he said, "The Banana has left his bunch. Me and my girlfriend for five years called it quits. So here I am: single and naked as the day I was born."

Johnny Bananas' crazy streak inspired his nickname

You won't be surprised to learn that Johnny Bananas isn't "The Challenge" regular's real name. Born John Amadeus Devenanzio in Fullerton, California, in 1982, the reality TV star acquired his more familiar moniker when he was a student at Penn State University. So what exactly did he do to warrant such a crazy reputation?

Well, it actually all sounds pretty tame. Per USA Today, when he appeared on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" in 2017, Bananas explained that his nomme de tube was inspired by the "banana in the tailpipe" skate trick from Eddie Murphy flick "Beverly Hills Cop." The name subsequently stuck and undoubtedly helped him to attract attention on his screen debut in the 2006 season of "The Real World."

The "1st Look" host hasn't missed the opportunity to capitalize on his adopted surname, either. You can buy various items of clothing, including a face mask, branded with bananas on Johnny's official website.

He went bananas over an Entourage storyline

In the sixth season of the ultimate bros-being-bros comedy drama "Entourage," Kevin Dillon's character Johnny "Drama" Chase voices an animated character in a show-within-a show called "Johnny's Bananas." There was even talk of a spin-off for this particular creation. That was until the real-life man named Johnny Bananas (well, sort of) filed a lawsuit against the show and network in October 2011. Per The Hollywood Reporter, Bananas claimed in his suit that he'd suffered "tremendous emotional distress that has been intentionally inflicted upon plaintiff by defendants' unwarranted, unauthorized, and unjustified use of plaintiff's name and characterization in an offensive and disparaging manner."

Alas, The Hollywood Reporter noted, the judge ruled that Bananas had been too tardy with his claims. Yes, having waited a full 14 months after the episode in question aired, Bananas had missed the one-year statute of limitations window. To add insult to injury, Billings also stated that even if Bananas had been a little quicker off the mark, she'd still have ruled in HBO's favor.

When asked why he'd gone to such drastic measures by HuffPost, Bananas explained, "It's a situation where I've spent six years of my life creating a brand, and becoming a public figure being known by that name. So then for a show like 'Entourage' to come along, who basically appeals to the same viewing audience as my show does, and turn my character into a cartoon monkey, that just didn't sit right with me."

Johnny Bananas admires The Miz

In 2003, Michael Mizanin made the unlikely move from reality TV to professional wrestling when he signed up to the WWE as The Miz: he'd made his name on "The Real World: Back in New York" five years earlier before competing in several seasons of "The Challenge." And this career reinvention appears to have given another staple of the MTV franchise some ideas.

Speaking to ScreenRant in 2021, Johnny Bananas revealed that he also has hopes of entering the wrestling in the future, and that he has one particular opponent in mind: The Miz. Bananas went on to claim that his experience as a heel during his 20 seasons on "The Challenge" has laid the groundwork for a stint in the world of chinlocks and clawholds. What's more, he appreciates how The Miz paved the way for all other reality TV graduates: "What he's been able to do with the MTV 'Challenge' and 'Real World' platform, parlaying it into what he has as an actor, as a host, and as a WWE superstar? That guy is pretty much the blueprint of exactly the steps I'd like to follow and the trail I'd like to blaze for myself."

And hey, they'd make a heck of a tag team. As Mizanin said on an episode of "1st Look" where the two volunteered at an animal sanctuary, "I guess you could say The Miz and Bananas is like two egotistical, arrogant villains coming together for a good cause."

Johnny Bananas is a sensitive guy

After seeing Johnny Bananas yank $275,000 right from under Sarah Rice's nose, you'd be forgiven for thinking that he is one of the cockiest, loudest, and most ruthless personalities ever to grace reality TV. But the MTV regular insists that away from the cameras he's actually something of a sensitive wallflower.

Bananas told Us Weekly in 2021 that he constructed an entirely fabricated persona during his 20-season stint on "The Challenge," fully knowing how said persona would be received by his fellow competitors and the folks watching at home. He explained, "I almost created this really in your face, loud, over-the-top, sarcastic, personality as a way to keep people at a distance. So, if they're interacting with this larger-than-life, in your face, loud, boisterous personality version of myself, they're not getting to me because the person that I really am." 

The reality TV personality was promoting "Celebrity Sleepover" at the time, a show which he believes gives him the chance to show off his much softer and more chill side: "It's been weird being able to let my guard down and being OK with being that version of myself — the version that my family knows, my girlfriend knows, close friends of mine that I've known forever know."

Johnny Bananas' unique quarantine experience

In 2020, Johnny Bananas won "The Challenge" for the seventh time in the series dubbed "Total Madness." And the reality star certainly made sure that everyone knew he suffered for his success. In fact, during an interview with E! News, Bananas claimed that he'd had it much worse than anyone stuck in quarantine.

