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From Camp Reich to VH1

August 28th, 2008

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Boris Kuperman would be the last person I’d expect to wind up on a VH1 reality show.

It was summer 2001. Boris, then 14, was a camper in my cabin at Camp Reich, just north of the Mason Dixon line. I was the ninth-grade unit head, which, translated from campspeak, meant I was responsible for all the ninth-grade campers and their counselors.

Boris, of Sterling, now competes on the VH1 show “I Want To Work For Diddy.” He disagrees with me, but I suspect his three summers at Camp Reich helped mold him into the person he is today, or at least prepared him in part for the Diddy show.

He was also my most difficult camper. Don’t take my word for it—his bunkmates remember him as a “bully” and an “asshole.” The Washington City Paper did a story on camp, referring to Boris as a “notorious loudmouth.”

I wanted him sent home after the first week. He picked fights, slept in, skipped activities and spent all his time at the basketball courts.

Sending him home was not an option, my supervisor told me. Boris didn’t exactly have a happy home life and camp was the only place where he could find success.

We thrust Boris into some leadership roles, gave him some opportunities to work for (he really wanted to deejay a camp dance). There were certainly some bumps along the way, but by the end of the summer, Boris was one of my favorites. He was funny, had an endearing honesty to him and, when given the right kind of positive reinforcement, had moments where he was a model camper.

I wanted him back the next summer for a teen leadership program, to build on his accomplishments.

He didn’t come back. I argued on his behalf, but one of the directors told me “No, Boris was a bully; the camp would be better off without him.”

I stopped going to camp after 2002. Every now and then I’d hear a rumor about Boris. He was behind bars. He’d been kicked out of school.

Both true. But what happened between camp and Diddy is even more incredible.

I recently met Boris for dinner at Carrabba’s in Reston, a couple of hours before the show’s fourth episode.

The hostess recognized him from the show and started jumping up and down, screaming, she’d met a celebrity.

Boris, now 21, kept his cool (later, he said she was cute). We took a booth and Boris, more confident and mature but with the same devious sense of humor, filled me in on his life since camp.

He was kicked out of his first high school for making threatening phone calls to his teachers and cussing them out. He said he spent time at Dominion Hospital, slept in and saluted with his middle finger at a military school (“I just told all the sergeants and majors they could all suck a big one”), panhandled at gas stations and was locked up 13 times for destruction of property, trespassing, arson, theft, probation violation and vandalism.

Lawyer Pamela Cave took interest.

“She just thought I had potential, I guess,” Boris said.

After his final stint behind bars, Boris asked Cave for a job. She took a chance. He’s been working for her as a legal assistant since he was 17.

His senior year he won “Best Business Law Student of the Year” award and finished his last quarter with straight “A”s. He did two years at NOVA, now he’s at George Mason University, pursuing a degree in criminal justice. His dream is to become a criminal entertainment lawyer.

Through it all, Boris has been involved in D.C.’s hip-hop scene, networking with all the right people, meeting all the celebrities he could (50 Cent, Mariah Carey, Kobe Bryant, to name a few).

Not to mention that VH1 show.

Boris branded himself as “Can Do” (“Because I can do anything”), sent in a portfolio, interviewed in Manhattan and landed himself a spot on the show, where 13 (now eight) contestants compete for a chance to work as Diddy’s assistant.

(It’s a bit surreal to watch someone I know on national television, even moreso to watch it with that person.)

He said the show is edited to make him look like a “lazy, slow, goofball.” There’s a scene in the third episode where Boris’s team is prepping a model for a photo shoot. Everyone is busy, very hands-on. Cut to a disinterested Boris, taking a bite of a sandwich. The only problem, Boris says, is everyone had sandwiches for lunch.

Here’s the thing—all of the tasks so far: orienteering, dressing up in stupid costumes, teamwork and scavenger hunts, are things done at camp.

Not Boris. Camp was a vacation. He said he was there to meet girls and piss people off, not do those kinds of things.

Maybe, but I don’t think he’s giving himself enough credit for his earlier accomplishments.

There’s a scene in the third episode where Boris is sent to Paris to track down a model. He doesn’t know the language or city and, for extra drama, he’s partnered with Laverne, a transsexual he does not get along with.

It was the first time Boris was put in a do-or-die situation on the show. I had no doubt Boris would be able to accomplish his task.

Likewise on Monday’s episode, he overcame his insecurities about his weight to dress in tights as a super villain.

The whole thing screams of camp. Even if Boris ignored all of that silly stuff at camp he was certainly aware of it.

Cave had the biggest impact helping Boris turn his life around, but watching him overcome his insecurities on national television, I can’t help but wonder if, at least in some small part, Boris’s three summers at camp had a little to do with it.

Staff writer Josh Eiserike can be reached at 703-878-8072 or jeiserike@potomacnews.com.

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On TV:

» Catch Boris on “I Want To Work For Diddy” 9 p.m. Mondays on VH1

On the Web:

» boriscando.com

» famousvh1friends.com

» myspace.com/toplaw

» cafepress.com/boriscando

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5 comments to “From Camp Reich to VH1”

  1. go boris!

    JE- “criminal entertainment lawyer”? missing a word or freudian slip?


  2. When I thought about Kuperman Camps, I though, “Gee, that video must be lying around somewhere… I have to remember who the video specialist was that summer and bug them about finding it.” After a few moments of pondering, I realized that *I* was the video specialist. So I found the video. Now it’s on YouTube:

    Enjoy.


  3. Josh! That is ridiculous. Thanks so much for writing it up, I never would have watched the show.

    (And yes, I check your website from time to time. You can’t really stop idolizing your heroes from middle school.)


  4. Awesome! Hope all is well with you!! (graduating?) I’d have never watched the show either but Boris called me up at work. It was pretty hysterical watching him on television.


  5. That video is amazing (read: painful).

    I remember filming it too. Take that my memories.