miri: So, Kelly, had you been a fan of the Race before you tried out for it?
Kelly: Yeah, I had. I pretty much watched all the seasons. I would say that I probably got more attached to the Race during Season 5, and I caught every single episode. I’ve always watched it and been a fan, but it was just once Season 5 started, for some reason—I don’t know why—I caught it at the very beginning and made sure I watched every show. But, again, I have seen it from the beginning, and I’ve always loved it.
miri: Right. So what made you decide, hey, I want to do that?
Kelly: Well, watching it, you’re watching it. You’re sitting on your sofa, and you’re like, “Oh, I would have done that better.” You know? In your mind, you just think you could have made a better choice or done it better. And I thought, you know what? I need to go try this. And I was dating Ron, and I immediately thought, if I sign up with Ron, they’re going to take us because of his POW. And you can see they played that up as best they could.
Tribefan: Oh, yes, they did. They liked that hook. You had told me this, and I know that Beth talked to your mom at The Early Show as well. But you and Ron had actually broken up when they called you for the interview?
Kelly: Right. We broke up about maybe three weeks before they called us. And it was really kind of the same reasons that you saw on the show. We were just on different paths. He wasn’t ready to commit. And I was making different choices about things, and he was making other choices about things. So we decided that we needed to take a break. And then when they called us for the Race, I freaked out. I was so excited, I screamed. I was at the office, and everybody looked at me, and they’re like, “What is going on?” But I said that Ron and I have broken up, and I need to talk with him to see how he feels about this. And they said, “Oh, well, we’ve already contacted him, and he said he really wants to do it with you if you want to do it.” And I said, “Well, let me talk to him.” But, yes, I really want to do it.
And so I called him, and he did tell me that they contacted him first and said, “We really like y’all’s application, and we like you with Kelly, but we’d also like it better if you did it with another POW.” And Ron had never even watched The Amazing Race. And so he said, “First of all, Kelly’s the one who really wanted to do this, so I wouldn’t do that. I wouldn’t go against her.” And he said, “I really want to do it with her. And, second, there’s not another POW that can do it, because they’re either injured so badly or the commitment—they’re still in the Army, and there’s no way they can get out.” So he said, “I’d rather do it with her.” So that’s when they contacted me.
And, at first, I will admit I was kind of like, okay, thanks, CBS, because I was the one who really wanted to do it. And I had to really practically beg Ron. In fact, I did all the legwork for the application, because he really thought there was no way they would pick us, and I kept going, “Yes, they will, because you’re who you are.” But when we talked to them and the whole relationship part, too, he just said, “I really think this is what we need. We’ve been long distance for a little while now, and I think that we need time together without any outside influences. And maybe after this I’ll be ready to commit and be with you.” And that’s all I needed to hear.
miri: Because I was wondering. It seems like it would be kind of a difficult decision. You know, this person whom you felt a lot about and then you kind of broke up with him, and then all of a sudden you have this chance to do this adventure with him. What was your thought process?
Kelly: Right. I really in my heart—and, I mean, I’m telling you, I was so in love with him, and I really believed that this was our second chance. I really had seen Rob & Amber on Survivor, and I thought, oh, my gosh, this is going to turn out like that for us. We’re going to do this together. And I’m such a romantic. You know, love is blind and all those things. And I thought this was it. And I told my parents, I said, “This is God giving me a second chance with him, and it’s going to work out, and we’re going to end up together.” And my parents kept going, “You know, Kelly, don’t live in a fantasy.” They kept saying, “You need to be wise about this and just not analyze your relationship while you’re out there.” And it’s so hard.
miri: Yeah. Well, and I’m guessing, too, that the interviewers who talked to you along the way kept bringing it up in questions.
Kelly: Very much. Ron and I both said to each other, let’s try not to analyze this the entire time. Let’s just have fun, enjoy each other, enjoy the Race. And you do that, but—you’re right. You’re exactly right. You know, every other question was, “How do you feel you and Ron are getting along? How do you feel about your relationship?” And, “Where do you see this going?” And, “Are you impressed with him?” I’ve been working a lot on my own website where I’m posting a journal that I kept on the Race, and now that I’m going back and reading all of it, it makes me laugh because I wrote in there, “It really feels like the producers are trying to make me mad at Ron.” It’s just funny. Like I’ll read where I wrote that, and I’m just like, oh my gosh. Once I piece it all together, it’s real funny.
Tribefan: In retrospect.
Kelly: Yeah, and it makes sense.
Tribefan: So when you were getting ready to go on the Race, did you put a strategy together, you know, who’s going to do what kind of tasks? Did you break up your tasks based on your strengths and weaknesses?
Kelly: Well, Ron had never seen the show, so the first thing we did was try to get as many tapes as possible to let him see. And I knew right away that I’m horrible with directions, and we know that he is like Mr. Navigator from all his Army experience. And so we knew, above all, he was going to have to be the navigator. And any time he could do that and I could drive was going to be the best position for us.
And then we both consider ourselves very athletic and strong. And he, of course, was in the Army and has done a lot of outdoorsy stuff. And even though I’ve done pageants, I’ve been very involved in sports, and I work out a lot, and he knew all that about me, too. So we really decided that we probably need to do the physical tasks, if we could, anything that required a lot of strength such as endurance. And that was our goal.
And we went into it with that. And it’s really funny, because I mentioned earlier, you know, I’m sitting on the sofa going, “Oh, I could have done that better.” And when you’re out there, it is just a ball game of its own. And you’re experiencing it for yourself, and the whole time I was running it, I would say to myself, this is the time somebody is going to be watching it going, “Oh, I would have done that better.”
miri: Now, when I talked to your mom, she pointed out that, yeah, Ron was going to do the navigation because of his training and stuff. But it was kind of scary that you were doing all the driving, too.
Kelly: I don’t have the best driving record, that’s for sure. But it has been better lately, I’ll say. But I had to learn to drive a stick before we left, because I had never driven a stick shift. And really, honestly, any time we came across a stick shift car on the Race, we still let Ron drive it, because you’re in such a hurry, we just didn’t trust, you know—
miri: Yeah. And if you’re not comfortable with a stick shift, you can’t do it under pressure. You just can’t because you’re going to panic.
miri: So yeah. I drive a stick, so I know when I was trying to learn mine.
