Interviews

It's All Fun and Games Until Someone Gets Bonked on the Head

Photo courtesy of Hera
Photo courtesy of Hera
I’ve seen you posting on some other sites, and you hint that you had first applied for—was it Survivor?

Yes.

Was there a reason that you applied for Survivor? I mean, obviously, you liked the show—

Yeah. I’ve always been a fan of reality TV. I think it’s genius. If I could have made it myself, I would be the happiest girl alive. I mean, it’s great. I feel like in reality television, you get to see real human drama. And I guess I’m just sick of seeing the same actors everywhere. So I thought Survivor was great. It’s like you could do a whole anthropological study on how people treat each other. So that was cool. I hadn’t seen much of The Amazing Race until I was kind of in the process. But I feel like it’s a great show. I’m glad I did it.

And you said that once they found out about your dad and his interesting job title—

Oh, they were all over that—I think that we were kind of like a gold mine for them in that sense. They didn’t know about his résumé until he got out to L.A., and they were like, “Oh, wow, okay. Not only do they not get along, but—”

Yeah. It seems like your relationship was fairly estranged with your dad?

I wouldn’t say estranged, because I’m probably closer to my family than most 24-year-olds are. But my dad and I just have always clashed. When I was little, it was the whole—like I own you. He would open my mail. He would just do stuff that was really controlling. And I was always on the independent side, so I’d get irritated, whereas my mother is always—like she would give me helpful suggestions instead of telling me what to do. And that usually works better with me. And my mom and I just mesh better. So when I became an adult, my dad and I clashed even more, because he still expected me to listen to him and do everything he said. And it was kind of like I was in the rebellion stage of, well, actually, I’m old now, and so I don’t have to listen to you any more. So I would do things that were just intensely irritating to him just because I was trying to show my adult status.

Oh, yeah. That’s just a natural progression. I think every kid goes through that at some point no matter how good of a relationship they have with their parent.

Yeah. So we clashed a lot. So I was pretty surprised on the Race myself, because I thought we were going to be fighting all the time. But I think we’re both super-competitive, so we got into that set and we were like, okay, we have to put all of our drama behind us and just try to do the best we can.

Right. Do you think it helped your relationship at all?

I definitely think it helped us, because I think that there was definitely a point in the Race at which my dad realized that I could probably bring as much, if not more, to the team. And I guess there had to be a point at which he had to trust me as an equal or else we wouldn’t have gotten past the first leg, you know? And I think the fact that we had so many problems in the first leg—I think he realized after that that he was really going to have to try to work better.

Right. That he couldn’t do it on his own.

Yeah. He couldn’t do it on his own. And also I think that he learned to trust me a little more, because—not that he didn’t think that I could be a good person or I could stand on my own—I just don’t think he understood what it was going to look like or that I would be so capable. And so I really think that, the second leg of the Race, he started to understand that a little more. And I also started to understand that sometimes I do need to listen to him. And it worked out pretty well.

Right. I think other parent/child teams that have gone on the Race before have said it’s the first time their parent is seeing them really out being an adult in the real world and being with them instead of like, oh, over at Mommy and Daddy’s house, you might kind of revert to Mommy and Daddy and a little younger, but you’re out making those decisions and they’re kind of seeing you in action.

And also, I think that the idea that—I mean, I pretty much got us on the show. You know what I mean? So I feel like he didn’t realize how much of a big deal it was until he was in it and he was like, “Oh, my gosh,” you know? He doesn’t watch television that much, so I don’t think he realized what a huge deal it was until we were actually on the Race. And I also don’t think he realized how much he was going to enjoy himself and how much it really wasn’t just going to be about me in the end. Because I think, in the beginning, he was just like, “Okay, I’m doing this for my daughter, because she wants me to go.” And then, eventually, he was like, “Wait a second. I'm getting a lot out of this.”

So it was right of—I guess you have to find that common competitive ground between the two of you.
But I probably now call my dad maybe like every other day or we speak at least every couple days. So that’s a huge change from before, because I hadn’t spoken to him in four months before we started racing.
Yeah. It was great. I call him probably—I call my mom like at least once a day. But I probably now call my dad maybe like every other day or we speak at least every couple days. So that’s a huge change from before, because I hadn’t spoken to him in four months before we started racing.

Really? Wow. Because y’all don’t live anywhere near each other. Right?

Well, I actually just moved out to California about a year and a half ago. Before that, I went to college in the same city as them, so we were close.

So it seemed like every now and then, your dad kind of thought he was on the History Channel.

Yeah. I think he never really understood that he wasn’t. I mean, he’s just like that all the time. I remember when we were little it was like you’d ask him a tiny question, like you’d be doing your homework and you’d be like, “what is such-and-such?” And, before you knew it, you’d be sitting there listening to a two-hour lecture on some historical fact. So that’s just him. And I don’t necessarily think he was—I know he wasn’t doing it for the cameras. It was solely for my purpose. And I think it was a little comical watching it. I can see having the audience enduring his stories, and then stop for like two seconds.

Right. And I can really see how that kind of thing, where it was amusing for me watching it and actually interesting, but if I was around that 24 hours a day—

Yeah. And also with my dad, he embellishes stuff. He’s a really good storyteller, but sometimes you have to think, okay, how much of this is true and how much of this is his BS? I mean, most of the historical facts are true; it’s just he’ll go on and on and on. And so—

But I think that also maybe gave—maybe both of you—perhaps it gave you a better appreciation of some of the places you were going to, do you think?

