Brenda Mehta Interview
Leslie's New Life
TV GUIDE OCTOBER 6, 2001
Amazing Race executive producer Bertram van Munster doesn't want to compare his round-the-world race for $1 million to the veteran reality success Survivor: "There's no monotony of landscape in The Amazing Race," he says. "And it's never been done on this scale. We had to secure permits from governments, and let me tell you, getting permits for 44,000 miles is a lot of work."
Testing the theory that familiarity breeds contempt, Race teams are comprised of pairs of family and friends, including grandparents, fraternity brothers, and a couple who are dating. "People who know each other are likely to be much harsher on each other," says van Munster.
Three of the 11 teams have been eliminated in episodes filmed in southern Africa and France (the first three of 13 episodes). "None of the challenges were harder than we expected, other than finding a white flag in Zambia," says Leslie Kellner, who, nevertheless, was eliminated with fellow Houston schoolteacher Kim Smith when they were the last to arrive at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The delay? Kellner picked a last-minute fight with a cabdriver.
Van Munster's biggest challenge was staying one step ahead of the contestants as they raced around the globe. "Sometimes they would catch up to me," he says, laughing. "They would see me in some airport and say, 'Hi, Bert, I guess we're in the right place!' I had to duck a lot."
The QUILL SPRING 2003
An Amazing Race
Leslie Kellner, Delta Psi Chapter at Southwest Texas State University (’93), took part in a 31-day whirlwind adventure around the world. For her and her best friend, it was far from being a breeze.
Leslie Kellner is a self-described adrenaline junkie. She has a passion for travel and an appetite for adventure. In March 2001, Leslie and her best friend, Kim Smith, put themselves to the ultimate adventurers’ test. They were selected to compete in the CBS reality show The Amazing Race, during which 11 teams of two people raced around the world to finish first for $1 million.
Along with the chance to win big bucks, Leslie and Kim couldn’t pass up the opportunity to travel. Leslie heard about the race on the radio. “It was advertised as a free trip around the world,” explained Leslie. “The catch was surviving your partner during this journey and competing in surprise challenges along the way.” They couldn’t refuse the challenge.
Leslie and Kim filled out an eight-page application and produced a three-minute audition tape telling CBS why they should be chosen. “Our audition tape was very simple. We sat in front of a video camera and shared some of our more outrageous stories,” chuckled Leslie. The stories include tales most people could never image experiencing: running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain; skydiving over the Swiss Alps; surviving a carjacking in Barcelona, Spain; skiing in the Alps; and being forced to write their last will and testament on a night train to Budapest.
After whittling down the contestant field to 2,000 from 8,000, CBS sent casting associates to interview teams. To complete the interview process, CBS invited 24 teams to California for mental testing, relationship analysis, physical strength assessments and surprise interviews. What special personal characteristics did team Leslie and Kim have to make the cut? “We believe our midnight pranks on other contestants, which we were not allowed to communicate with at the time, might have had something to do with our consideration for the show. Oh, how those old sorority house pranks came in handy!”
In March, The Amazing Race began in Central Park in New York City. The winner would travel 31 days and 35,000 miles. “We did not have any knowledge of where we were going or what type of challenges to expect. We were only told to pack one suitcase, leave all money, travel books, and electronic devices at home, and get ready to race around the world!
“Our first destination was Johannesburg, South Africa. And then we traveled to Victoria Falls in Livingstone, Zambia. After a zip line ride, bungee jump and safari, we headed to the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Kim and I were eliminated at the Arc de Triumph. Sadly, our race ended after only seven days.”
The eliminated teams met in a sequestered city and enjoyed free time and traveling Europe until there were only two teams competing to be The Amazing Race winner. “At the end of the 31 days, all the teams met in New York for the finish of the race. After spending a couple of stress-free days together, we were released.”
During the race Leslie said she used her sense of humor and courage to get her through. “It took much more mental and physical strength than I had anticipated to complete each task, challenge and detour accurately. But I relied on courage the most to compete in this contest. The challenges were extreme, the hunger was real, the money was tight, time was short and the competitors were fierce. A one-hour TV show could never portray the truly grueling, exhausting reality we all faced.”
While racing around the world, Leslie said she called on her Alpha Xi Delta experience. “Being an active member of Alpha Xi Delta encouraged my leadership abilities, self-confidence and independence. Participating in sorority events allowed me to develop teamwork, communication, and time management skills, all of which I used during the racing experience.
“Surprising to some, the experience from sorority life that I used most during competition was my knowledge about children through philanthropic activities. Time spent at Choose Children events taught me that sometimes adults forget that children have incredible knowledge, charisma and a competitive edge. Kim and I received directions and advice about many challenges from local children, and they were always right! One little boy in Zambia was even willing to hop in our crowded SUV and chaperone us to a different village, just to make sure that we arrived more quickly. Understanding children and communicating well with them were our secret weapons.”
Leslie is completing her fifth year of teaching seventh-grade math and coaching volleyball, basketball and track. Upon her return from The Race she decided to actively pursue her dream of becoming a travel writer/host. When asked about her Amazing Race experience she usually advises people to “take advantage of every door that God opens for you and be ready to run when it happens!”