Interviews

Chatting with Charla

Charla and Al Pacino at the Emmys.<br />
(Photo courtesy of Charla and Mirna)
Charla and Al Pacino at the Emmys.
(Photo courtesy of Charla and Mirna)
First off, I’d like to get a little background, find out how you came to be on the Race. I know Mirna and I talked about it, but I’d like to hear it from your side.

Well, basically, we were—we always watched the show, and were huge fans of the show. And, out of all the reality shows, we just thought this one was the best one. Because, you know, it deals more with regular people doing regular things, and they are not, like, trying to—you know how, on all the other shows, they are trying to get people to hook up or something like that. We thought this was completely more real, and we love to travel, and we’ve done a lot of traveling on our own and some with each other, Mirna and I. And, basically, we thought it was the perfect show for us that would really bring out our personalities and show people who we are. And we really thought we could play this game and win the Race. We thought we had a chance, even though we didn’t win.

But you did have a chance, and you did do well. Mirna has said—and this has been reported—that it was perhaps the message you saw on a little-person listserv that made you think, “The Race would accept me.” Is that kind of what put you over the edge to go ahead and apply?

Yeah. Actually, I was on my computer, and I was on this list—yeah, I get some e-mails from the dwarfism.com site. And, all of a sudden, I got this e-mail that said, “Amazing Race,” and it had the dwarfism listserv thing. And I was like, “What is that? Why is that with that?” You know, I clicked on it and then it said on the thing, “The Amazing Race is looking for applicants. And it’s looking for all kinds of people, everyone—they want all kinds of different people to apply, and it would be interesting if a little person or a little person—” no, it didn’t say “interesting.” I guess they were interested in if there was a little person or a little person with an average-sized person, a combination. It was interested in a little person being on the show or something like that. So, when I heard that, I immediately—it was actually two days before the deadline for the show.

Oh no.

Yeah, so it was really quite—two days before the deadline. You know, Mirna and I are both busy working people, so we were just like, “Oh my God.” Oh, no, no, no, I’m sorry. This is what happened. I said it wrong. Actually, when I got this, when I got the e-mail, I opened it up late. It was a week after, and it said the thing had to be done by March something. And I was like, oh my gosh, we missed the deadline. So then what happened is that it had someone’s phone number on it, so I called CBS, and they said, “Oh, you still have a couple more days before the deadline. You have to go to CBS.com and fill out the application and send in a video tape,” and all that stuff. “And, if they’re interested, they’ll call you.” They said, “Two to three months later, you’ll get your call.” It was actually like two and a half months later we got our call.

So, when I find that out, two days before the deadline, I call Mirna immediately, the first day I saw that listserv thing. And I said to her, “They’re looking for someone. We should do it. It’s the perfect opportunity for us.” Because it was our favorite show, and we’ve always watched it together. So I’m blabbing about this so long!

I think the main question is: Before, did you want to go on, but you didn’t think they would be open—?

Yeah, I never dreamed that they would be open-minded enough to allow me, you know what I mean? So I never tried.

Right.

And that was—I don’t know why, why I never tried. But I do know I asked specifically the day of the—when they called me for the second interview—I asked them specifically if they had other applicants, little people, and they said yes. There were twelve. There were twelve other little-people applicants, but none of them got a second interview. So that was an interesting fact. Yeah, they’re looking for a little person, but they didn’t just put me on because I’m a little person. You know what I mean? They had these twelve other people, and they didn’t call them for a second interview. I don’t know why they didn’t call them, but they just didn’t call, you know, any of them for a second interview.

So that had to make you feel you weren’t getting on “just because.”

Yeah. So it made me feel, yeah, that at least it means it’s not just because I’m a little person they’re picking me. Right.

Right. So that had to feel a little better about it. Because were you kind of wondering about that or worried about that or anything?

No. I was wondering if like anyone else applied, and if, you know, I was going to see another little person at the next interview. You know what I mean?

Right. Yeah.

I was interested to know. I mean, am I competing against another little person to get on the show? It’s always interesting to know what’s the odds. And then I was just—but even through the interview processes, it wasn’t easy for me to convince them. It really, really wasn’t. I mean, because so many people had so much doubt. And they’re just like, you know, “We don’t want it to . . . ” I guess with their doubts, that how is it going to look, you know?

Right.

Because they’re like a show that is not like the typical—you know, some of them, when little people are on shows, it’s not the best scenes they get, basically.

Right. They get scenes where they are playing to a stereotype or playing—

Right. And, most of the time, it’s like they are getting laughed at, basically. And The Amazing Race is not that type of show to make—you know what I mean?

It’s like you were trying to make sure—and they were trying to make sure—you wouldn’t feel like an exhibit but, instead, a competitor.

Right.

You wouldn’t feel like, “Oh, they’re putting me on because I’m the little person, and I’m going to get attention for that, and I really don’t have a chance in heck.”

Exactly!

You were going on as a competitor just like everyone else.
Like I was dying to do the skydiving. You can’t imagine how upset I was that I didn’t get a chance for the next episode.
Exactly. And, you know, with the languages and the traveling that I’ve done and things like that, they saw—and I was telling them how fearless I am, that I love to do crazy things. Like I was dying to do the skydiving. You can’t imagine how upset I was that I didn’t get a chance for the next episode. It was the next episode after we had gotten off.

Right.

Basically, I love those kinds of fearless things, just jumping off of a cliff and doing all those wonderful things. And so, I mean, they were just—I guess they grew to like my personality just like a lot of other viewers began to like.