Yeah. I think the good thing about having my dad along was that he really made me stop and see and understand where we were, whereas I think other teams were just rushing through. I mean, the Senegal Door of No Return was a perfect example, because most of the teams, other than Don & MJ, really weren’t affected at all. They were in and out and it was like, okay, next challenge. Whereas my dad was like, even before we got there, we were talking about it all day. And he was like, “We really need to understand what we’re going to do,” you know?

What was that—I mean, I can’t even imagine what that felt like being there.

It was more emotional than I thought it would be. I mean, my dad was kind of emotional the whole morning, from the time we picked up the first clue that told us that we would have to go there. But I guess I just didn’t realize how much it was going to hit me until I was in there. And seeing my dad cry was just crazy, because I have never seen him cry. And I am pretty close to my family, so that’s saying a lot. I mean, funerals or like my brother’s wedding—I almost saw him shed a tear at my brother’s wedding. But this was like—I mean, he lost it, so I didn’t even—I guess it was weird, because it was like, all of a sudden, I had to be the stability of the team. And that’s really strange for me, because I’m usually super-emotional, and I’m the one who usually needs reeling back. I think it was good for both of us, because he saw how I was able to sort of step into the role of, okay, I’m going to try to be calm so that we can move on.

Yeah. And I just can’t imagine. I mean, knowing the history of that place and seeing your father have that reaction to it, I just can’t imagine how meaningful that would make it feel.
And that moment, there’s no way that the cameras could have gotten that out of my dad if they had asked for it.
Yeah. I guess—I had a conversation with somebody the other day about reality television. So many people don’t think that it’s real, and they all talk about, “Oh, it’s set up. It’s this and that.” And that moment, there’s no way that the cameras could have gotten that out of my dad if they had asked for it. And so it was one of those things. That’s why I do believe that The Amazing Race is probably one of the more real reality shows out there, only because there’s really not much—I mean, they can control a lot, and they do control a lot as far as how you get there or when you get there kind of things. But they can’t control how you feel about the places that you’re going to go.

I always feel that it’s still the contrived situation that most reality TV is, but you’re out in the real world.

Right. I mean, it’s definitely—I was talking to someone this morning. I was like, now, how real is a free vacation around the world? That’s not very real. And that’s definitely planned situations they put us in. But the way that you react to these situations that they give you is very real. You could see the way Jonathan & Victoria acted. That was real, you know? It was crazy, but it was real.

It was real?

Well, it was real human emotion. I mean, I think Jonathan & Victoria, the way they acted showed you—they’re just super-emotional people. So, for me, watching them is semi-refreshing, because it made me think, okay, I’m not the only one who is going crazy.

Okay. Yeah.

Because they mess with your head. That’s the whole idea. I think the hardest part about the show is how many mind challenges they put you through: just like the sleep deprivation, and they’ll make you feel like you’re going to win the show and then, all of a sudden, they just drop you down to point zero. And it’s just an emotional roller-coaster. So, in that sense, it was very real. I mean, do I think they’re like that at home? Absolutely not, because I’ve seen them interact with each other when it’s not in the Race setting, and it’s completely different. But that can show you how psychotic the Race is. You just feel like—you feel like you’re going crazy.

Like 30-some-odd days of just insanity?

Insanity. And you have no control. The minute you think you have control, you realize you don’t, and it drives you nuts.

Yeah. And you had said, you know, you feel like you get ahead or something and you feel like you’re doing well and you get put back to zero. It seems like—I don’t know how much of the other earlier seasons you had watched, but it seemed like there was a lot more of what we call bunching in your season.

Yes, and it drove me nuts. I mean, even in this season there isn’t as much bunching already. And it upsets me, because I feel like that to me is the unreal element of the show. Because, to me, the realest thing that they can do is say, “Go,” and they see you at the end. Or at least just let you be, you know? Let you have a different flight. And I understand for the purposes of security why sometimes they have to keep us together just because there really isn’t—I mean, it would take a lot of manpower just to let us off and go. It’s maddening, because the moment you get ahead—and my dad and I just kept on feeling like every time we were ahead, we would just be sent back. And, a lot of the times, when people caught up, it didn’t really go to our advantage. I don’t remember one bunching that went to our advantage.

Right. Especially like the leg just before you guys were eliminated. You had a good leg.

Oh, we had a fabulous leg. That, I think, was our best leg of the whole entire Race. And that was why it was so upsetting, because we knew—for some reason, I knew the night before—that it wasn’t going to go well for us the next day.

Really? You had like a premonition?

I just had a feeling, like a feeling in my stomach. I was like—you know, we had such a good day, and then, all of a sudden, it was just like, bam. And I just had this really bad feeling. Because we knew—we had been on the road for so long we knew that, if it wasn’t a Pit Stop, that it was going to be ugly. And I actually think it was supposed to be a Pit Stop.

You know, a lot of us wondered about that, because there’s never been a leg like that before.

Well, I think it was supposed to be a non-elimination round, and the reason they couldn’t make it a non-elimination round is that, if they had, Lori & Bolo wouldn’t have been able to catch up. So it would have been like useless. Because they would have been getting to the Pit Stop as soon as everyone else was leaving the Pit Stop.

Yeah. Because we were expecting—I mean, at the end of that week, it’s “To Be Continued,” and everyone is like, “What?”

