Anna Kournikova and Dolvett Quince discuss 'The Biggest Loser'
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 09/20/2011
Anna Kournikova and Dolvett Quince will be joining The Biggest Loser's veteran trainer Bob Harper as new trainers when The Biggest Loser's twelfth season premieres tonight at 8PM ET/PT.
Kournikova and Quince will be replacing former trainers Jillian Michaels, Brett Hoebel and Cara Castronuova and, along with Harper, guiding 15 contestants competing in a "Battle of the Ages" format in which contestants will be grouped by age for the first time in The Biggest Loser history.
During a conference call with reporters last week, Kournikova, Quince and executive producer Todd Lubin talked to Reality TV World about The Biggest Loser's next season -- including why professional tennis player Kournikova felt she was ready to take on the task of training obese clients when she had little actual experience doing so and whether Quince saw his participation in the reality weight-loss competition as embarking on a new venture or remaining on the same path he'd been on for 10 years.
Reality TV World: Anna, as a professional tennis player and certified trainer, what do you think you brought to the table as one of The Biggest Loser's newest trainers? Because it does seem as if maybe you didn't have that much actual training experience with obese clients so why did you feel you were ready to take on that task?
Anna Kournikova: Well the fact is that I treated my body as a tool my whole life to be able to perform on the tennis court and to be a professional athlete. I've worked with the best psychologist sports psychologist, the best nutritionists, the best trainer, the best coaches.
So for me, it was literally just using all that information that has been drilled into my brain for the last 25, 23 years, and voicing it and sharing it with the contestants. I've been working with the Boys and Girls Club and a couple of other charities, US -- with the USO and with PSI where I am spreading the message of health, well-being, and lifestyle -- getting kids into sports and all those sorts of things.
So I mean, I know that I didn't have a lot of experience or much experience with obese -- working with obese people -- but that's why we have an amazing support system with Dr. Huizenga and the nutritionist Cheryl Forberg. Really, it's basic science and math.
And really, the most important trick is explaining it to the contestants and motivating them, because really it's about calories and hours of exercise, you know what I mean? So, it's not rocket science but it's disciplined, dedication and understanding how it works.
Reality TV World: Dolvett with 10 years training experience under your belt why did you decide to appear on The Biggest Loser? What about the show enticed you to join the cast. And would you say this was kind of an entirely new venture for you based on your previous clientele or do you feel that what the job required of you was basically right up your alley?
Dolvett Quince: I felt like what it asked of me was definitely up my alley. I mean, I've been experiencing helping people change their lives for well over 10 years. Was it an amazing -- something I'm glad that I did? Absolutely, because the challenge was dealing with working and changing obese people's lives from one extreme to the other. I feel great about that.
So when The Biggest Loser came to me, absolutely I wanted to take advantage of that. I don't think there is a trainer -- anyone in the health and fitness field that wouldn't want to be in my position, helping out people with this extreme on this platform. So for me, to be a part of NBC, be a part of The Biggest Loser, I'm extremely honored. I'm definitely honored. I'm happy to be here to put my brand out there as well.
Also in the call, Kournikova told reporters how she responds to people when they claim she only got selected as a new The Biggest Loser trainer because she's beautiful, and Quince discussed whether he felt added pressure joining the show after it seemed like he and Kournikova basically replaced Hoebel and Castronuova. In addition, Lubin told reporters what went into the producers' decisions to utilize a "Battle of the Ages" format and originally cast the new trainers.
Anna, since you've competed at such a high level on the tennis tour, how has The Biggest Loser pushed you in unexpected ways both physically and mentally?
Anna Kournikova: It's definitely, you know, it was definitely a very different experience where I was always the one being told what to do and follow instructions to the tee. This was a total role reversal where I just told people what to do based on what I've learned from the best nutritionist, the best sports psychologist, the best coach, trainers -- all those things.
And it definitely just brought me back to the organized discipline ways that I used to be when I was a professional athlete. You know, the last few years have been kind of more relaxed for me, but it definitely was very easy kind of to jump right back into being super disciplined, dedicated, and just spending a lot of hours and time with these people trying to really change their thinking and mentality.