So, speaking of some of those kind of—you know, you like to do the daring and dangerous things. Were there any concerns, maybe—I know they say they test a lot of challenges, but I don’t know if they test them with particular body types in mind. And obviously with some of the safety equipment—

No. They do. Actually, we found that out. They do test them with—I mean, obviously not with a little person—but they do test them with like females that are 100 pounds or whatever. For example, they said they had this girl—I don’t know if she was 100 pounds, but basically like a really petite girl—eat the caviar. And she was able to eat the caviar and do it all. You know, they test it with all kinds of people, not just men or big guys. You know what I mean?

Right.

They try to make it like an average person.

Okay. Was there any concern, though, on your part, as far as—I’m sorry, I don’t mean to belabor this point, and I’m not trying to, and just tell me if I am—but I know like for the hang-gliding, where you jumped off the cliff, that required some special equipment. And, for the hockey portion, that might have required some special safety equipment. Did you have equipment that worked well with your body size? Did they provide that for you?

Nothing was specially provided for me.

Okay.

They made it very—they said, “There is no way that we’re going to do anything special for you, because everything is ordinary for everybody.” They even told me, actually—this is kind of an important thing—that they wouldn’t put a kid’s bike on the—when there was a route where there was a bike trial or when you had to ride a bike or you do the next detour, they were going to put the regular adult bike.

Right.

So there was no special exception like you get a kid’s bike.

So you knew that going into this?

So, basically, I knew that absolutely nothing will be altered for me. So, you know, it’s just like regular life. Nothing is altered for me.

Right.

I live the life of everybody else, even though some things are a little more difficult for me to do, I guess.

Right.

But nothing is altered, just like regular life. And I told them, I mean, in my regular life, nothing is altered. I adjust to the environment.

Right. I think there has been some controversy where some people felt that it might have been unfair if—there were people on both sides of it: some who felt it would have been unfair if you did get special-sized equipment and some who felt that it was unfair that you didn’t. So it seems to me, either way, they were going to kind of come under some criticism. And I don’t know—

I think—I mean, I don’t understand the people who say that—for example, I agree with everything else except the bike thing, to be honest, because it’s like saying to someone, “Why don’t I give you this gigantic bike that there’s no possible way your legs are going to reach no matter what you do?”

Right.

If you stand, if you—you know, there’s no possible way you can reach.

Right.

It’s just if someone is in that opportunity, I think in my position they would see it a little differently.

Oh, yeah. And like you said, you know, and it’s kind of like I feel—I have very mixed feelings about it. I can definitely see both sides of this issue. And it’s one of those issues where you’re never going to make 100% of the people happy with what decision is made.

Right. But how could you see the side to say, “Yeah, that you should put an average-sized bike?”

Well, I think the only thing I can say is if there wasn’t another option.

Oh.

You know what I’m saying? If your only option was riding the bike, maybe. Because, just as an example—and, again, I’m not trying to belabor this—but, for example, in Season 3, there’s a situation where Flo, a rather petite woman, had to ride a bicycle with big, heavy baskets on it. She simply could not do it. She could not handle the equipment.

Yeah. But she could reach it, though.

Yeah.

That’s different, though. You can’t really compare it. She could reach it, though. You know what I’m saying?

Right. But she still could not physically handle the bike. And, again, I think, if the bike was your option, they should have provided you a smaller bike. So let me just say I’m playing devil’s advocate here. Okay?

No, no, no. I understand what you’re saying. But like, for example, if there was a position where they put a kid’s bike, and I can’t reach it, then it’s completely my fault. You know what I’m saying?

Okay.
Like say, for example, if they put a kid’s bike and say the kid’s bike is a little big, the big bikes or something, and I can’t reach it, then there’s nothing more that could possibly—you know what I mean?
That’s what I agree with. Like say, for example, if they put a kid’s bike and say the kid’s bike is a little big, the big bikes or something, and I can’t reach it, then there’s nothing more that could possibly—you know what I mean?

Right. So you weren’t saying that they needed to provide customized equipment. Just an option.

Yeah. Exactly. Nothing customized or anything like that. But I think that they should have—it’s actually like—the Disability Act law is, if you were to have a person that has a disability or something, you’re supposed to provide it. But I didn’t go with all those laws or whatever. I heard about these laws afterwards or whatever the situation. But it’s like basically saying—because, if you don’t provide it, it’s pretty much saying, “You’re out of the game.” There’s no way. But, I mean, fortunately, there’s a second option to do. You know what I mean?

Right. And I think the leg that you guys lost on was one of the legs that had a bicycle-riding task.

Exactly.

And was that one where you both had to pedal or was that one where one person would have to—I wasn’t sure if those were one-person bikes or two-person bikes.

No. Mirna was supposed to ride the bike, and I was supposed to sit with her on the bike and go to the bee stock or something.

Right. There was probably—was it difficult for you to—because there really wasn’t a way you could get your feet down to any bars to rest them on or anything, like a—

No. It’s not that. It’s just that—you see, with the bike thing, I don’t think any of the teams really knew what the situation was, because no one would do the bikes. Because, for example, with the bikes, they expected us to take—Mirna drive the bike, I sit on the bike in the back, and, on top of that, we still both have our backpacks.

Right. Yeah.

And it was basically like where was all that going to fit or whatever. So, you know—

Right. I’m just trying to understand. In that situation, it wasn’t more that it was the fact that you were a little person that stopped you from taking the bikes. It’s just that the bikes were going to be tough no matter what size you were since only one person was pedaling—or am I not making any sense here right now?