Yeah. It was—I mean, as mad as everybody was at home, we were a thousand trillion times more upset, because it was just like — I mean, it was also one of the hardest days, one of the harder days. And to not have any validation for that was just — I mean, it just killed us, you know? And I think that — I mean, also partially, I know with me and my dad, that was part of our head game that day. We were so — I mean, part of us was like, God. We were just so defeated because we had done so well and then we had no — I mean, I think it would have been a lot more fair if they had had us choose numbers for the train in the order that we arrived the night before. Because it was kind of like — I mean, we had nothing to show for it. It’s like all of a sudden, oh, you know all that stuff you did yesterday? It didn’t really matter.

Exactly. Push the reset button.

Yeah. I mean, we got the flight ahead of Jonathan & Victoria. We did famously on the challenges. And, all of a sudden, it was like, oh, never mind.

Yeah. I guess a lot of us were just shocked that we didn’t see more reaction to that than all of a sudden you guys were getting another challenge to do instead of a Pit Stop, that you guys—there was a reaction to it. I mean—

Yeah. After the “To Be Continued,” it was like everyone was just tripping out. But then, at the same time, there’s only so much you can do. I wasn’t going to pull a Freddie and start yelling and screaming, because I knew that I signed up for this, you know? And that’s what hurts, almost, because you just really don’t have any control. And that’s why I always get irritated when teams get cocky, thinking that it’s their skill that necessarily gets them past stuff. Because a lot of times it has nothing to do with skill. It’s being in the right place at the right time, or just pure luck.

Yeah. Speaking of Freddie, what in the world—I mean, here you got bonked on the head, it looked like pretty severely, and he’s hit in the face, and at least they showed you being fairly calm about it, and he’s having a fit. I mean, what were you thinking?
And the thing that irritates me about the situation is that I think production didn’t realize how much I was hurt, because I wasn’t reacting to it.
Yeah. I think part of his reaction to it was also probably anger from the night before. Because it was like we were just—I mean, he was in first, so he was probably really pissed, too. And it hurt a lot. And the thing that irritates me about the situation is that I think production didn’t realize how much I was hurt, because I wasn’t reacting to it.

Because you didn’t throw the fit.

Exactly. So it just irritated me, because, that day, I was dizzy, and I had a headache. And I asked for a bag of ice to put on my head, and so did Freddie. But they gave it to Freddie, and they didn’t give it to me. And so I was kind of irritated, because I was like, just because I wasn’t a drama queen, I didn’t get any ice. And it irritated me, because I felt like—you know, it’s like, what the hell? Just because he’s acting like a girl. I don’t know. But I think he definitely over-reacted, but, at the same time, we had no idea if it was intentional or not at that point.

Right. And, like you said, there’s just so much stress, and you’re going insane anyway. I think over-reaction is—it’s got to be pretty common. I mean, I always—

(dog barks)

Sorry. My dog is going nuts.

What kind of dog do you have?

We’re dog-sitting another dog. But I have a toy poodle. The dog we’re dog-sitting is—I don’t know what he is. He’s just an angry old man.

Yeah. I always take what I see on the show of how people behave and figure that in real life, you got to dial it down about 5 at least to see what they’re like in real life.

Yeah. It also depends, because certain people act differently when they’re stressed. For me, I came into it knowing that I did not want to play a certain person. So I was trying to be very conscious of losing it, because, I mean, there were some situations where I did go a little crazy. But I wasn’t nearly as bad as some of the other people. So I got pretty lucky, because, when it’s all said and done, they want the most dramatic. So my explosions didn’t really make the table.

[Laughs] Right. They had other footage to show. They didn’t need to—

Yeah. I was fairly lucky. But, I mean, we didn’t fight hardly at all. I can remember us having one really bad fight, and it didn’t make camera, so it’s good.

What were you fighting about? Do you mind sharing?

It was in Senegal. I was so dehydrated and sick. I had been throwing up for like four hours. And I hadn’t eaten anything or had anything to drink, so I was about to pass out. And all I wanted to do was get to the Pit Stop. And my dad is like—in addition to his History Channel persona, he had a tendency to wander every once in a while. He would get awestruck with where we were and he would just go wandering. And I’d go like, “Come on. We have to run.” And so I was getting irritated with how slow he was going. And so he started complaining, because he was like, “I just did that salt thing, and you don’t understand. It was so hard.” And I’m like, “Who’s been throwing up for the past four hours?” And I was still running, you know?

Yeah.

And so he looked at me and he was like, “If you don’t stop yelling at me, I’m just going to sit down right here and not move.”

Oh my goodness.

So that would have been funny if I would have had to throw him over my shoulder to walk to the Pit Stop.

[Laughs] Or drag him. Drag him by the ear.

[Laughs] Seriously. But yeah, it was nuts. And then I never—I think the bigger fight happened after the camera was turned off, because I knew that he was just being silly and crazy, and I didn’t want to sort of air our dirty laundry in front of national television. I was like, just wait till we get to the Pit Stop, and I’m going to kill you.

[Laughs]
But we worked it out. I just basically told him never to talk to me like that again, and he was like, "Okay. I understand."
But we worked it out. I just basically told him never to talk to me like that again, and he was like, "Okay. I understand."

Well, he seems to like to dilly-dally a lot. He liked to dilly-dally in the bar a little bit.