To be fair, the MTV regular and his cast mates spent all of their downtime in a less-than-cozy underground bunker in Prague (regular viewers know that "The Challenge" houses are usually well-appointed mansions with sparkling swimming pools), and they didn't interact with, let alone see anyone who wasn't a part of the show. When the "Total Madness" cast first laid eyes on the season's especially austere accommodations, they were unsurprisingly thrown off. "For the first time ever, we're living in a nuclear bomb shelter," Bananas told viewers. "This place is terrifying."

In the aforementioned E! News interview, Bananas recalled, "There was nothing even close to what this one did to your psyche. I consider myself a very mentally tough person on 'The Challenge' and I've basically done it all. I feel like I've pushed my mind to limits I didn't even know possible and this one was in a whole different realm. This one broke everyone ... it was hell." 

Johnny Bananas has several acting credits

If you take a look at Johnny Bananas' IMDb page, you'll see that, among the glut of MTV show appearances and hosting stints, there are a handful of acting credits. Yes, the reality TV personality has occasionally drawn on his ability to create drama at the drop of a hat in real life for more cinematic purposes.

Bananas first showed off his thespian skills in "Scream: Killer Party," a 2015 horror short co-starring "Teen Wolf" alum Tyler Posey. Two years later he voiced himself in an episode of hit animation "American Dad!" and then in 2018 he played a character called Rex Flex in adventure comedy "The Head Thieves."

But Bananas' proudest acting moment undoubtedly came when he was asked to briefly appear in 2019's "Jay and Silent Bob Reboot." "The Challenge" star got the chance to cosplay as Kevin Smith's character in the long-awaited movie, and as shown by an Instagram post, he couldn't contain his excitement: "I grew up watching [Kevin Smith's] films, and have been a Jay and Silent Bob fan for as long as I can remember. So being given the opportunity to have a cameo appearance in Kevin's new movie and being in a scene with Jay Mewes brought one of my childhood dreams to fruition."

Johnny Bananas wants to be the new Anthony Bourdain

Johnny Bananas wouldn't necessarily seem like the most obvious candidate to take over the late Anthony Bourdain's king of food travelogue title. But that's what the oft-dastardly reality TV star has set his sights on, as he revealed in a 2019 chat with Rolling Stone.

At the time, Bananas was a year into his stint as host of "1st Look," the NBC show in which he journeyed across the country to highlight some of its hottest restaurants. And "The Challenge" regular took a lot of inspiration from the man who'd mastered such a format: "I found myself watching all of his old episodes. I want to see what made that guy so successful and that's who I'm trying to emulate. That's really what I want to do, whether it's traveling or hosting something in a studio. I want to take that next step."

So we know that Bananas can talk about food, but can he actually cook it like his TV hero, too? Well, in an interview with Muscle and Fitness, he said that he enjoys nothing more than attempting to replicate his favorite restaurant meals at home, with sweet potato tortillas a particular speciality.

Johnny Bananas once tried to pull a Kanye

Kanye West's interruption of Taylor Swift's acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV VMAs was widely regarded as one of the most polarizing moves in awards history. That didn't stop Johnny Bananas, however, from attempting to replicate the notorious gatecrash at another ceremony a full decade later.

Yes, at the 2019 MTV Movie and TV Awards, the shy and retiring star took to the stage to protest "Love and Hip-Hop" receiving the Reality Royalty Award. Per People, after taking the mic from the VH1 show's cast, Bananas told a bewildered crowd, "We finally won! After all these years, it's about time MTV finally gives 'The Challenge' the recognition it deserves. All the other shows that got nominated are essentially paying rent in the genre we created." Naturally, just about every outlet that covered the incident referenced Ye's infamous VMAs moment. Alas, Bananas' moment didn't get the same amount of screen time or buzz. 

According to ET Canada, Bananas was escorted from the stage by the true winners who were entirely oblivious to his identity. And after boasting about his impromptu speech on Instagram, "The Real World" alum was left with even more egg on his face when it was cut from the actual broadcast. In a chat with ET, "Love and Hip Hop" star Lil Scrappy acknowledged, "I feel like ['The Challenge'] put in a lot of work too but we beat they a**."

Joining The Real World was a good money move

The daddy of the reality TV genre, "The Real World" was a must-watch for anyone who grew up in the '90s and early '00s. Although, as it turns out, not for one of its most famous graduates. Deprived of cable television as a youngster, Johnny Bananas hadn't watched until he was at Penn State University. Speaking to Rolling Stone in 2019, Bananas explained that he was only introduced to the show by a girlfriend obsessed with its depiction of young adult life.

And he sure liked what he saw. He shared, "I was like, 'Let me get this straight: This is basically about guys who live in a house with hot girls and they party and they argue and they get a little bit of notoriety for that? I can do that.'" Bananas subsequently made an audition tape for the MTV hit, sent it off, and within months he was part of the 2006 season's Florida-based cast.

With that, Bananas became a fixture of the small screen, and his work on "Real World" spin-off "The Challenge" alone has been lucrative: Per Entertainment Weekly, he's won nearly $1.9 million on the competition. There's some debate about what his net worth is, but according to Celebrity Net Worth, it reportedly sits at $200,000.