No. You’re making sense. But the thing of it is, we didn’t know what the option was with the bikes, to be honest with you. There wasn’t a real good—like all we knew was: there were bikes, and you’re supposed to go somewhere with the bikes. But we didn’t know if we were supposed to ride, I guess, separate bikes or—at the time, it was a very confusing scene.

I see. So it just wasn’t explained to you very well, and you didn’t know—

And we just were like, anyway, I can’t do the bike. So we—you know what I mean? We couldn’t even really look at that option at that time because we were just like—because it’s a no-win situation with the bikes.

Right. No. I understand now. Okay.

But, before the thing, it was pretty much like they let me know that, you know, if there’s a bike, you’ll have to do the opposite thing.

Right. Okay.

So that’s the situation with the bikes. But, I mean, nothing against any of it. I loved every part of it. But with the bike situation, I just think that they should have put a kid’s bike—not that it had to be a kid’s bike that I would reach. Maybe I couldn’t reach that kid’s bike, either. But I think that they should have just put a kid’s bike.

You feel that would have given you a more fair chance at performing the task?

Pretty much, yeah. Because it just made me—you know, you have to pretty much say, “Okay, next option.”

Right.

And, in the real world, you would have had a—I would have ridden a kid’s bike. I can ride a bike. You know what I mean?

Right.

It’s not like I don’t know how to ride a bike. I don’t know. It’s a little like—you know, when you always look back, you’re like, oh, I wish I could have done this differently or that differently.

Oh, yeah.

So it’s always—I mean, especially when you’re in this Race and you’re doing these things, you always think, oh, if I did this, maybe I would have still been in it. But that’s like things people go through when they’re—you know, when they go through this Race. I’m sure Colin and Christie are probably like, “Oh my God, if we did this, then we would have won.” You know?

I’m sure everyone does. Every single person.

I’m sure it goes through their heads so much.

Yeah. So, other than the bike situation, was there anything that you felt particularly challenged you as a person or you as a little person on the Race? Either way, just as a human being—like I said, I’m not trying to put labels on anything here. But just what were the most challenging things you had to do?
Actually, to be honest, the Race was not as challenging to me as I expected it to be.
Actually, to be honest, the Race was not as challenging to me as I expected it to be. I don’t know. The only challenging part was I was not able to keep up with the running with the competitors, obviously.

So pretty much the same kind of challenges you face in your day-to-day life, magnified?

No. Because I keep up with people, because we’re not all running. We’re walking. You know?

Right.

We’re all walking so I don’t have a problem keeping up and going at a fast pace. You know what I mean?

Right.

But the running is—like, when I walk with people on the streets, my friends, my family, they don’t keep up with me or I slow them down. Not at all. We’re at the same pace going. So the running was the toughest thing for me to, I guess, keep up with them, because I’m—you know, it’s like you’re giving it your best shot, you’re running your hardest, and it’s just never going to be basically good enough. (laughs) You know, no matter what you do, because they just have a little longer stride than you.

So, I mean, I accept that. So we always were thinking ahead, basically, and trying to get those earliest—the earlier flights.

Right. Trying to minimize the amount of running you’d have to do.

Right. So, with the challenges—in my life, I’ve been through so many—I’ve been through surgeries and some excruciating pain that people have never, ever dealt with in their lives, and hopefully will never, ever deal with, because, when I was younger, at the age of like 13, or actually from like 7 to 13, I’ve had these surgeries to straighten up my legs, because I would get like—people with dwarfism get bowleggedness, and their legs tend to curve. If you don’t get these things fixed, it won’t be as easy a life for your walking and running in the future.
And even the regular things like walking and running and things like that that people maybe take for granted—it’s just like a blessing for me that I always think, thank God for those surgeries.
So there were these doctors who were the best in the world—and it was luckily right here in Baltimore—who dedicated their whole lives to—one of them dedicated their whole life to little people. So, with those surgeries—and after these surgeries, you get out, you’re like in casts for months and things like that. And you get to endure a lot of pain and suffering and things that people don’t know about and deal with. And you appreciate life more, you know? And even the regular things like walking and running and things like that that people maybe take for granted—it’s just like a blessing for me that I always think, thank God for those surgeries. Thank God for those doctors who allowed me to—

And it probably helped you realize at a young age just how strong you could be.

Right.

I think a lot of people go through life without getting tested on a lot of difficult things. And you were tested from a young age.

Exactly. I was, yes, tested at a young age. And it’s not like something it was a choice or anything. It’s like you have to do it, you know, to survive and to succeed in your life. So, yeah, it taught me a lot of things in my life.

So, basically, those experiences are what I—you know, and other things in my life. I mean, everybody has their stories, and I’m sure other people have gone through a lot of things, too, in their lives. But it’s just that, with the Race, it was a lot of pleasure and enjoyment and fun. Obviously, a few of the people weren’t as pleasant as others, which—but I deal with those kinds of people in my life, you know, a lot. It’s normal. So they didn’t really bother me, to be honest. You know what I mean?

Yeah. Do you think some people were reacting to you as the physical image that they saw, instead of to your personality and who you are?

Oh, absolutely, in the beginning. Can you imagine, the first thing the guy is saying in the first episode—you know, they’re going to the airport. They’re saying, “Oh, we’ve got to beat—” what is it, Donny saying at that time, he was riding the shuttle—Donny from Allison and Donny.

Yeah. He said something about “the midget.” Yeah.