Yeah. I think, with my dad, he’s not a—he does things in his own way. There’s one way and then there’s his way, you know? That’s kind of what he was doing the whole Race. And I definitely think there were moments. I don’t want to say that he held me back, because there were lots of moments with directions and other things that he was great at, you know?

Right.

But as far as getting from point A to point B, it was just a struggle—

[Laughs] That Viking boat thing that you all had to do—

Oh, that was miserable.

What was the deal? First of all, how did y’all decide who was going to be on which boat?

Well, we didn’t decide. We got the reject boat. They knew we would have it when we got there. And I was like, okay, well, I know my dad’s fat, but he’s pretty strong. And I rowed before. So I thought we’d have a good chance of being able to finagle us a good boat. But all of a sudden, before we knew it, all the strong people and all the young people or whatever were in one boat, and then everybody else is in our boat. We had Jonathan & Victoria, who were screaming and going crazy. And then we had the two girls, who hadn’t slept at all that night and were crying the whole time.

And one had a broken paddle, too, or something?

I don’t know if her paddle was broken or she was just—

Oh, okay.

She was just tired, I think. It could have been broken. But it was basically—when I was in college rowing, a really bad boat that wasn’t together we used to call a drunk octopus. And that’s what it looked like, because it was insanity. And I think at one time point, the thing that irritated me the most, I was supposed to be the leader of the boat. And I kept on telling them, I was like, “Do not freak out if the other boat gets ahead of us. It doesn’t matter if they win. We’re only trying to get there.” You know?

Right.

I knew that they had a good chance of winning. But I also knew that, if we had stayed together, we could have had a fair chance. And they were all supposed to be following my dad and I, because we were in the front of the boat. All of a sudden, Kendra starts calling cadence, and I’m like, “Kendra, we can’t see you. That doesn’t make any sense.” Because what ended up happening is that my dad and I were just being hit in the back with the oars. And so we just got a beating all the way to the other side. And Kendra was, I guess, not smart enough to figure out that that doesn’t make any sense. And the rest of us were like, “What the hell are you doing?” And so then my dad and I were like, fine. Let’s just try to do the best we can and get out of the situation. And the poor captain of the boat was like, “You guys are embarrassing.” It was terrible. I think that was probably—other than the boat in Senegal, it was probably one of the worst experiences of that entire trip.

That’s just—I mean, because you’re a boat person, and you had these bad experiences, because of boats.

For me, there is nothing—I’ve felt what it feels like to be in a good boat. And there is nothing worse than a boat that just is not together. And I think part of the problem was that everybody in that boat wanted to do their own thing, and it was just not coming together. And I was mad, because, before we got in that boat, I had prepped them for like ten minutes. And I’m like, you guys—I mean, I realized I had never rowed a Viking boat before, and it’s completely different than the boats that I’d rowed. But one thing I did know is that, if we didn’t stay together, it was going to be nuts. And I kept on telling them that. And they were like, “Oh, yeah, yeah, we’re just going to watch you.” And I’m like, “Okay, just do that.” And then we got in there, and it was chaos.

Yeah. We talk about taxicab curses for a lot of teams, but you guys just seemed to have a boat curse. That horrible—the surf in Senegal. I mean—

Oh God, that was one of the worst. That, I think, was the worst experience. And I was sad, because, if it had been a calm day, it probably would have taken us two seconds to finish that.

Right. And it would have been an enjoyable thing to do.
On the way back after we caught the fish, I was hurling over the side of the boat, and the guy in the front, all he could say in English was, “Can I have your address?”
Yeah. And my dad was all for it. He was like, “Wow, a dugout canoe in Senegal!” And I’m glad that I can say I did it. But I have never been sicker in my entire life. And it was probably partially because I hadn’t had any water. And then for about 15 minutes, I was inhaling salt water. And so I kept on telling them to slow down, but they didn’t understand me. And I speak French, but they spoke like a Senegal dialect. And so they only understood maybe like every other word. And I just remember—I told my mom this story, and she was dying laughing. On the way back after we caught the fish, I was hurling over the side of the boat, and the guy in the front, all he could say in English was, “Can I have your address?”

[Laughs]

And my dad was dying laughing, because he was trying to flirt with me as I’m vomiting over the side of the boat, you know? And my dad got this look on his face like, “You’d better not say anything further,” or like, “Do you understand I’m her dad?” And I would just look up at him, and I was like, “What?”

[Laughs] Oh, that’s funny!

Oh, it was terrible. I think my face was green. And we went through about three cameramen, because they kept getting sick.

Oh my goodness.

And so they kept on having to shuttle cameramen out. And it was just—oh, it was horrible. I just thought the day would never end. And at one point, I was talking to Don, and I was like—we were talking about how we had weighed, okay, which would be worse, death or being in this boat any longer? And I was like, death wasn’t looking so bad.

Oh my gosh. I can’t imagine how awful it is, because I’ve been in choppy water, but nothing like that.

Yeah. It wouldn’t have been so bad, but there was no way to get away from it. I couldn’t scrunch down and—I couldn’t do anything. And I hadn’t had anything to eat, unlike Don. Don was actually throwing up real food. I had nothing to throw up except for any hydration that was left in my body.

Oh my goodness.

When we got to the Pit Stop, I was so sick, and I couldn’t eat anything, and I couldn’t even drink anything and not be throwing up. And so we had—usually, we had about four hours of interviews to do, or two hours after we got to the Pit Stop. And I was throwing up all through the interview. And so the security guy came over to me and was taking my pulse, and he was like, “We’ve got to get some food into this girl, try to give her water.” I thought I was going to die.