Tribefan: And I don’t, so if I were on the Race, I’d be in trouble.
Kelly: It’s so funny, though, all the things like that that you have no idea plays a part. So that’s—and really, we’re talking about the navigation, and that’s where we made our mistake at the end, because I drove us in Puerto Rico the night before when we went to that factory. And then after Ron made that big jump, we were the first to leave, along with Uchenna & Joyce. And he—instead of me driving, like we had always planned and him navigate—he said to me, “I can drive faster and better. I’m going to keep up with everybody.” And so that’s where we made our mistake. He jumped in the car and drove, and I was stuck in the back. And then because I’m not a great navigator, he picks up the map and actually takes us towards the wrong airport at first. So I really feel that if I had been driving, we would have been right there on the plane with everybody else.
miri: It’s kind of like not trusting your own strengths there at the end.
Kelly: Right. And it’s just a decision that you make in less than a second. “I’m driving.” “Okay.” And it just goes that way. You know, it’s so funny, because I don’t really think one particular strategy works on the Race. Everything changes constantly.
Tribefan: And there’s always the luck factor, and nobody can control that.
Kelly: Right. Very much. And that’s—and Ron and I went into the Race thinking it was going to be very physically demanding. It was mentally, oh my gosh, just draining. We probably left the Race in worse shape than we arrived, because it’s not that—I mean, it is physically demanding at times and strenuous on your body, like the lack of food and lack of sleep. But we were thinking, you know, we were going to have to be able to run five miles, you know, and this kind of thing. And your mind works 24/7 when you’re on that Race. You’re constantly thinking, how can I outdo this team? How can I get a better flight? How—you know, everything.
miri: And I’m sure that just exhausts you.
Kelly: It does, especially me. [Laughter] My brain working 24/7 is scary.
Tribefan: On no sleep, I don’t think anyone’s brain works that well. You were very nearly eliminated in the very first leg, as we know. Can you take us through that leg? Were there any errors that you can see that put you so far behind that you were almost eliminated?
Kelly: Well, right away in the beginning, I think Ron and I were scared. You jump out in that first leg. You’re in a country you don’t speak their language. Never been there, obviously. It’s just brand new. So you’re uncomfortable, and you’re a little scared to jump out and take a risk. And so I think that was our first problem at the beginning, was that we stayed too much in a group, and we tried to rely on other people. We kind of leaned on Deb & Bianca for their Spanish, and then Ryan & Chuck. And because of that, instead of just doing our own thing and saying, you know what? I think we could go get our own bus or—I think we would have done better instead of staying with the group.
And we learned that, very much so, in that first leg, because we really kind of stuck with the group most of the time. And we learned a lot about the planes there, too, that you need to try to see where your seats are and learn in foreign counties if they exit in the back of the plane instead of the front, that kind of thing, because it can make a difference in your getting the first taxi out of the airport. And just all kinds of things. It was a big eye-opening experience, that first leg, because there’s so many little facets that I just had never even thought about that played a part. And our main strategy after that first leg was that we don’t need to do anything with a group, and we need to trust our own instincts and our own strengths. And I’ll tell you, I will say that first leg at the end right there was a killer, because we had just carried those baskets, and we were stuck on that big truck with Ryan & Chuck and Megan & Heidi. We go to that market. We’re the first ones off the truck. We’re running faster than everybody else, and these locals take us, and they say, “I know where the clue is.” And they totally take us away from the clue, not towards it at all. And Ron and I start realizing, this is not right. This is not right. We look back and we see Ryan & Chuck and Megan & Heidi getting the clue. And we take off. We get the clue. I mean, now we’re like one right after another. And we’re in these taxis riding the cliff in Peru on those mountains. And it was so scary because we were all passing each other. And it didn’t have guard rails. We’re going like 60 miles an hour. Our production crew is screaming at the driver to stop. Nobody speaks Spanish. He doesn’t listen to us. All we told him was to go fast. I mean, we knew that to say in Spanish. We didn’t know how to say slow down.
miri: No, no, we changed our minds! We want to live!
Kelly: But finally, all the production crews, they got all the cars slowed down so we were just all going at the same pace. And we knew it was going to be a foot race at the end. Well, after that was said and done, we were in the middle of that car race. Ryan & Chuck were in front and Megan & Heidi were behind us. So we’re pulling into the town and we know we’re getting close to the convent, because our taxi driver lets us know we’re getting close. Megan & Heidi disappear from behind us. We have no idea if they’ve gotten a quicker route or if they’re lost. So we jump out of the car, and the taxi driver doesn’t tell us where the convent is. So we think we’re just getting out—we saw Ryan & Chuck get out, so we jump out. We start following them. And we are just running, and we’re screaming, “Where’s the convent?” And they’re asking people in Spanish, Ryan & Chuck are, like, “Where are we supposed to go?” Well, somebody, a local, grabs Ron and points and tells him where to go. So Ron hollers out my name, and that’s when it becomes a race, because Ryan & Chuck realize Ron knows where it is.
miri: Right. But there’s no way for him to get your attention without—
Kelly: Right, without alerting anybody else. So it was really me in a footrace to get to Ryan & Chuck, because Ron was already down there. And so we just take off and run and run. And in my mind, I really thought Megan & Heidi were behind us. But we took off, and when we run to that mat, I mean, it was just seconds in front of Ryan & Chuck. I look over, and that’s when I see Megan & Heidi already standing over there. And I start to bawl my eyes out, because you realize somebody is going home, and of all people, it’s my South Carolina friends. And I just love them. They are the greatest guys. You know, it’s emotional anyway, because it’s just an emotional thing. You think you’re about to be eliminated, and you’re not sure, and you realize your friends are going to be gone. And it’s just hard.
miri: Because y’all had had some time like on the beach that first night and everything to kind of hang out with each other. Right?
Kelly: Right. And we had already kind of started hooking up with Ryan & Chuck and just saying, let’s work together whenever we can. We’ll let you know about flights and—so there were our allies, gone, right there in the first leg. And, I mean, we really all hung out together, and we probably spent a majority of time with Ryan & Chuck. But we got to know everybody. I spent a lot of time with the Brothers and Megan & Heidi and all those teams on the beach in the beginning.