It would appear that you both are walking into somewhat of a tough situation. The show just lost veteran trainer Jillian Michaels who drew in many viewers, and last season, there were two new trainers just like you guys who came in and didn't work out. So do you feel any added pressure because of that and why or why not?
Dolvett Quince: I don't feel any added pressure because I've been doing this thing for so long -- this thing I call personal training -- and I'm very confident with being able to assist people in changing their lives. So, I didn't come there with a mindset of trying to be anything different than other than what I am and that's a trainer.
At the heart of me, I love what I do and I wanted to translate that to these people -- especially these obese people that could use my experience. So I walked into it with that confidence. I also have the confidence of an amazing support team... With that support system, you definitely have a great confidence walking -- coming into this situation.
Anna Kournikova: Well for me, it was really not -- I didn't feel any pressure. I mean, I was the one that went after this opportunity to be on The Biggest Loser to be able to have the opportunity to train with these people and help them become healthier. Like I said earlier, I've worked with the best nutritionists, the best psychologist, the best coaches, trainers -- all those things.
And for me, you know, I've stored all of that information. I've used my body as a tool my whole life on a tennis court being a professional athlete. So for me, it was just literally instead of now listening to all the information that was thrown at me, I was just repeating it and voicing it to the contestants and sharing it with them.
And just like Dolvett said, I don't think we both -- I mean, I can't speak obviously for him -- but I didn't feel like I was replacing anyone or trying to fill in anybody's shoes, not at all. We all have our own styles. For me, the biggest draw was that I had all this knowledge, that I live and breathe sports, fitness, nutrition, well-being and helping people.
So for me, that was a perfect combination. I've been working with kids and involving kids into sports since 2003, working with the Boys and Girls Club full-time and just promoting sports and healthy, active lifestyles.
So it was a completely natural role for me. And yes, maybe I've never trained, trained, you know, like Dolvett's clients and people in a gym everyday. But my profession is being an athlete, and literally, I just had to repeat everything to the people I was training now.
Anna, what would you say to the people who haven't seen you train and think to themselves, "She just got picked because she's beautiful?"
Anna Kournikova: Right, you know, and that's where -- that's exactly a perfect question. And I love that you asked that question because people always ask me, "Well how can you relate to the contestants? They are obese and they are this and that."
And I'm like, "Listen, I get criticized and judged all the time whether she's just too pretty, she's not good enough, she wasn't a good athlete. But to be a Top 10 in the world, that's something. I'm sure you would like to be a Top 10 journalist in the world, right? That wouldn't be so bad."
So to be a Top 10 tennis player in the world, I must have been doing something right. And I've achieved everything with my pure hard work and dedication. I came from the Soviet Union from really nothing -- from a very, very modest background. That's how I also, you know, tell the contestants that's how I can relate to them.
That's how I can understand them. I know what it's like to be judged and criticized whether it's because of your weight, whether it's because of how you look, whether it's people looking at you and just thinking they have these -- all these preconceived notions, and I'm okay with that. The only thing I can do and the only thing that I can control is I can work hard, be the best human being I can be and that's it.
Since this was a first-time experience for both of you, could you talk about what you learned about yourselves from being new trainers on the show?
Dolvett Quince: It's funny because when you're helping someone out you're also learning a lot about yourself at the same time, and when someone is obese and they're dealing with those issues, there's a lot of emotional attachment to that. It's not just weight. It's issues -- emotional issues and your background. For me, personally hearing some of the contestants stories forced me to look at my own story.
I actually had more things in common with some of the contestants this season than I admitted. So as I'm helping them go through this journey, it forces you to look at the person in the mirror and say, "Wait, I'm not that different than you." As a matter of fact, like Anna just said, "I relate to you in more ways than I've admitted."
So I think for me personally, it's been that for me. I've been able to relate to their background stories, and we all go through trials and tribulations. We just deal with our issues differently. So, yes.