Oh my goodness. You know, I think that’s the thing that most people don’t think about: just how physically draining all of that running around, you know, not being on any kind of schedule—

Right.

—just how that just drains your body down. You said that you hadn’t eaten. A lot of people say that. Is the reason that you’re not getting to eat that you don’t have time, or you don’t have the money to spend, or you’re afraid you don’t have the money to spend?

Well, it’s really a lot of stuff. At first, we didn’t think we had the money, so we were just starving ourselves, you know, like trying to eat on planes. But then we realized that you do have a little bit of money. But it’s hard, because you never know when you might need a little more. And also, you just forget to eat. I know that sounds funny. But you also forget to drink. You just forget. Because it’s kind of like there’s a lot of hurry up and waiting, but at the same time you go through the course of a day where you just don’t have any time. You’re just running from thing to thing to thing, you know?

Right.

And so eating or drinking is the last thing you’re thinking about until you nearly pass out. I mean, I can remember one of the funny—just to show you how desperate we were at times—we were in Stockholm, and we were at the hay thing, and my dad was doing the hay. And I was standing next to Jonathan, and both of us were like, “God, we’re so thirsty.” And everybody in production would be eating their Big Macs, drinking water and Gatorade, and we’re just dying. And they can’t give us anything, because that’s cheating. And so one of them dropped a water bottle and just left it there. And Jonathan looked at me, and he was like, “Hera, I’m so thirsty.” And I was like, “Oh my God, that’s so nasty, you can’t drink that.” It was like backwash at that point. And Jonathan just got it and drank it. And I was like, “Oh, my God, that was so disgusting!” But that’s how bad it is. And then also you’re smelly, and you’re so dehydrated and tired. I mean, my mom was telling me—I usually have to pee every 15 minutes, you know? And so Mom was like, “How did you do that without peeing?” And I’m like, “Mom, I don’t think I peed for three days.” I mean, I was so dehydrated, there was like nothing. I had never experienced such—I don’t know how I survived. There were several points that the production would come up to me, and they’d be saying, “You don’t look so good.” I’m like, “Thank you for reminding me how crappy I look.”

[Laughs]

But I’m sure that was happening to everyone. It’s surprising they haven’t had a situation with someone passing out just because of exhaustion.

Right. And I gather you have a couple of—every now and then there’s usually a couple of extended Pit Stops. And often it’s for production reasons, but I also wonder if it’s just to try and help people get caught up on some of that, get caught up on the food and the water.

Yeah. In Stockholm, it was one of them. And I think people—I mean, I think partially it was because we were going to Africa next. And we were all, “Oh, yes, we must be going somewhere far,” you know, because production had to get a heads up on us. And it was probably—I remember when they told us. They were kind of like, “Okay, just so you know, you have 36 hours.” And we were like, “Oh, thank you!”

Yeah. You know, you hear the stories about that, and it just really—for me, it makes me admire the older people who go on, because—I’m thinking, wow, it’s tough on young kids, you know?

Yeah. Don and MJ, they’re amazing, though. Don just turned 70, and they—it’s funny because I always—you know, they call me their adopted grandchild. And they’re my adopted grandparents. But they are so young at heart. I got along with them so well. And, sometimes, I’ll call up MJ and be talking to her like she’s my best friend, you know? I feel like, for them, it was mind over matter, you know? They were just like, “We’re just like them,” you know? And I think they did famously. They did really well. And I’m proud of how far they got.

Oh, yeah. Yeah, I thought they were great. I don’t know. I always root for the people whom I like. I don’t care if they’re good Racers or whatever if I like them, and I really liked them. I thought they had a lot of spirit.

Yeah. They were funny. It’s a shame a lot of the funnier teams got eliminated first.

I know. It was just like, oh, let’s see which one of the ones I like is going this week?

Oh, I know. It’s sad, because, personally, I think it would have been a lot better show like if Avi and Joe had stuck around. I mean, I don’t know about the model sisters. In my opinion, I didn’t care about them going. Not that I didn’t like them. It’s just there were so many models.

Yeah.

At some point, I was just like, you know what? I don’t even mind. But I do think the non-model teams, I wish they had stuck around for a little longer.

You’re not a model, but you look like one.

Aw, thank you. That’s so funny, because I was just thinking about this earlier. I spent all of middle school being the ugly duckling.

Really?

And now everyone’s like, “You’re so pretty!” I’m like, oh my gosh. I’m still not used to this.

I mean, you could become a mactor [Hera's word for a model/actor] yourself, you know?

Yeah. I’m really trying so hard to avoid it. My friends at home are making fun of me, because I’m off track right now, which basically means I’m on summer break from teaching. And so I’ve just been being background on shows, because it’s extra money or whatever. And they’re all like, “Oh my gosh, how can you not call yourself a mactor? You were on reality TV, and now you’re doing all these casting calls.” And I’m like, “Shut up! It’s not the same.”

How was it going back to the school and having your kids—I mean, did your kids see you?

Yeah. My kids never missed an episode. They were just so excited. I think, initially, they were just so excited that they learned my first name.

[Laughs]

Because I don’t generally tell them, because I didn’t want them to call me by it, you know?

Right.