Tribefan: When you were in Africa and you had to choose between the milking or the balancing detour, what was so hard about the balancing? I know that Ron gave you such a hard time.
Kelly: I know. And I really thought, oh, we’ve got this balancing. I’ll be so good at this and Ron won’t be. And when we got there, I mean, I could not—we decided to just go with the water first, because I knew we could probably walk with the corn and everything else on our heads because it’s a wider base. But he said, “Let’s do the water because that’s going to be the hardest.” And, I mean, I could not take a step without it falling off. And he could take a few steps and it would tip. But, I mean, I could not take one step. And I don’t know why it was so difficult. Maybe I just don’t have the right kind of head.
miri: You don’t have a flat head, that’s what it is!
Kelly: He just gave me the hardest time about it. And that was a frustrating day because I really went into that thinking, oh, this will be easy for me, and then it turned out to be the complete opposite.
Tribefan: Maybe it did come down to head shape.
Kelly: I guess it’s these—they actually wear these rings that fit on your head. But that didn’t help me one bit. And I was a conehead when I was born, so—
Tribefan: Maybe that’s it.
Kelly: Maybe that’s it.
Tribefan: Under all that hair. If you had shaved your head, you might have known.
Tribefan: So what happened in the car in the controversial incident in which you said that—you thought that Ron swore at you when we did not hear that on TV?
Kelly: Oh, the redneck comment?
Kelly: Well, he was doing the roadblock on his own, and he had to get the logs and move them out of the road. And they’re very nerve-wracking, the roadblocks are, because you’re not a part of it, and you can’t help. And so you’re watching your partner do this on their own. And it’s scary. And you’re watching the other teams catch up right there with you. And so I’m hollering, “Hurry, Ron! Please hurry! Rob & Amber are coming!” And I’m just trying to let him know what’s going on. And I’m sure I sounded tense, because it was intense to watch all this going on at one time. And he kept saying, “Kelly, please be quiet. Please be quiet.” And apparently I didn’t hear that, because he kept telling me. And then he eventually walked over to my car door and said, “Kelly, shut the F up,” but he didn’t say, “F,” you know, he said the word.
Kelly: And it shocked me, because that’s kind of rare for him to say something like that to me, and around me, anyway. People know I don’t really cuss at all, and people never really cuss around me. But I leaned over. There was an African guide sitting in the car next to me. And I looked at him, and I said, “Did he just say, ‘Shut the F up?’” And he looked at me and said, “Yes.” And I just sat there really quiet the rest of the time. It took him probably like a few more minutes to finish. And I just couldn’t hold it in any more. I’m just one of those, I don’t tolerate somebody cussing at me. And he swears up and down he did not say that. I mean, he swears he never said it. And I swear he said it. We’ll never know. But, I mean, I was really, really mad about that, because I just thought that was disrespectful, and I’m not about to let somebody talk to me like that. But we ran to the mat. It was really intense. And five minutes after we ran to the mat for second place with Rob & Amber, we were joking about it. We were over it, and we apologized to each other. And we both said, “Oh gosh, that’s going to be on TV,” because we knew the drama of it all.
Tribefan: I’m sure you thought—did you think that the infamous POW remark would make it to air?
Kelly: No, because it was not a big deal to us. When we had that conversation, the way it was played, it was played like it was much worse than it was to us. I mean, Ron and I didn’t even remember having that conversation. So it wasn’t a big deal.
miri: Yeah. I think M. Darcy, the lady who wrote about you for the Race—we assign each team to a writer, and then they write about that one team all Race long. And she comes from a military family. And she says people in the military—and I know your family is very military—
miri: —they joke about some things like that, but they don’t mean it—if people outside of the military heard them, they’d be going, oh my gosh.
miri: Was that what was going on?
Kelly: Pretty much. That conversation in the car, we weren’t even fighting. We weren’t even really arguing. And what had happened was the camera crew started asking us questions about our relationship, so it kind of got us going. And he was saying he wasn’t ready to commit and all that. And that’s when I said, “Well, all the things you’ve ever chosen in life show that you don’t commit.” And I had really thought about it in my head for a second, and I thought, I don’t really want to sit here and bash his character. I don’t want to go into all the things that I think why he’s not committing. And so I thought I’d make a joke out of it and be light-hearted by saying that POW comment. And even his own mother and I had joked about that. He’s not committed; he even got out of his commitment to the Army. You know, we’ve all laughed about that. And of course, we respect him and everything that he’s been through. I’m glad he’s alive and I’m thankful for his service. But when they play it like that, people were upset. I mean, I had people at church asking me, “What did you mean by that?” And I was upset when I saw it. I was just—my heart just sank because I thought, oh my gosh. That is not what I meant at all.
miri: Because like your brother is going to West Point. Right?
Kelly: Yeah. He graduated from West Point and he’s a second lieutenant now. I have cousins who are in the Air Force, and a lot of my family are veterans. And I’m definitely—if you came into my house, I’m telling you, my living room is nothing but the American flag. I mean, it’s all red, white, and blue. And we’re very patriotic. So it was just a shock. Anybody who knew me was kind of like, “What in the world?” when they saw that.
miri: Do you think that was the most misrepresentative of you on the Race, or do you think in general you were represented as you are, or that you came across how you feel you are?
Kelly: Well, it’s kind of a fine line. There were some times when I watched it, and I went, that would be really appropriate. Even when there were times that I looked tense or maybe not the way I would want me to see me, getting like emotional or whatever. But there were other times when I thought, gosh, they really kind of played that to make it look worse. And my impression of the Race was that Ron and I did not argue that much. We both said to each other when it was over, gosh, we really got along pretty well. And when we looked at ourselves in comparison to some of the other teams, and heard their stories of arguments or even witnessed some of theirs, we thought, we really did well. And we really thought our only major fight was the one where I called him a redneck.
So that’s the only thing that was weird to me, because I left with the impression that we really got along well. And when you watch it, it just makes it look like we had a miserable time. But I had a blast. And that’s the thing that I feel more upset about, because I had such a wonderful experience. And I would do it again in a heartbeat. But I just felt like I looked miserable, and I wasn’t at all.
miri: Yeah, because it seemed like there were just a lot of shots of you just looking like, oh, why am I here? What am I doing here?