Yeah. He said, “We got to worry about the midget,” he said in the shuttle. And you saw the reaction. The others were laughing, “Oh, no.” But, you know, it obviously is his image of me. He doesn’t know me. He’s talking to the other people, treating them all with respect. What about me? All because I’m short means I don’t have feelings or I’m not a human being, and I don’t deserve the same respect or something?

Right.

And especially with—I mean, after that many episodes, you heard Colin on the foothill of the mountain when we’re jumping: “We gotta beat the midget.” You know, it’s been so many episodes. You don’t know my name yet?

Right. And especially that word, because I know that word does have quite a bit of history and quite a bit of—it’s not a word that—I know a lot of people would prefer people not to use that word.

Right. So it’s not a favorable word. It’s just—a big stereotype goes with the word, that people can laugh when that word is said, basically, that they can laugh at that person, whoever it might be. It almost—it’s just not—you know, we’re all human beings.

Right.
And I think we all deserve respect and deserve the kind of appreciation or goodness towards people that anybody deserves.
And I think we all deserve respect and deserve the kind of appreciation or goodness towards people that anybody deserves.

You know, I can see, in the very first episode, when you’re meeting people, saying, “Oh, I don’t want to let the little person beat me. I don’t want to let the two fat guys beat me.” And I’m a fat person, and, you know, I could see people thinking that. Or, “I don’t want to let the older people beat me.” But by the time, like you’re saying, later on in the Race when you’ve gotten to know each other a little bit—you got to know each other more as people a little bit—then it seems like you said. Yes, there could be—everyone deserves that respect right from the start. But it’s more forgivable to me at the beginning than it is later on, after you’ve gotten a chance to know people. I don’t know.

Right. Absolutely. I agree with you 100%. The more you get to know—I mean, I was always tried to be kind and respectful to everybody on the Race, and I don’t think they can say that I treated them bad in any way or called them any names. So I don’t understand why they would think that they have the right to do that to me.

But a lot of people—and let me say I was one of these people. I did not know “midget” was considered a rude word. Okay? I had always thought it was preferable to the word “dwarf,” and I did not know it was considered a rude word until, actually, Mama Tiger posted about it on the Television Without Pity site. And I think a lot of the general population does not know it’s considered a rude word.

Did you tell people or was there any discussion about the use of that particular word?


Well, actually, to be honest, no one had the courage to say any of that to my face. I almost wish they did, because I would have brought it up, and I would have given a different kind of speech. I mean, because I had no idea that they were—I mean, to my face, they didn’t say anything like, “Oh, we gotta beat the midget.” They never said that. Even when Colin was saying it on the mountain, he didn’t say it—I didn’t hear him. I don’t know when he said it, to be honest, because—I don’t know when he said it. Maybe he was further away. They never said—

Or maybe it was from a previous or a later episode. You never really know sometimes.

Yeah. I don’t know when he said it, but I’m sure he said it like around the time or something. But they never actually said it to me. You see, if they said it to me, I would have said—you know, I would have explained to them the situation, and that would have been explaining to the population who was watching the show, which would have made it better for me.

Right.

But, unfortunately, they all said it behind closed doors or whatever when they were doing interviews or whenever they said it, I don’t know. But I would have definitely confronted them about it.

Because you don’t know necessarily if they were using the word as an insult at that point. I mean, you can tell by the tone of voice, yes. But I could have innocently used that word and not known it was an insult. You know what I’m saying?

Yeah. But, if you were on the Race, would you have used that word? Like without knowing—even though you didn’t know “midget” is a bad—like not a nice thing to say, you would have said, “Oh, I gotta catch up to the midget”?

Well, if I was having a discussion. I didn’t know—20 new people that I don’t know their names. I don’t know . . . I would describe people as, oh, the blond one, you know, maybe the African-American one, you know, the heavier guys. And I might have said the word “midget” or I might have said “short person” or “little person.” I don’t know. You know what I’m saying?

Yeah.

Honestly, at that point, all you have to describe people by are physical characteristics or anything else they might have already said to you.

Sure.

But I definitely can see where—it’s like—I don’t know. Not having lived your life, not having known that, I don’t understand, I can never understand, what reaction that word brings to you. I can never understand it because it’s not my world.

Right.

You know? And that’s why I was like—I had pause when I heard people using that word just because it seemed demeaning to refer to someone that way. But at the same time, they might not have known all of the connotations that seem to go with that word.

Right. Maybe they didn’t. Maybe that is the situation. I don’t know. And, until now, Colin never said anything like, “Oh, you know, I hadn’t realized that it wasn’t.” Or I don’t know if he still knows. You know, we never had a discussion about it. I mean—

Well, I did interview Colin. And what he told me was he said that he thought it was the medical term for it, that he knows it might have fallen out of fashion, but he doesn’t believe in being P.C. Whatever. But—

Medical term?

Yes.

Oh, okay.

And I don’t know. And like I said, growing up, I remember—it’s actually funny because I was trying to remember where I had thought that “midget” was the preferred word. And it was some interviews with Herve Villechaize, who played Tattoo on Fantasy Island.

Oh, yes.

And it was a big deal, when he was on TV, because he was a little person, you know, on TV. And he was—people were calling him a dwarf. He was a little person, slightly disproportionate, and that’s what would meet the definition of a dwarf. And he would get upset and say, “I’m not a dwarf; I’m a midget,” because he thought that had more positive connotations.

But you know what it is? Like to some people, “midget” is—I mean, it depends how you use it, too.

Right. Exactly.
I don’t really get offended that much. But I would prefer to be called by my name.
Obviously, if you’re, I guess, using it in a demeaning way, it’s hurtful. But some people get offended—see, I don’t really get offended that much. But I would prefer to be called by my name.