And, after the first day, they would just come in—like one of them came in and was like, “Hera.” I was like, “Okay, guys, get it out of your system.” But they were cute about it. Probably about half of my class—I only teach about eight kids, and half of them were with me last year, too. And so they’re like my little babies. I love them to death. And they were just so supportive. They told us—they would always be like, “Oh, I love when you did this, and I’m so proud of you.” Even when I was eliminated, for the most part they were just so—they were great.

How old are the kids you teach?

The youngest is seven, and the oldest is eleven.

Wow. Okay.

So I teach a split grade, because it’s special ed. This is my last year doing it, though.

And then are you just going to go to regular teaching or move on to a different—

No. I work for an NGO. And you teach for two years and then—the whole idea at the end is kind of like closing the achievement gap, because they place you in low income communities. And so the whole idea is that, after you finish your two years, either you stay in the teaching field and try to continue making significant gains with students or you go into another field and still promote the cause. And so I’ve always wanted to be in news broadcasting. And so, hopefully, if I can pull some strings over the next two months and get myself a job on some random news show—I’ll probably have to start small in like Podunk, USA, but I’m willing to do anything. Because I have this idea that, one day, I’ll actually be able to bring some good stuff into news, when all we hear about is tragedy and shooting and all the bad stuff. And I’d really like to kind of spice it up with different things.

Right. Was that what your degree was in?

My degree was political communications, which is basically how the media controls peoples’ political perspectives. And so I just want to be in that field. I love kids, but being a teacher drives me nuts.

[Laughs]
I have so much respect for teachers after these last two years, because it’s completely draining.
It’s so hard. I have so much respect for teachers after these last two years, because it’s completely draining. I mean, I’ve been off this week, and this is my first week off since my kids have gone on break. And I’m just so much happier.

Yeah. I have a friend who teaches high school, and I never get to see her or talk to her or anything, because she’s just so exhausted by the end of the day.

Yeah. I have no social life. And it got to the point at which—whereas now it’s cool. I’ve been doing—I don’t know if you’ve ever heard about the Fishbowl.

Yeah.

I’ve been connecting with them a little bit, and, this past weekend, I got to go to a Fishbowl sort of party. And it was so much fun. I mean, granted, it was full of mactors. It was like past shows and stuff. It was cool, because, for me, I moved out to L.A., and this is a city full of mactors. And it’s so hard as a non-mactor to find people who are real and who have passions beyond themselves. And so it was weird, because at this party—it was cool, because I was talking to all these people who had been on reality shows. And it was kind of the first time I ever felt like I belonged in a group here. Because it was, in a way, like a support group.

Right.

Because it was like—oh, you know, everybody was telling their horror stories, and what it was like to be back, and all that stuff. And so I think one of the best people I met at the party, though, was this guy from Average Joe. Do you remember that show at all?

I didn’t watch it. Is it Dennis?

Yeah, Dennis.

Oh my gosh, he’s wonderful!

I love Dennis.

I went to the Reality4Diabetes—

Yeah. He was telling me about that.

Yeah. And he was there. And I had never watched the show, so I had no idea who he was, and I was—

Isn’t he great, though?

I was just totally in love with him by the end of it.

Oh my gosh. And I was talking to him, I was like, “Oh my gosh. I wish I had been that bachelorette, because I totally would have let you go on further past the second round or whatever.” Because he’s just so great. You know?

He’s so comfortable with who he is. You know?

I think that’s what’s great about it. Like, for me, I guess that’s why I’ve been having such a hard time in L.A., because I am not a superficial person when it comes to the way a person looks. I’m more interested in the whole package. And for somebody to be—I mean, if they have an amazing personality, I will sometimes forget about what they look like. I dated this one guy, and I show people pictures of him, and they’re like, “Oh, that must have been a low point.” And I’m like, “No, he has a great personality.”

Right.

But that’s what’s hard about L.A. Everything is so superficial. And it’s really hard to meet people who are real, you know?

And to keep grounded yourself that way. I mean, not to get sucked into that.

Yeah. It’s hard. That’s why I make so much fun of the mactors, because I’ve been trying not to become one myself, you know? I mean, I would love to do—I would love to sort of dabble in TV. But I don’t want that, you know? I don’t want to have—I don’t want to be like, “Oh, yeah, my career is just to play someone else.”

Right. So talk a little bit about what you’ve been up to since the Race and everything. What did you think of TARcon?

Oh my gosh. I was kind of overwhelmed.

Yeah. I thought you looked a little bit.

You could probably tell.

Yeah.

Because I didn’t realize there were so many people who were just so crazy about it. I had seen some of the chat boards and stuff, because some people at work were telling me that some people were saying I was a snob or something, so I checked them out a little bit.

Was that weird, seeing people talking about you like that?

It was weird because it was—I guess I sort of expected more of people I knew to come out and claim they knew me. You know what I mean?

Right.
And that happened a little bit. But it was weird, because there were just so many people. And I guess at one point—the weirdest thing at TARcon for me was somebody came up to me. And this woman was like—she started crying, and she was like, “Oh my gosh, you’ve made my relationship with my dad so much better.” And I guess I didn’t realize how much impact being on the show with my dad would be to people. And so I guess I wasn’t prepared how to respond, you know?

Well, yeah. I mean, I actually think it’s more refreshing when people don’t have a pat answer, because how can you prepare for something like that, you know?

Yeah. I was just—and, in a way, I sort of felt bad, because I know so many people were so crazy about the show, and they would kill for an experience like this. And lots of people were saying, “Oh, I wish I could have done it with my dad.” And I’d be like, “Oh, you should apply,” and they’d be like, “My dad’s dead.”