Kelly: And I will say—and my mom has always said this about me, with my learning disability—that when I focus on things, I get real serious about it. And if I’m not smiling, people think that I am like mad or—but that’s just the way I am. When I’m real serious about things, I’m very competitive, and I have—and I just know the way my mind works. When I start to focus, I mean, I get this look on my face. And that’s what it was. My mom said, “I saw that look the entire time.” It was just focusing. And that’s what I was meaning by the Race being so mental that you have to—your mind is always working. It was like I could not relax. My mind was constantly going, how can we do this better? How can we do this better?
miri: You mentioned your learning disability. I believe I read that you are dyslexic?
miri: Okay. I’m dyslexic, too.
Kelly: Oh, really?
miri: So I cannot imagine trying to get directions from people and trying to sort out which way you need to go on the drop of a hat, and figuring all that stuff when you’re wondering the whole time in your head, did I hear left? Did hear right?
miri: Which way do I really need to go?
Kelly: And that’s why you have a good teammate. And, really, it was such a blessing to have Ron, because he is so experienced with navigation. And he’s just very intelligent with numbers and everything. I felt really safe with him. And there’s times—I’ve learned throughout my life how to deal with my learning disability, and you do kind of second-guess yourself, and that’s how you deal with it. And I really didn’t feel that much affected by it other than I knew I had to make myself focus on: What am I hearing? What am I doing? What am I reading? You know.
miri: Because hearing you talking about how he was obviously going to do the navigating reminds me of whenever I’m in the car with someone and giving them directions. I always say, “Go the way I’m pointing, not what I’m saying.” And I was wondering, that last turn, the way they made it look in the Race, was it was turning right when you should have gone left or left when you should have gone right, right towards the end that cost you maybe getting on that plane. Was that one of those situations where you read a sign incorrectly or were reading a map incorrectly, or was it just kind of shown wrong?
Kelly: Well, actually, I did say it backwards from what the sign said. But the thing that really kind of held us up is we went towards that wrong airport at first.
miri: Okay. So it was a combination of things there?
Kelly: Right. Once we made that one mistake, it went downhill, because then we got really intense. And it was just da-da-da-da.
Tribefan: Obviously, the editors made your big story to be all about your relationship and your possible future together. And it looks like that was all you ever talked about. Was most of that instigated by the people asking you the questions, or did they just pick and choose the stuff out of all the footage?
Kelly: Well, I was asked a lot of questions about our relationship. And we did talk about a lot of other things, too—the Race, and of course Ron talked a lot about his POW experience, and he was asked a lot about his POW experience. But that was primarily the one thing they would always ask me. They ask you questions about the actual Race: What went on today? How did you feel when you saw Rob & Amber get on that flight, or whatever? But then it always comes back to: What’s the status of your relationship? Do you think you’re getting along? Do you think he’s talking down to you? Do you think he respects you? They just—they ask you all kinds of things. And so, I mean, I guess they do kind of pick and choose out of all of it what they want to show. I think that they saw our angle was the relationship.
miri: Right. They’ve got a story they’re trying to tell, and they kind of, I think, choose that for each team right at the beginning.
miri: I mean, was that frustrating for you at times, to see that, because you know that you talked about more than that?
Kelly: Yes and no. I think the hardest part about it was just kind of dealing with the emotions of seeing it. And I’m really a wide-open book, and I’m glad to share anything about my life with people. And so it wasn’t hard for me to see that, but it was in the sense that it was painful to watch, just knowing that it didn’t all work out the way I would have wanted it to at that time.
miri: Right. I mean, it’s like you’re going through an intense thing anyway, and then you add on all those emotions. I can’t imagine making it through that. It must have been really difficult.
Kelly: It is hard. But at the same time, I really would try to sit back at the end and go, you know what? Try not to analyze all this and just keep running the Race. Just keep running the Race and keep going. But when they keep asking you questions, it does get hard. But I’m a very competitive person at the same time, so it was like I kept making myself just keep going. You know, deal with it and go.
Tribefan: It was heartbreaking to watch you crying in that last episode, though.
Kelly: I know.
Tribefan: That was painful.
Kelly: It was painful for me, and we all watched it together, which was the first show I had watched with Ron. And that was hard, because there I am just pouring my heart out for everyone to see. And just watching all that take place, it is difficult. It was emotional. And people today run into me and see me now, I mean, like are you okay? And I’m like, I’m fine. I’m fine.
Tribefan: It was months ago. I’m over it now.
Kelly: Yeah. So it was hard. But now, especially once it’s all done, I definitely see that everything worked out the way it was supposed to. And I respect Ron and think he’s a wonderful person. But I see now, even more, we were not right for each other, and not really because of the fighting or anything at all. It was just you learn things about each other on the Race. We were still going to be in the same boat, you know? He wasn’t ready to commit, and I was ready to be more serious.
Tribefan: It was about timing, and everybody’s not always on the same page where that’s concerned.
miri: But it sounded like you had thought that you were going on this Race to learn that you were meant to be together. And it sounds like you did learn something, but just not really maybe what you had in mind to begin with.
miri: But something just as important. Because it could have been five or six years from now before you would have learned that.
Kelly: Exactly. And I’m very thankful for that. And it was hard at first, of course, emotionally. But now I look at it, and I’m so thankful for that whole experience because it did show me that. And it showed Ron that, too. And now we’re friends, which is great, but that’s all it needs to be.
miri: Just not a fun lesson to learn on TV.
Kelly: Right. But I don’t know. There’s been so many blessings that have come out of it, even though it was hard for me. I’ve been able to use it to help my best friend and all kinds of things. And so even though it was hard for me and didn’t always portray me in the best light, I’m still thankful for the whole thing.
miri: Well, the lessons that stay with you the longest aren’t the easiest ones to learn.
Kelly: Right. Exactly.
Tribefan: Did you read things about yourself online while all this was going on?
Kelly: I really tried not to, because I was warned—
Kelly: —that people can be pretty ugly. And being in pageants, there were pageant forums and everything where people would talk ugly about everyone. But I had a lot of friends, of course, who would e-mail me and go, oh, you should have read what they said about you. And so I’d get curious sometimes and read. And it seemed like it was kind of half and half. It seemed like some people took my side, or some people just didn’t like me at all. And the only—I just dealt with that and said, these people don’t know me, and the people who know me know who I really am.