Anna Kournikova: Well, I think the only reason what I -- Why I was ready now when I'm 30 to go on this journey is because it's a huge responsibility to go on The Biggest Loser, such an amazing show, and to help these people. You're their best friend, you're their trainer, you're their person to... listen to their things mentally that they're going through.
So I was only ready for it now. I don't think I could've handled it five years ago, or even three years ago, because I don't think I was mature enough or went through my own discovery journey. But I definitely just learned for me, it was more that I've done all of this my whole life.
It was basically just being very disciplined, showing up, spending a lot of time in the gym, and working physically hard but also mentally hard. And that's what you go through when you're a professional athlete. You know, you get to a certain level where everybody kind of is on the same level. You all play good tennis. It's then who's mentally tougher -- who can get to the finals instead of the semi-finals.
So for me, it was that kind of thing. It was pretty comfortable falling back into kind of a routine -- just working hard, being disciplined and working on your mental issues. So it's not that I didn't learn anything about myself. I understood again here how committed and dedicated I can be into something I believe in so much.
Anna, was your The Biggest Loser experience and the work everything you had imagined it to be?
Anna Kournikova: Well for me personally, it's definitely different... One thing is watching it and the other thing is actually being there, and you literally become family with these people. You care and you become so involved and attached where you also have to be careful there's a fine balance -- that you still have to keep a little bit of a distance and a fresh perspective.
So I mean, it's definitely different. I love the working out, the spending time with the contestants. What I really don't like -- and it kind of just annoys me because I'd rather be working out -- is like the camera stuff, the actual TV part of it, because I've never been on a TV show.
It drives me crazy waiting for the cameras to set up something like that, because I'd rather just be exercising and burning the calories off. But it's all-consuming, you know, and I was dedicated and committed. But I love that. That's why I did the (spread). That's why I wanted to be on The Biggest Loser.
I was ready. I knew that I could be committed and I knew that my heart was in the right place. I knew I had all the knowledge, and I was just in it focusing and literally treating it as a professional athlete where this is my life.
Both of you, what were some of the highlights from participating in The Biggest Loser?
Anna Kournikova: Wow, where do you want us to begin?
Dolvett Quince: What comes to mind? Some of the highlights -- just of course to watch the transformation of some of the people. You know, the challenges were never easy. It's so competitive. So to see the competitive edge of what people would do to ensure that they're at the front -- to watch some of the people bond.
My personal experience has been great because I work with such an amazing crew every single day. And I really, really love going to work everyday, not just because of the crew, but also because there's a great warmth in the house in the ranch this season where people are getting along great.
I get along famously with Anna and Bob and the contestants. Everything, the energy is just good, you know? So you guys know listening that anytime you're in a work environment where you actually love coming to work, that's a good day. So, I'm very fortunate to be coming -- to come into that environment.
Anna Kournikova: Oh well for me, it's very interesting. It's like where do I begin? It's everything. It's the great moments. There were some, you know, tough moments. It's the roller coaster. It's an emotional journey. I had an amazing time when I see the contestants succeed.
And I see Bonnie, you know, who's 63-years-old with a knee replacement get off the floor. But then there were also sad moments where, you know, you see the disappointment on somebody -- on the contestant's face on some days when she gains weight or something like that.
So, it's life. I mean, we spent four months with these contestants. It was just great. [There were] definitely some incredible moments and there were definitely some disappointing moments.
But overall, the most important from the beginning for me was that we give these people -- we, I, share with the contestants as many tools and information as I can so they can take all that information, learn all the things they need to learn and be able to apply and use it in their life after the ranch. Because sooner or later, obviously everybody is going home.
So for me, the overall objective and goal of the whole season and experience was that these people not only lose weight while they're sequestered on the ranch but that they can sustain and maintain the healthy lifestyle and their weight off the ranch.
Todd, we've heard from Anna and Dolvett why they wanted to do the show. What was it that the producers saw in them that made them decide to cast them as trainers?