Oh, no.

And I feel like I really didn’t do anything. I mean, I hope that one day I’ll be able to be recognized for something that I actually did instead of just being accepted to be on a reality show, you know?

But, see, you did do something, because you ran the Race. You ran the best race you could. And you didn’t act like—you didn’t throw fits.

Yeah. It was just weird, because I guess that night showed me a little bit of what it would be like to be a celebrity. In the sense that people come up to you, and they talk to you like they know who you are. And that’s fine with me. I get a kick out of that, in a sense. But, in a way, I guess I just don’t feel like I deserve any notoriety.

Right. And I think that’s what happens to most people who do get into the celebrity world, is they start believing all that. It’s hard not to if people tell you nonstop.

Right. And so I guess that’s what worries me, because I don’t want to become one of those people who’s really superficial and just takes themselves too seriously. Because, getting back to Jonathan, I think that was one of his biggest downfalls. He took himself way too seriously. And I think that, when that happens, you just come across as a big jerk, you know?

Right.
I don’t want to grow up and for me to be—for someone to ask me what my biggest achievement was and for me to have to say The Amazing Race, you know? I do want to have a bigger life than this.
And I think he sees that now. But I don’t want to fall into that. And I don’t want to grow up and for me to be—for someone to ask me what my biggest achievement was and for me to have to say The Amazing Race, you know? I do want to have a bigger life than this. And I realize, for a lot of people, it’s huge. I realize, and I’m starting to realize more as times goes on, how amazing it is that I was on or that I got that far. But I don’t want that to be the end, you know?

Oh, no. Of course not. I mean, you’re still young. You’re just starting out in your life in a lot of ways. So you’ve got a lot to accomplish, I’m sure.

Yeah. So I just—I don’t know. Some people make it out to be super-huge. I’m like, it was huge, but I just don’t want it to be the end.

Right. Well, it was great to see you at TARcon. And I thought both you and your dad were—especially your dad every now and then just looked like, what the hell is this?

I know. I definitely remember turning to him as we were coming up, and it was like, “Do they know we lost?”

[Laughs] But that’s just it. We don’t care if you come in first or you come in last if you’re good Racers.

Yeah. I felt bad in a sense, because I knew so many people were rooting for us. I felt bad that we were letting them down, you know? But I wish we could have gone further and sort of balanced out the mactors, but—

Well, if they had described, probably, the water polo task accurately to you—

Oh, I mean, seriously. If I had known—like if they had said, “This is a good water polo team, but they’re not going to stop anything; they’re going to be terrible,” I would have been like, “Dad, you’re wearing a Speedo.”

Because all they did was tread water. I didn’t quite get that at all.

Yeah. I mean, nobody stopped anything. And I was like, this has got to be some setup. I was watching it thinking, production were laughing at us.

Because you went straight after that to whatever—did you get to talk to any of the other teams who had done that task and find out?

We hadn’t seen anybody since the gate. And I think there was also—I don’t know if everything was really in the order that it happened. Because I think we got there last, because it took us about 45 minutes to get a cab. Since we pulled—well, we didn’t pull the last number; we got the last number handed to us, but that’s a different story—since that happened, it was kind of like—there were a bunch of cabs waiting. But, since we were last, all the cabs were gone. So we couldn’t even ask a cab to call another cab. And a lot of the other teams had the advantage of that. And so we got behind doing that. And then the traffic got worse as the day progressed. And it was nuts. I think it didn’t really take us that long to do the task that we did. I mean, I was like, “Oh, we may have made up some time here.” You know?

Right.

But then when I got to the soup, I was like, “Oh God, we’re last.”

Yeah. So if you’d gotten to that task at about the same time as some people who’d done the water polo—
And that’s the worst feeling ever, when you’ve tried so hard, and you get that far, and you feel like you didn’t even have a chance.
Oh, we would have swallowed everyone if we had gotten there at the same time. My dad and I would have come in second if we had gotten there at the same time as everyone, because he was really fast at the soup, and I could have totally psyched out the other teams. Like I would have been sitting there being like, “Oh, Freddy, that’s nasty.” I totally would have just used that to our advantage. And we had no—I mean, that’s what killed me, is we just—I felt like that day, we didn’t get to compete. That’s why, when we got to the Pit Stop and I was already crying, I told Phil, “It’s been a rough day,” because I just felt like we didn’t get to compete. And that’s the worst feeling ever, when you’ve tried so hard, and you get that far, and you feel like you didn’t even have a chance.

Yeah. Just because of some random weird run and fight for numbers.

That’s what killed me. It was like from the jump this morning, we didn’t have a chance. And knowing the whole day that you were last and that you have no chance, it just tears you apart. And so, by the time we got to the Pit Stop, I was just a mess, because I was like, I know we’re going to be eliminated. And I didn’t even feel like we went out with a fight. Like if we had run up to the Pit Stop, you know, if it was a foot race, at least I would have been like, you know what? We stayed with the pack, and we fought hard today, and we had a chance. Whereas, after the gate incident, I was like, man, we don’t have a chance. Because it was also the shortest day. Usually there was time to catch up, whether it was like using your intelligence to find directions or what have you. But that day lasted only about two hours. So, by the time we even got a cab, most of the people were already at the soup.

Wow.