Tribefan: That’s probably the healthiest attitude you can have about it, because you can’t control what these people will say about you.
Kelly: Right. You can’t at all. And, I mean, bless my family and friends’ heart. Some of my friends would just be like, “I am writing this person and telling them” They’d get so mad. And I’m just like, “Just let it go. It’s not a big deal. I chose to do this.”
Tribefan: Back when you guys were on the Race and heading to Turkey, and you found out when you got there at some point that the other teams had all beaten you and Ron and Rob & Amber, at this point, obviously, you’re racing for last place. At what point did you realize that, okay, we have a problem now, because we’re not ahead of everybody else?
Kelly: Well, we realized that when we got to the island where you picked up the gnome, like the lighthouse, because the driver told us that the other teams had all been there. And so that was when we knew. And so Ron and I just—that’s why we decided to do the maze thing with the columns that he did so unbelievably well at.
Tribefan: Oh, he did.
Kelly: And it was just—we knew nobody else would take this because it seemed like the harder one, and we knew he’d be good at it. We thought we could catch up. And we really did. We made up some ground. Because Amber & Rob had a pretty good lead on us when they got on that train, and we caught up pretty well doing it. But we were still behind. And I kind of felt in my heart like it was going to be a non-elimination, but then you just never know. So my stomach was just churning.
miri: How come you didn’t like put on all your clothes and stuff?
Kelly: Well, I did. I stopped and put on some extra clothes. And Ron didn’t, but I stopped and put it on just in case. And I was glad I did.
Tribefan: Are you allowed to stuff things in your pockets, or don’t they let you?
Kelly: They said pretty much whatever you’re wearing. And I do know that some people were stuffing stuff in their pockets, but they were still eliminated. But I didn’t stuff anything in mine. Ron kept going, “This will be great if it is a non-elim, because we won’t have to carry our bags. We’ll be so much faster.” He wanted us to get rid of everything.
miri: Yeah. Because we were wondering why you didn’t put any lipstick in your pocket.
Kelly: I know. And I should have thought about that. I really heard about that.
miri: Well, I heard that—I’m sorry?
Kelly: I had so many comments about that.
miri: Oh, I’m sure. And I think your mom said at The Early Show that they did like four takes or something, and that’s why that lady looked so miffed by the end of it.
Kelly: Yeah. Well, I asked her originally, and she looked very nice and friendly and clean. And I said, “I know this is a strange question,” and I really asked her for her lipstick. I didn’t want to borrow it. I wanted to carry it with me. And she just didn’t understand what I was asking her. So I was really surprised that she did that, because I was like, oh my gosh, she’s going to let me put on her lipstick and take it back. And plus after being in India, I wasn’t scared to try her lipstick or anything.
Tribefan: That’s true. That’s minor now.
Kelly: Yeah. But I asked her, and then I walked back over to Ron. I think Ron was standing near our camera crew, and he was telling them about our flight situation. And I said, “I feel so much better now. At least I got some lipstick.” And, oh my gosh, the night before we stayed at the Four Seasons—which was so nice and wonderful—I had an allergic reaction to the soap. And it was horrible. And if you ever watch that episode, look very closely at my face. It looks like I have the chicken pox. It looks really bad.
Tribefan: Remind me not to use the soap at the Four Seasons.
Kelly: I don’t know why. And I think probably it was because I had not been able to shower regularly, you know, in so long that my skin—I had horrible problems with my skin the entire time I was on the Race.
miri: And when you’re tired, your skin—everything is more sensitive, because you’re just not getting your sleep.
Kelly: And I’ll tell you this, too, and you might not want to know it. I had my period the entire time I was on the Race.
miri: Oh my gosh!
Kelly: The entire time!
Tribefan: Oh my God!
Kelly: I know. I kept asking the doctors, I kept going, “Is something wrong?” And they would be like, “No. A lot of women, they just—because it’s so strenuous on their bodies, and they’re stressed, and different appetite and everything.”
Tribefan: Well, that would make life really, really difficult.
Kelly: I know.
miri: Anything and everything, I’d be calling a redneck. I’d be calling them worse things than that!
Tribefan: Besides the bad soap at the Four Seasons, was there anything there you were able to take advantage of? Were you allowed to take anything with you?
Kelly: No, because you’re not allowed to start the next leg with anything. We did take a pen. We put a pen in our pocket.
Tribefan: So they didn’t frisk you for it?
Kelly: No, they didn’t. Later on, actually, when I drew the Rob & Amber faces on the Yield in London, somebody stepped out and asked, “Is that a Four Seasons pen?” And I went, “Oh, oh, oh!”
miri: So were you surprised when they Yielded you?
Kelly: Actually, I was, because I thought, hit us while we’re down, okay? And I really was shocked, because, in my mind, I would have yielded Meredith & Gretchen or Uchenna & Joyce, because we knew that they were behind us, and it would have made more sense to Yield somebody behind. And I was thinking, why are they worried about is? We don’t have any money. Obviously, it’s going to take us a lot longer to catch up with them. And I was kind of shocked when I saw it. But it’s part of the game. It’s part of the strategy. So, I mean, I was a little upset at first, but then I thought, well, I would have probably Yielded somebody else, too. So that’s how it goes.
miri: Were you shocked more because you were in an alliance with them or because you thought it just would have been smarter to Yield the teams further behind?
Kelly: Yeah. It wasn’t so much about an alliance. And we really didn’t have one with them because Rob & Amber, you know, when we didn’t have any money, they didn’t offer one bit to help or anything. Of course, we became friends with them on the Race. But we both had a mutual understanding that we were out for—we were going to win. Our team wanted to win, that kind of thing.
miri: Well, and to me, that’s the smart kind of—if you want to say alliance, because there’s no point in getting your feelings hurt at the end, because eventually it does have to become about you if you’re going to compete in this game.
Tribefan: Well, obviously a lot of other teams resented their presence, even, on the Race, but you were friendly with them. So did you see something that the others didn’t, or were you just open to it?