Oh, yeah.

Oh like—I mean, I don’t know. It’s just some of the—you know, “midget,” sometimes, it just has a bad connotation to it and it just reminds you of sometimes the not-so-pleasant scenes of—I don’t know—in the circus back in the day or—

Exactly. Someone on exhibition.

Right. So it’s not the most pleasant feeling, but it’s not like I get gung-ho, like, “Oh, my gosh, this guy called—” but it’s just not like—because I accept myself, and I know who I am, and I know that I’m short, little, whatever, a dwarf, midget—I accept it all. It’s not that—I mean, if I was younger, maybe if someone said that to me when I was young, and when it was hard growing up, and you’re having all these names called at you, and then you’re having this name “midget” always called at you or something like that, then it’s probably like, yeah, you probably sometimes want to go home and cry in your pillow, like, “Well, why do people call me this? What’s wrong with me? Aren’t I human, too?”

Right.

So, I mean, it depends how you use it, obviously. But, definitely, “midget” these days, to most of the little people, they consider it like the N-word for the African Americans.

Right. And that’s what I learned. I mean, that’s what I learned from talking to Mama Tiger and then going and looking on the Little People of America site, I believe, the Little People—the Little People Association site or something like that.

Yeah. The Little People of America.

Yeah, and looking on that site. And I was like, oh, my gosh. I felt horrible, because I never knew it was considered to be such a bad word. And it’s a word I would not even have ever considered using had I known that, you know, it could make people feel that way. And I do know what you mean, too, a little bit, in that I grew up very obese and have been obese my whole life. And, I'm not trying to compare that to your situation at all, but I do know that growing up hearing those labels and hearing those words thrown at you hurts. And it can hurt very much. And as you get older sometimes you have to wonder, is the word being thrown out meant to hurt or is it just being thrown out out of ignorance?

Right. You know, most of the time, I learned that it was thrown out out of ignorance, because people just didn’t know better. And it was difficult always trying to teach people, too, because I have to be the teacher of the whole world and always teach everybody.

Right.

So, basically, that was tough, too.

Okay. What was your next question?

I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I don’t mean—

That’s okay. But each question is going to take like an hour.

I know in interviews since the Race, you guys have said that you and Mirna divided up the tasks—well, you decided beforehand she was going to do—you were going to do all the eating tasks. Were there any other rules you had set as far as tasks? I think she was supposed to do all the driving, because the pedal extenders were going to be too heavy for you to carry on the Race.

Right.

Any other divisions of labor or any other agreements?

Yeah. Basically, we were going to do like the—I mean, if there were like a—like when they did that climbing thing with the Moms, obviously Mirna would have done that in a heartbeat, and she would have done well at that. But things like physical things, she was going to do more, and I was going to do—and I was going to do, you know, my physical share, but just—I don’t know. We knew that we could fill each other’s gaps and strengths and weaknesses, because we knew each other well, and we knew that, you know, if there were something that she was not sure she was going to do—you know, she didn’t want to do it—then I knew that I would be able to handle it. And then, if I couldn’t handle it, then I knew that she would be able to handle it. So we definitely knew that we would fill each other’s gaps up like perfectly, because, between the two of us, we knew that one of us would get the job done 100%. We knew that one of us would get the job done.

Right. Was there anything on the Race that didn’t make it to air that you really wished had, either because it was a moment that you enjoyed so much or because it was a moment that upset you or whatever, or just any favorite moments that didn’t make it to air?

When we were going to Evita Peron’s grave—did Mirna tell you about this?

No.
We’re big fans of Madonna, and we were singing, “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina,” the whole time when we were going.
Oh, okay. We’re big fans of Madonna, and we were singing, “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina,” the whole time when we were going. And, during that time, we were like enjoying with the people of Argentina and just being very cheerful and singing and, you know, just getting the whole vibe of Argentina that you guys didn’t get to see, because I guess we were saying, “Don’t Cry For—” you know, we were singing that song, and I guess they’ve got to give those credits to the—

Oh, yeah. They probably have to pay royalties or something.

Royalties or something. So, basically, since it was that song that we were using, I assume that that’s why. Because it was like very fun and entertaining and, I mean, it was like a really good time and very fun and entertaining, just like our personalities are. So you would have seen that side of us that likes to joke around and sing and just enjoy with the cultures. And, basically, it was just a lot of fun. More than that, you saw the running just to the grave site. But when we were in the taxi—we were in the taxi for a while getting there—we were singing the whole time.

Yeah.

And, you know, the taxi driver would join in. It was just a good time, basically.

Knowing that you’re being filmed and this was going to be on TV, was it hard not to kind of turn up that natural urge to be bubbly and happy even a notch higher?

No.

No?

Because the way we are when we—you know, the whole trip was just—I mean, it has its stressful moments and stuff. But it’s a lot of fun. I mean, during the three days, you’re doing practically like three days of activities in one episode. So you just see the like very stressful moments. You know what I mean?

Right. The stress that makes for the drama.

Right. But there’s some very relaxing moments, entertaining and enjoyable, like when you’re watching the scenery or you’re—I don’t know. There’s different things that you’re doing at that moment that they don’t put on, because maybe it’s not—you know, it’s not good enough for television. It’s not as, I guess, drastic or something. You know what I mean?

Right.

Or it’s not entertaining enough, obviously. It’s boring to put a little bit of the enjoyable moments, because you want to see some action more than like enjoyable moments. It would be too boring, I guess. Right?