So it was like—you know, it looked like the boat killed us, but really the gate killed us.

Really? Wow, that’s really—I can’t imagine how frustrating it is.

Yeah. It was rough. I cried for like four hours. I felt really bad. When I saw Bertram at the party afterwards, I’m like, “I’m really sorry. I must have been such a …” Because right after we were on the mat, they tell you—and, of course, I actually walked away from Phil.

Oh, no.

And everyone in production is like, “Hera, get back to the mat.” And I was like, “Do we have to do this right now?” Because I knew we were last. I was like, “Can’t we just wait five minutes for me to catch myself?” And they were like, “Actually, we can’t.” And so I was really irritated with production. And they wouldn’t let me eat anything that day, even when we got to the Pit Stop. And I was so mad.

Oh, because you had to do all your interviews?

Uh-huh. And usually they’d let you eat first, but for some reason they were just like, “Okay, you’re eliminated, you’re in and you’re out.” So I was crying, and my poor dad was sick from the soup.

Oh, no.

And so, when Bertram came up to us, he expected us to be all happy with where the Sequester location was. And I was like crying. I didn’t want to go to Sequester. So I was like, “Don’t tell me right now. Leave us alone until I’m over it a little bit.”

Yeah. Well, I’ve taken up so much of your time. But I do want to ask a little bit about Sequester. Joe and Avi told us a little bit about a special plate that you made for your dad.

Oh, yeah.

Yeah. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?
“I miss my wife.” And I’m like, “Dad, I know I’m like chopped liver, but please try to be happy.”
He actually hasn’t told me if he’s gotten it yet, because we had to give it to production. What happened is he turned 50 in Sequester. And I felt really bad for him, because he’s really close to my mom. And even though, in a lot of ways, they fight probably as much as Jonathan and Victoria, but they love each other to death—I guess that’s probably one of the reasons I understand Jonathan and Victoria, because my parents fight. But he just missed her so much, the whole Race. He was like every—in Stockholm, he was like, “I miss my wife.” And I’m like, “Dad, I know I’m like chopped liver, but please try to be happy.” And so, when we got to Sequester, we had hoped that he would turn 50 on the Race. You know, we’d still be on the Race. So he’d be a little happier about turning 50.

Right.

But we were in Sequester, so it was kind of sad. And he couldn’t even call my mom, you know? And so I was thinking of all the things I could do, and I didn’t really have a lot of money, so I was like, okay, what can we do? And we were at this resort of sorts that had this place where you could decorate pottery. And so we got this humungous plate, and I asked everybody to help me recreate different scenes from the show, our favorite moments, my favorite moments with him on the show. And so we got a plate, and this is right when Jonathan and Victoria arrived. And Victoria is an artist. And so she’s really amazing at drawing. So I asked Victoria to paint it for me. So it was actually really good, because, at this point, Jonathan and Victoria weren’t speaking to each other. So I think it was really therapeutic for her just to have something to do to get her mind off of what happened. And so we were able to get to know each other just talking about the bowl and working on it. And I don’t know if Joe told you my dad’s nickname, The Matuktik.

The Matuktik?

It’s this whole Canadian thing. When he flew his open cockpit plane to the North Pole, he went through an Inuit village. And the Inuits, they’re very small. So my dad definitely stuck out, you know, this big, fat, black guy who’s heads taller than everyone. And he said, the first time he landed his plane, they had never seen anything like it, because it’s Northern Canada, and there’s this biplane. No one flies that far in a biplane. So, the first time he landed, he was so happy to have landed, because I guess he had had some near death experience or whatever. So, when he landed, he runs over to this little Inuit and picks him up and kisses him.

[Laughs]

And then goes and picks this girl up and kisses her, too, you know, he’s like so happy to be alive. And so they were all just like, “Oh my gosh. He came from the sky.” And they were all just astounded. And then, apparently, he came back with my mom to this little village, and I guess he wanted to go for a walk, and it was storming. And my mom turned to him and she goes, “You can’t do that. It’s really stormy outside, and you won’t make it back.” And this little Inuit turns to her, and he goes, “But he’s the Matuktik.” Because I guess that’s some godly thing to them. They thought he was amazing for having withstood the conditions or whatever. So they called him the Matuktik, whatever that means. And I think it means something like a walrus. Like flying walrus or something. And so we were making fun of him, because we were like, walrus, that’s perfect. Because he’s huge, like a walrus, you know? And so we drew—Victoria drew a picture of a walrus on the front of the plate. And it said like, “50 years of the Matuktik.” And all the pictures from the Race. We drew a stein for Berlin, and I think for Stockholm it was probably a boat and hay. And then I think we had—the Door of No Return was on there, of course, because that was real important. And it was great. I hope he puts it up somewhere, because we definitely spent about two days doing it.

That’s great. And, like you said, because it would be hard, you know, having your 50th birthday off in the middle of nowhere without your whole family around and everything.

Yeah. We definitely tried to make it really special. Everybody did what they could to get gag gifts or just—we took him out to a bar. And it was fun. I think he had a good time. And my dad also likes to complain about—he always like to complain and make it seem like he’s downtrodden so that people do stuff, you know? He’s kind of manipulative in that way.

Yeah. That sounds a lot like my dad.

Yeah. So he was just—I mean, he was definitely—he got back, and he told my mom, “It was so sad.” And I was like, “Whatever. He had so much fun.”

Well, listen, thank you so much for all the time and talking with us.

No problem.