Kelly: Well, I think that—you know, my first reaction when I saw them there was, well, I hope they don’t win. They’ve already won a million dollars. But then I was kind of excited because I thought, this is going to get a lot more people involved in the show. And with Ron being a POW, he had some celebrity status. And so we had been dating for a while, and I was kind of used to watching the crowd react to him and people be around him. And so I just kind of looked at Rob & Amber and thought, I’ll bet they’re just like Ron. They’re regular people. And I just need to get to know them as people and not as Rob & Amber on TV. And it just—I really felt like they were the most competitive team there, and that Ron and I were as competitive as them. And we always ended up with them. And the more and more we raced alongside them, we spent more time with them and got to know them. And they really are wonderful people. They’re good people.
Tribefan: That’s good to hear.
miri: They really just seemed to have a polarizing effect on this season. And it was kind of sad to see that, I think, for us.
Kelly: Yeah. Well, I understand how the other teams felt, that it was hard. And you have to be there to understand that you feel like it’s not fair because—
miri: Oh, no. I can totally see both sides of it. I really can.
Kelly: Right. And not everybody was totally rude to them. And, actually, I respected—the teams that were rude to them, they were rude to their face. It wasn’t like they were behind their back. I respect people like that to an extent. At least they’re not stabbing them in the back.
Tribefan: Right. They’re honest about how they feel.
Kelly: Yeah. And I will say I don’t know if I agree with how they ran the Race as far as like the manipulative part of it. But, you know, it works for them. Rob’s good at it.
miri: You’ve got to play to your strengths.
Tribefan: For some people, it comes naturally. What can you say? So are there any moments that were on the Race that didn’t make it to air that you wish people had been able to see for your experience on the Race?
Kelly: I’m trying to think. I wish that they could have seen Ron and me laughing and joking and having a good time and making up after our little spats or anything like that. But the thing that I thought was so cool about our season was how close all the teams got to each other, minus Rob & Amber. Nobody would get close with Rob & Amber but us and Ray & Deana. People were—and Uchenna & Joyce got close with them as the Race went on, but they weren’t as close. But when you’re on your Pit Stop and when you’re in your down time in the Race, if you’re sitting in the airport for three hours, I mean, it was just—we all had such a blast together and getting to know each other. And now we all have such a unique bond, and they all say that we’re the closest cast that they’ve ever had. Because we just all keep in touch and try to see each other and do as much as we can. And, to me, that was just real special. And I think it’s just neat for people who really follow the show to see that. In the long run, we’re all best friends.
miri: Yeah. I think one of the things that made me sad was that, Season 1, there were a lot of times when they showed all of the teams cheering the last team getting in to the mat. And they showed that kind of camaraderie. And it seems like, since then, that it’s more they want to show the competitive stuff. And I kind of miss that. I kind of miss seeing some of that during the Race.
Kelly: Well, I saw bits and pieces of it here and there on ours. Like the one time Meredith & Gretchen ran in Africa, it showed a group of us standing outside clapping and cheering for them. It really—we had such a great group. I mean, every single team that was on there are just special, special people, and so talented, and just good-hearted. And it was such a great season to be on.
miri: Was there a favorite place that you went of all the places that you got to go to?
Kelly: I loved Africa. I was enthralled with it when we got there. And it was beautiful, and the people there were so warm and helpful and endearing. And the sights were unbelievable, of course. And it was amazing. I mean, I really enjoyed every place because I had never been out of the country before. So to see all the sights was awesome, and to learn about all the different countries. But if I had to pick one, I would pick Africa.
Tribefan: What was your favorite task on the Race that you had to do that you enjoyed the most?
Kelly: I think racing the camels. I had a blast! That was just so much fun. And the whole time I was doing that, I kept going, who would ever get to race a camel in India? Me! I am racing a camel in India! And it was throwing me around. It was bouncing me everywhere. My legs were flying up. And I was excited, because I was the first one, you know, to complete that task. And I was so pumped about it.
miri: Well, I have to say I could tell you were having fun there. I’m really glad to hear you say that, because it just looked like you were having a blast.
miri: And so I think that was one of the places where we got to see you have some fun instead of looking serious.
Kelly: Right. And I will say that the orphanage, too, was one of my favorite things. And probably—it’s so hard, because I’m a real, real competitive person. And when we went to the orphanage, it just kind of brought it back into perspective for me, like, Kelly, this is just a race, but these kids live life like this every day. And just when we ran in and those kids just screamed, you know, with excitement and joy, it was just like being in the Superbowl for me or something. It was a real incredible emotional experience, and I really am glad CBS chose to include that as part of the show. I know that CBS also has gotten a lot of extra gifts and toys for the orphanage, too, which is really neat.
Tribefan: Oh, that’s good. That’s good. And they apparently thought so much of that episode, it’s one of the ones that’s been submitted for Emmy consideration, which is very cool.
Kelly: Yeah. I think so, too. So next to racing the camel, I think the orphanage was just very precious.
miri: Well, one was fun and one was touching. Right?
miri: That to me—you talk about your feeling when you’re walking in there and you just would like to spend a little time. That to me would be one of the most frustrating things on the Race, is that you don’t get to spend a lot of time at some of these places, really getting to soak in the experience.
Kelly: It is hard. For an example, I can think of being in London, it was a 36-hour Pit Stop for us there. And sometimes when you’re on your 36 hours, like in Africa we got to go on a little safari, and things like that, which is nice. And, in London, they took us to the Tower of London. And Ron and I were the only ones who jumped on that. All the other teams wanted to sleep, but Ron and I were like, we’re in this country. We are going. But you’re in London, and we got to go to the Tower of London, which was great, but we never saw the palace. We never saw the changing of the guard. We never got to do the whole London experience. And that’s what it was like everywhere you go. You might touch on one great thing, but you don’t get the whole experience. But you get enough to where you kind of see what the culture is like, and definitely enough to say, hey, I want to go back.
miri: And you get to do some things that you typically—you would never think to do as a tourist.
Kelly: Oh, yeah. Things that you would never, ever—
Tribefan: Like I don’t think a tourist would be camel racing.
Kelly: Or pushing an elephant down the street.
Tribefan: Will you use any of your Travelocity prize to revisit any of these places?