Yeah. I always think it’s sad that we end up seeing more arguments than we do happy times because, you know, I’m all about watching the happy times, too. I don’t think you have to have all bickering to make for a dramatic show. And I think—it seems to me, in more recent seasons, there’s been more emphasis on showing the bickering. Either that or teams have just been bickering more. I’m not quite sure which.

Yeah. I’m sure they just want to show a little bit more of the bickering than the regular, because I guess people are like, “Oh, my gosh, what’s going to happen?” You know?

Yeah. That’s got to be frustrating for you, because there’s all of these really cool, fun memories you have that you know are on film someplace that you’re not going to get to watch and keep and share.
I wish I could have them. I just wish I could call him and say, “Can I have those pictures?”
Yeah. That’s actually very frustrating. And some of the pictures. For example, they took—I remember Tony was taking—Tony is a big CBS guy. He was taking some great pictures of us. And I don’t know where they went. I didn’t see them. I wish I could have them. I just wish I could call him and say, “Can I have those pictures?”

Yeah. I mean, on one point, you do get this TV show you get to share with people. But it’s not necessarily the moments you’d want to share. Was there any moment in particular that you wished hadn’t made it on the Race that did, that did make it on there that you kind of wish hadn’t made it on there for any reason?

I don’t know. I can’t think of anything right now. But, I mean—let’s see.

Well, if you want to just think of—you know, if you think of something—

Yeah. I don’t—I think everything was pretty good. I mean, I liked everything I saw, basically.

Yeah. So just how awful was that caviar, and how did you get through it so quickly?

The caviar was like salty, and it just tasted—for me, it tasted like mayonnaise, and I hate mayonnaise.

Ooh, I hate mayonnaise, too.

Yeah. So it tasted like mayonnaise, like I was eating spoonfuls of mayonnaise. And I don’t like mayonnaise at all. I don’t put mayonnaise on any of my sandwiches. So that’s why it was really tough for me, but, even though it didn’t even look tough for me, because you know what it was? It’s just I want to get through this thing, and I don’t want to be here forever. So I was just eating it and eating it and trying to get out of there as fast as I could, basically, and thinking on the positive, well, there’s just—I don’t know. I mean, it wasn’t that difficult.
To be honest, I wish so badly that that last day, instead of them putting an ostrich egg, it was something much, much harder for others to eat, and I would eat it in a second.
To be honest, I wish so badly that that last day, instead of them putting an ostrich egg, it was something much, much harder for others to eat, and I would eat it in a second. Because—I don’t know. I don’t really—the eating things, the caviar—well, the part you didn’t watch is everything that went in came straight back out.

Oh, no. Well, I’m glad we didn’t watch that.

Yeah, you didn’t see that part. But it did that for everybody except Chip. And Chip was hurting for days.

Oh, no. Yeah, I think a lot of people were worried about everyone’s well-being, because, once people looked up like the amount of salt that was in that much caviar, the amount of fat that was in that caviar, everyone thought you guys would be half dead the next day.

No. Everybody, I think—actually, I know it just came right back up, because it’s not a pleasant thing. And then you’re like eating it with these—we were drinking this red fruit juice that they put with it, and it wasn’t like regular fruit juice. And that fruit juice was helping it come back up.

Oh, no.

So that was like the best fruit juice ever.

Oh, my goodness. That just sounds awful.

Yeah.

I loved how excited you guys were to be in Egypt. Was that one of the places going into it that you thought would be cool to go to?

Yeah. I always wanted to go to Egypt and see the Pyramids and, you know, the wonders of the world. And that was just a perfect trip. I enjoyed it so much, because the horseback riding while the sun is setting—and it was so leisurely. It was like an hour horseback riding.

Oh, really?

Even though it seemed like it was five minutes or something, you know?

Yeah.
A beautiful sight. And you see the Pyramids, and light over the Pyramids, like the sun is setting. And everything was just so—
It was very—it was like the most relaxing time. And I couldn’t help—and the breeze, I just remember it so clearly, that there was like a little breeze and there was—you know, we were on these horses taking these camels, and the sand looked like it was going forever, like these—I don’t know. It was just such a pretty, pretty sight. A beautiful sight. And you see the Pyramids, and light over the Pyramids, like the sun is setting. And everything was just so—

It’s just one of those moments you wish you could capture and take it out and—

Right. And take pictures and bring it with you, like Tony did.

Yeah.

Tony took those pictures, and I don’t know where they are.

So how long did it take to get over to those horses? Because it looked like you all were getting there just right as—

Right. It was like a minute or two.

Really?

Yeah. It was very—it looked like it was far away in the distance. It wasn’t as far as it looked.

Oh, okay.

The way it looked, it was like, “Oh, my gosh, it’s so far away.” And that’s why my doubts. But then you—I think the way the sand dunes are and like—you just ran across, and you’re right there.

Yeah. Because, I mean, running in sand is difficult. It’s much more difficult than running on a regular surface.

Yeah, definitely. But that’s when my whistle came in handy, too, because I was whistling to make sure we make it in time, I guess.

Yeah. So they knew you were coming. Right?

Yeah.

Here comes Charla and Mirna!

It was perfect.

You know, it’s kind of different when you’re filming the show and then when you know it’s going to come on. Were you excited to share this with your family? A little nervous?

No. Very excited. Very, very excited. I didn’t know how everything was going to come together, because, obviously, I’ve never been on a show and I don’t know—you’re always watching other people, but to watch yourself on a TV show, the first moments, like how is it going to look? You know?

Right. Yeah.

