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Hundreds apply in Landover for ‘Biggest Loser’ TV show

One wants to keep his job as a flight attendant while another wants to be a better rugby player. They all want to buy new clothes.

Each of the hundreds of people who auditioned Saturday in Landover to be a contestant on the 13th season of NBC’s hit television show “The Biggest Loser” offered reasons for wanting to lose at least 85 pounds, the requirement to be on the show.

“I’ve tried a lot of things, and a lot of things haven’t worked for me,” said Shantel Stone, a freelance web and graphic designer from Gaithersburg. “I think the competition would do it for me.”

Stone, 36, said she wants to lose 140 pounds to be able to keep up with her boyfriend, a former Marine who enjoys activities such as bungee jumping and riding rollercoasters.

“I want to do things without limitations,” she said. “I want to start living, not just existing.”

The show features about 22 overweight contestants who compete weekly to lose the highest percentage of body weight by working out with trainers and learning healthier eating habits. The winner takes home a $250,000 prize.

Olivia Ward, the winner of the 11th season, lost 129 pounds.

The 12th season premieres Sept. 20.

Each of the applicants participated in a short group interview at the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex with about 10 other would-be contestants.

Karen Happel, one of the casting directors, said she looks for charisma, energy and a real desire to lose weight when she talks with the applicants, who applied as individuals and as partners.

“I just want to see your personality and why your friends love you,” she told one group of potential contestants, which included people from Capitol Heights, Oxon Hill and Gaithersburg as well as New York and Pennsylvania.

Casting calls, which end Aug. 27, also took place in New Jersey, North Carolina, Texas and California.

Kevin C. Walker, a 39-year-old flight attendant who lives in northeast Washington, D.C., said losing 175 pounds would allow him to better complete the duties of his job, which requires that he be able to fit in the flight attendant jump seat and through the emergency exit as well as move comfortably through the aisle of a plane.

“Because of my size, it took me a long time to get here, and I don’t want to lose my job,” said Walker, adding that he has tried the Slim-Fast diet and is playing tennis to lose weight.

Rebecca Villarreal, a doctoral student at the University of Maryland, College Park, said she gained much of her excess weight because of poor eating and sleeping habits during graduate school. Losing the weight would improve her performance as a rugby player for the Washington, D.C. Furies.

“Having an opportunity to be away from the everyday stressors, I think I’d do really well,” said Villarreal, who lives in College Park. “It would be a complete game-changer for me.”

Those asked to return for a second longer, on-camera interview with casting directors were notified by the end of the day. People also can apply online with a video submission.

The show will be taped from September to March, according to the casting call website, and is slated to air beginning in January.

by Abby Brownback

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