Kelly: Oh, for sure. I definitely want to go to Africa again. And I’d love to go to London again. But the main thing I want to use my money for first is my cousins who are in the Air Force, the military family, one of them is moving to Japan, being stationed there. They’re moving Thursday. And I’m going to go there and visit them. And then my other cousin is in Alaska, and I’ve never been there, and I’m going to go there as well. And then, after that, it’s just free-for-all.
miri: So y’all just got actual—it’s money you get to spend on Travelocity?
Kelly: Right. $10,000 each. And Travelocity—we use all their Travelocity benefits and travel.
miri: That is so great.
Kelly: It is a great prize. Oh my gosh. And on TV, I said, “Thanks, Travelocity!” But it was so exciting.
miri: And you really meant it. You weren’t just saying things.
Kelly: No. I was serious. I loved it.
Tribefan: It was a nice little prize, especially when you came in last.
Kelly: Oh, I know.
Tribefan: Here, you get a prize.
Kelly: And, see, Ron and I really—we never had good luck on the show. I’m telling you, I mean, we could arrive at the same time as Rob & Amber, and they would find the clue right away, and it would take us forever. I mean, just all kinds of things. We never had luck. We always got the slowest drivers. We always had to stop for gas. I mean, just every little thing. And when we got that, I mean, I could not believe it, because of our bad luck. I was just shocked that we won a prize. I mean, any time we came in first, we never won a prize.
Tribefan: And it was a nice prize that splits evenly down the middle.
Tribefan: So if you knew then what you know now, would you have still run the Race, and would you do it again?
Kelly: Oh, definitely. Definitely. It was such a wonderful experience. And it’s life-changing, eye-opening—even though I didn’t win the million dollars, I feel like I won so many things. I won the Travelocity prize, which was great, but I won friendships that are going to last forever. And my heart will never, ever be the same from seeing all the things I saw and getting to participate in the things that I did. I feel like I won the million.
miri: I’ve always thought of the Race as being a very interesting combination of this competition and experience. And just because you don’t win the competition doesn’t mean you’re not going to win at the experience. And if you go into it with this open mind, and exploring and looking at new things, you’re going to come out so much richer, I think. It just seems to me. I mean, it’s all cliché, but—
Kelly: Well, no. I mean, that’s true. I mean, I would hate it for anybody if they did it any differently. It would be so boring. And how miserable would you feel if you didn’t win, if you walked away and didn’t experience anything?
Tribefan: That is true. So when you were in New York for the finale and you came to the big party, what did you think of TARcon?
Kelly: Well, I could not believe how many people came from all over. Mom says she met somebody who came from Australia. I could not believe that.
Kelly: I was just floored. But we come up on the escalator, and I was a little nervous, because I thought, what if these people don’t like me?
Tribefan: I think Ray was worried about the same thing.
Kelly: And plus Mom told me I was the next Ray. After Ray was gone, she said, “Great, Kelly, you’re the next Ray.” But when we came up that escalator and walked in and everybody just screamed and hollered, I just felt like we were at the Academy Awards or something. I mean, it was fabulous, and it made me feel so good about the whole thing. And to meet people personally and show them who I am, and everybody was coming up to me going, “You are so tall!” And everybody was going, “You’re so much prettier in person!” And it was like, well, you know, lipstick and a shower.
Tribefan: That goes a long way. What did your mom and sister think of it all?
Kelly: Oh, they had a blast. That was their favorite part. That’s all they tell everybody. They talk about the entire time.
miri: I had so much fun talking to them at The Early Show. I ended up standing right behind them.
Kelly: Oh, really?
miri: And your mom was so cute because she was saying, “I hope they don’t show me on TV, because I told school I was sick.”
Kelly: Yeah. They are so funny. I have this great family. It’s too bad that we didn’t do the family Amazing Race. But I will say, though, if they call me again for the All-Star if they ever have it, and maybe a good twist would be me and whoever I’m with running against Ron and whoever he’s with.
Tribefan: So what do you have planned for the future other than some travel?
Kelly: Well, I’m working now at a marketing company in Greenville. It’s called IMI, and we market high-end real estate and resort property all over the world. So it’s really neat to go from traveling the world now to marketing resort property all over the world. But the main thing on my plate now is this fund-raiser, which occupies a lot of my time but it’s so worthy.
miri: I read about what happened to your best friend, and I can’t imagine this happening to you just before this experience of a lifetime that you went on, and the emotions you must have been trying to deal with at that time.
Kelly: Well, it was very, very hard. It’s probably one of the hardest things that I’ve dealt with personally. I don’t know. When somebody is instantly taken away from you like that without any warning, it’s just hard. And I knew that the Race was coming, and at one time I did have a thought in my mind that maybe I shouldn’t go. And I thought about it and prayed about it, and I thought, Leslie would be so mad at me if I didn’t go. And I would want her to go if the situation were reversed. And I thought about it, and I decided I needed to go. And then I honestly thought, this will be some good therapy for me, to get away. Because her murder became a national news story instantly. And like right after it happened, I was on CNN and Fox News and Good Morning America, because I became the spokesperson for the family. They didn’t want to do any media or anything. So I was kind of doing all of that. And I was already kind of in a race. It felt like a rat race.
miri: And every time you turn on the news, getting reminded of it.
Kelly: Right. And I was getting calls nonstop about it, which was fine, and I didn’t mind talking about it, but it was just hard. And I thought, maybe this is what I need, is just to get away and to think and to be away from all this. And it really was good therapy. And I thought about a lot of things while I was out there. And it also took my mind off things. And the hard parts were to be out there and I would go, “Oh, I can’t wait to tell Leslie about this,” and then it would hit me, I can’t. And I’d deal with all that, and poor Ron, he did so well. And I’m really thankful that he was there with me during all that.
miri: So how long had you known Leslie?
Kelly: We had been best friends since ninth grade.
miri: Oh my goodness.
Tribefan: Oh, wow.
Kelly: Yeah. So it had been, I think, 14 years. Yeah.
miri: And so you were saying that she worked for an abused women’s shelter? An abused children’s shelter?
Kelly: Well, what she did, she was actually—we did everything together. We did ballet together. And I had started pageants a little bit and hadn’t done a lot of them in my life but had done a couple, and she decided that she should do them, too. And it’s a funny story how she decided that, but I’ll save that for another time. So she ended up doing the Miss South Carolina pageant with me the summer that I won. And we have platforms when you’re in the Miss America organization, and mine was learning disabilities, and she did child abuse because she’s always been real passionate about helping children. And she’d felt real fortunate to come from the home that she’d come from and just had a great family, and had always wanted to help children who weren’t as fortunate.