How am I going to look on television? And you’re just watching. I loved it. I just loved watching it all, and I think it was—it was fun to do, and it showed how happy I was doing it and having a good time. And, you know, some of my struggles it showed, too. And, basically, it shows everything. And that’s reality for you.

How did it feel that they kept—they seemed to keep coming back to one interview segment with you and cutting it in throughout the Race, the segment about how you can do as much as the regular—
Basically, I’m the type of person who just does things and, you know, accomplishes whatever I want to accomplish. I don’t talk about it.
Oh, yeah. I wanted to comment about that. Yeah. That’s not me, and everybody in my family and friends know that I don’t go out in the world and preach to the world that, “Oh, I can do anything.” Basically, I’m the type of person who just does things and, you know, accomplishes whatever I want to accomplish. I don’t talk about it. I never talk about what I’m going to accomplish or, you know, express like, “Oh, this is what I have to do.” You know, “I’m here to prove to the world.” No, no, no, no.

That was basically—in the beginning, especially on the first interview, the lady was over here at our house. They were doing like the intros and stuff. And they will—the lady—oh, my gosh. She really gave us a hard time. She wouldn’t give up that. And until she basically got like, “Oh, okay, I’m here to prove to the world.” It took like three hours for her to get that out of me.

I don’t know. It’s not like something—that’s not really me. And, when I was probably—I mean, people can say on the Race, the other contestants, that I never went out there and preached to them that, “Yeah, I’m here to . . . ” I never told any of the other contestants, “Oh, I’m here to prove to you guys and prove to the world that I can do it.” You know?

Because, for a lot of people, I think there was a negative reaction to hearing that sound clip and then seeing, you know, instances where you were trying to get help based on maybe sympathy or something. And it’s like, when I discussed with Mirna, I said, it’s almost like they left out the second part of that sound clip of, “I can do anything a normal person can do—” or whatever normal is—“a regular height person can do, because I know how to work things to my advantage.” Or, “I’m used to working in the world and know what I have to do to accommodate to the world.”

Right.

It’s like they just took the first part of the sound clip and then tried to maybe—

And then completely got rid of the rest. Right. That’s basically it. I mean, they basically put, “I can do anything,” but they didn’t express that I adjust to the world, and I just do—you know, I overcome obstacles of regular people. But that’s not me. I don’t really go and preach, “I can do anything,” to the world. You know what I’m saying?

Right. Right. You just live your life.

That’s not me at all. But the thing is, they kept, I guess, saying to me, “How are you going to do this? How are you going to do this?” You know what I mean? What are you going to say to someone who says, “How are you going to do this?” You’re going to say, “I can do it. What do you mean?”

Yeah.

If someone keeps saying to you—actually, they told me—this was an interesting thing—they told me, “You know, the camera people and all the people on The Amazing Race can’t believe that you’re going to be on The Amazing Race.” They told me this. They go, “They’re in a bit of a shock, and they don’t understand like how you’re going to—so you’ve got to explain to like these kinds of people.”

Right.

And I’m like, “What do you mean, they think I—What are you trying to say?” But that’s how they got to me. They kept like—you know what I’m saying?

Oh, yeah. They have a job to try and get a certain statement out of you, and they are going to ask questions and work at you until they feel they’ve got the material.

Right. And that’s their job.

Right.

And, you know, your interview is not going to be over until their job is done.

Right.

So when they kept saying—they said that to me, they were like, “You know, our camera—” like the people of the show, I guess—“they pretty much can’t believe you’re on the show, and you have to explain to people like this that you can do it. And other people in the world are going to be like them,” they said, “and they’re going to be in a bit of a shock. So you have to explain to people why you’re here and why you think you can do it.”

“Why you have the gall to think you can do this. ” Yeah, that seems really goading.

So, basically, that’s why I had to explain to people—I had to keep saying, “Yeah, I can do it, I can do it,” you know? “I can do it,” or whatever. But it’s not like that. That’s not how I am.

That must have been really frustrating, then, to see that—that they used that so often.

Yeah. Well, actually, when you put the part about what you wish wasn’t on the—

Okay.
I’m here to play a game and have a good time and win a million dollars like everybody else.
It was definitely like, yeah, I didn’t want every second when my segment of the show is on, “Oh, I can prove to the world. I’m here to prove to the world.” No. I’m here to play a game and have a good time and win a million dollars like everybody else.

Right.

And just to be myself and let people see whatever they want to see about me. You know what I mean?

Right. You’re just there to be yourself and just to be a human, just like everyone else is.

Right.

And just deal with the Race. Everyone’s got to deal with challenges in life and in the Race every day, and it just—I don’t know. It seemed unfair that they were trying to pull that statement out of you.

Oh, definitely.

But, you know, they do it to all of them. You can see a lot of times—as someone who has watched the Race and paid far too much attention to it (shouldn’t have paid that much attention to it) you can sometimes see in people’s faces—at least I’m reading into it—that they’re not really . . . they feel that this statement is being pulled out of them. They’re not really happy to say it. I don’t know if, for example, I think you could see in the last season Monica and Sheree saying over and over again, “As wives of NFL players, as NFL wives,” and stuff. And I think they were feeling pressured to say that. So I think it happens to all the Racers. And I definitely can see how that would be so frustrating, just so frustrating.

Right. But, you know, I guess it’s part of the game. But you have to remember also, in the beginning, I mean, they’re doing it for a show for the viewers.

Right.

Like also, in the beginning, a lot of people, when they first saw me, I saw some of the paper writings of some people, and they were like, “It’s good if she can just make it to the first Pit Stop.” You know what I mean?