So she chose child abuse as her platform, and worked very hard for this organization called the Calvary Home for Children. And, actually, Leslie’s from Anderson, South Carolina, and there was a little girl in Anderson named Stephanie Carter, and this is how all this got started. She was abused so badly by her parents that she died. And it’s horrible, like they did horrible, horrible things to her. And you can read about it on the internet. They chained her to a tree and treated her like a dog, and they actually filmed all this on camera, calling her a dog and hosing her off, and chained her to like a half-bath and a closet and just let her stay there for hours, and abused her, and horrible, horrible things.
And she ended up dying from all this abuse. And Leslie took on working for causes for Stephanie Carter. She helped the legislature get laws passed that protected children who were abused and various things like that. And then she worked with the Calvary Home to build a cottage that houses abused children and name it after Stephanie. And so Leslie fund-raised, just like I’m doing now, fund-raised and fund-raised and fund-raised and got that cottage built. And when Leslie was gone, the day of her funeral, her brother and I just sat, and we said, what we’ve got to do is we’ve got to build a cottage in honor of her. And we’ve got to keep her memory alive. And I think this is going to help us to grieve while we’re not sure if this is ever going to be solved.
miri: At least something positive can come out of this.
Kelly: Right. Exactly. And that’s one thing I’ve always been taught in my life through my family is you’ve got to take the negative and make it a positive. So that’s what we’re doing. And we’ve done several little fund-raisers along the way. But when I got back from the Race, I realized I had a little bit more notoriety then from it. People were recognizing me. And not only that, they were asking me still about Leslie. And that was still a big news topic. And so I thought, I can combine these two and really educate people about her story. Maybe we can find who did this. Maybe we can raise some money. Maybe we can make people aware of child abuse prevention, and all these different things.
And so I came up with this idea to hold my own Amazing Race. Of course, I call mine the Rai$ing Race in Anderson’s Amazing Space, but we call it the Rai$ing Race. And we’re going to do it in a format just like the Race. You know, you’ll have all the tasks and everything that you have to perform. And we’re going to take a limited number of teams, and we’re just going to take first come are the first ones accepted. And they pay a fee to be in, and of course all the fees go to the Calvary Home to build this cottage. And we’re working on sponsors. And what’s really exciting to me is the community, the state, has just jumped right in wanting to do whatever they can do to help make this a big success for everybody who comes. And Rob & Amber are going to be there. Uchenna & Joyce called today and confirmed that they’re coming. And Patrick is coming. Ryan & Chuck are coming. Lynn & Alex called and said they’re working really hard to try to come. And, you know, it’s hard, because they all have to fly from all over. And Meredith & Gretchen are in the same boat, and they’re trying to work it out in their schedule to come, too. And it’s just been real exciting. And it just shows you those are the kind of people who were on that Race, when I say the unity that we had as a team, that they would come and do something like this, and pay their own way, most of them.
miri: And take the time out of their schedule and try and work it out. Yeah.
Kelly: Right. The Race is going to be August 12th and 13th, and it’s going to take place in Anderson County, South Carolina. And we have the website, which is lesliemazzarafund.com. And on there are the links for the Rai$ing Race that explains a little bit more about what’s going to go on. We’re going to—there’s going to be prizes. The winner of the race will win a trip for two and spending money. And we’re going to have lots of great things for everybody. We’re going to end it with a huge party and a concert. And it’s just going to be real, real exciting. And it’s going to be covered nationally by the media. 48 Hours is going to be there. People Magazine has expressed great interest. I’m working with lots of other national media, too, as well as all of our state and local, and anybody else who wants to cover it.
miri: Wow, that just sounds great.
Tribefan: Yes, it is. It’s a very big undertaking.
Kelly: It’s stressful, but it’s all worth it in the end. And what’s been so exciting for me again is just to see the people that have just said, hey, I want to be a part of this and I want to help. And it’s just been a blessing, the people who just come out of the woodwork for a cause like this. And people are just excited. They are excited to have The Amazing Race in their county. And it’s fun.
Tribefan: Well, it sounds like it’s going to be a great event.
Kelly: Yeah. I think so, too, and I just hope that everybody signs up and gets excited. And on the web, we’ve had some really good responses and e-mail from people who are expressing—
Tribefan: I know some people have expressed that, if they can’t go or participate, they would like to donate.
Kelly: And all of that donating information, too, if people want to donate, is on the website.
Kelly: And the thing I was thinking today, actually, was there’s got to be 250,000 Amazing Race fans out there. And I just thought if every single Amazing Race fan mailed in one dollar, the thing would be paid for.
miri: One thing to think about, I don’t remember seeing this on your site: Do you have it set up if people wanted to donate via Paypal or something, that they could?
Kelly: No. That’s a good idea, though.
[We then chatted a bit about the Paypal. It has now been set up so you can donate via Paypal. Just click on the “Make a Donation” button at the bottom of this page.]
Tribefan: We appreciate you taking the time to talk to us. Everybody likes hearing the backstage stuff and the stuff that we don’t see on air.
Kelly: I promise my website is coming up. The guy has been working on it. He just called me last week and was like, “Kelly, this is just too much of an undertaking for me, and I’m passing it on to this company.” And they are really going to make it phenomenal. They talked to me today. And I was like, whoa. I couldn’t believe what they’re going to do. But he said he would try to get it up by this week. And typing all my journal entries has been time-consuming.
Tribefan: Oh, I bet.
Kelly: I have like the first five or six typed, but I probably need to go ahead and put those in, and then I’ll just be working on the other ones.
Tribefan: Well, that sounds good. We look forward to reading all that.
miri: Yeah. And I enjoy talking to a Racer that sounds as Southern as I do.
Kelly: Yeah. I talked to Uchenna & Joyce on the phone today. They were like, “Girl, you are so country. I forgot how country you are.”
Tribefan: Again, we’re just really, really glad to have met you, and it’s been fun talking to you about this stuff.
Kelly: Well, I appreciate it.