Oh, yeah. Definitely. There were a lot of people who said, “Oh, wow, there’s no way they’re going to last.”

Yeah. They were like, “It’s good if she can just get to the first Pit Stop, and everybody will be happy for her when she just gets there.” You know? So, I mean, I saw those comments, too. So, in a way, it was—you know what it is? It was like they should have put it one time and not like a million times.

Right.

But, yeah. I mean, I wasn’t here to prove to the world anything, really. I’m not really the type of person to prove anything to the world. I just prove to myself and, you know, my husband and my family. I just prove just to myself and my husband as to what I can do.

Right. So how did your family feel about all this attention you’re getting and all of the reactions people had to you?

Oh, they were very, very happy. Everything was so positive. You know, and we’re Armenian also, so, apart from just being a little person, I’m Armenian, and the Armenian community, I guess, is not well-known, I guess, on TV. So, for like all these Armenians all over the U.S., there were calls coming in from like everywhere. And they were like, “Oh my God, you’re Armenian. You’re doing so—” you know? And that kind of support was also—there was support from the Little People of America, the Armenians, just people in general, women that were saying like how strong and powerful we make—I mean, there was just so much positive support, really.

And how weird or how exciting was it to do shows like MadTV or the VH1 thing or—I mean, how weird is it? You’re feeling like just—you know, you’re just Charla, and they’re asking you to do MadTV, you know?

Yeah. The MadTV thing, I didn’t know what to expect with that. I didn’t know what I was—like I didn’t know that we were supposed to like totally over-exaggerate. You know, I would have exaggerated a lot more.

Kind of slapstick?

I don’t know. I guess I should have been a little better-prepared for that. But, at the time, I mean, we were flying from New York to L.A. to New York to L.A., and there was not too much time in between to do much. And, when we were trying to watch the show, it was not giving or something, because, for, I don’t know, a couple of weekends, it wasn’t giving the times we were checking up on it. So it was just really hard to watch an episode before we went on.

But was it fun to do?
I was completely overwhelmed, and I was completely grateful, thankful, for all the people who were so supportive and kind and sweet and, you know, saying nice things.
Oh, yeah. I mean, everything was very fun. MadTV was great. Being VH1’s No. 1 this summer was like, what more could I ask for? I mean, they said the Olympics is No. 2 and I’m No. 1? I was just like, “Wow!” You know? “Woo! Where did that come from?” So that was—and then I was in Best Week, you know. And then Jimmy Kimmel Live. He was always—every time after an episode, he was talking such nice things. And it was just so much attention. I mean, it was just amazingly pleasant. I never expected anything like that. I was completely overwhelmed, and I was completely grateful, thankful, for all the people who were so supportive and kind and sweet and, you know, saying nice things.

Was it almost as much of a whirlwind as being on the Race?

Yeah. It was quite a whirlwind. But being on the Race was definitely—I liked it more, obviously.

Yeah. Well, listen, I’ve taken up so much of your time. I really appreciate it. And I just have one more thing to say. One of our members on TARflies, her dad is Dr. Miller, and he teaches at Towson University.

Oh, okay.

And you were in one of his classes. And so he had nothing but kind words to say about you. So I’m supposed to say, “Hi,” from Dr. Miller.

Oh, great. Actually, they called me at Towson University to give a—I guess to do a speech presentation or something. Yeah. I just got an e-mail. I just came, you know, from New York, so I was looking at my e-mails, and I just saw it today. I just got it, I guess, a couple days ago, but obviously I was out of town.

Yeah.

So, yeah, they wanted me to go in to do a speech to the students, like over 500 students. So it should be interesting.

Have you done a lot of public speaking before? Does that make you nervous or—

I don’t know.

That would scare the bejeebers out of me.

I haven’t really done public speaking for 500 people. It should be—I don’t know. I guess I’ll have to get a little more study for it and get more into it to know what I’m doing.

Well, listen, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it. And we’re hoping to see you at TARcon 6.

Yes, definitely. I am so sorry that I was unable to make it at this one, and it was such a horrible time for me to get everything straightened out. And everything was basically on me, and there was just so much pressure that I just—it was impossible for me to get there.

Well, and I’m sure, as a business owner, you’ve still got so much to catch up on from the time that you’ve missed this past year. It’s got to be—I think it’s difficult when, as a business owner, you must be responsible for a lot. And so that’s a lot to try and juggle.

Absolutely. I mean, it is—you know, just leaving and then coming back, and you have so much overwork, like work piled up that you have to get completed. And it’s just so hard, and all this pressure on you. And there’s just so much time in the day, you want to just take a break for a second, and then it was basically like everything had piled up. And I was just like, I can’t, you know. I really—it’s impossible. And you can’t imagine how deeply I wanted to come, actually. You can’t imagine. And, honestly, the thing that—I mean, I had to—I don’t want to explain it all. But it really was just—it was—it hurt, trust me, to not make it. It really hurt.

Okay. Well, we certainly hope it works out better next time.

Oh, definitely. No. I mean, you know, obviously we won’t have all that—everything on us.

And it might actually make it more fun then.

Yes.

I think, sometimes, for Racers, their first—coming to the TARcon for their season is probably a bit overwhelming. But, you know, people are still happy to see you the next season. People don’t forget. At least Amazing Race fans don’t seem to. So you’ll still have a lot of people to meet and greet and a lot of hugs.

Yes. Definitely. I can’t wait.

There’s a lot of hugging at TARcon. It’s really—well, listen, again, thank you for your time.