Todd Lubin: Well, I guess it's not a satisfying answer to say I can't wait for you to watch the premiere. But you will see. I think that what comes through mostly, the most apparently, from both of these guys is heart. It's like you cannot build that. It's not something you can buy. It's not something you can -- It's all you're looking for in a casting session.
And when we got to meet Anna and Dolvett separately, it was so apparent that these guys have an innate sense of connection with people because that's really so much of this job. I mean, you have to be extremely knowledgeable about fitness and extremely knowledgeable about nutrition, and you have to be a motivator.
But there's an X factor of someone who you can look in the eyes of and say, "I'm going to keep going," especially for our contestants who really need a push. We're not talking about like decent athletes who needed an extra little push over the hill.
We're talking about people who really have lost it. And so, when you look into Dolvett's eyes or into Anna's eyes, you can tell. You can just tell that they care. And that was the no-brainer for us. I mean it really was like, "This is great."
Could you talk a little bit about the new theme this season with "Battle of Ages" and how that came about, the decision behind it?
Todd Lubin: Yes, I mean it's something we've wrestled with for a long time. We've had a winner who's a 48-year-old. We have had -- excuse me yes -- yes [Helen Phillips] was a winner. I think she was 48. Last season alone, our at-home winner [Deni Hill] was in her 50s, I believe. I'll get you the exact number.
Anna Kournikova: Fifty-nine. She was 59.
Todd Lubin: Fifty-nine. And then we had an at-home winner who was 63. So, we've always sort of felt like age was a number and we just thought, "What a great sort of catchy thing to sort of say, that it's never too late in your life to try to make a difference. It's never too late to sort of grab your life by the horns."
And what we've sort of found, I mean if there is a sweet spot, it's like people who aren't too young -- We haven't, you know, really haven't had to face life with a disability of being so overweight. There's like a whole discipline that middle-aged folks have for lack of a better term.
I mean, I'm in that age group that it's like they feel they're getting a shot, and so it was certainly a test. It's not easy. I would say that the casting -- not only did we cast all different ages, but the older folks were not the healthiest we've ever had.
So it was kind of a -- it's definitely a double hit for those folks, because it was just how it turned out. We obviously cast for personalities and people that we love and we think America will love, so the fact that they were really physically incapacitated in some ways did not help.
But again, all interesting stuff, all interesting life stories, all interesting relatable things that you can look at these people and really be inspired that they're going for it and they're not giving up. So that'll be ages. It was kind of a no-brainer. It was fun.
You're working with contestants of all different ages, so when you guys are training them, what are their physical and mental differences? What are your limits for pushing someone who's older versus someone younger just struggling with their weight a little? How did you determine what the limits are and did that change the gameplay at all this season?
Anna Kournikova: Well seriously...
Dolvett Quince: You know what? It's just paying attention. It's paying attention to their fatigue level. It's paying attention to their mobility while you're working them out, and I'm just not conned easily. I definitely know people will tend to give up a lot quicker than their body will allow them to.
Just you just being in the room and being in the moment with people in a way that's -- I can't describe it is much as you have to just watch the season. You're going to love it, and we're really dialed in with assisting everyone. So, yes. It's going to be amazing. Anna?
Anna Kournikova: I really do think that it's very, very different working with younger people, middle-aged people or older people. Old-age groups have their pluses and minuses. The young kids are obviously more energetic, but they're not as probably -- they're not as educated and smart in ways where they're -- they don't know how to manipulate and use their energy yet well enough.
Now the middle-age group, I think it is already where they have wisdom but they still have enough energy. Obviously, the older group is the most difficult for me, I think personally, because they are -- they have less energy. They're much more set in their own way so it's a lot different -- more difficult to change someone's mentality who's in their 50s or 60s.
They're used to doing things their ways, especially when they're dealing with younger people or younger trainers. I think it's a lot harder to convince them of your authority and your knowledge, and it's just harder when you're older. You're a lot more set in your ways but (I must say) you're wiser. So if you do understand what you need to do, I think you do make that switch a lot faster.
I mean, but all three groups definitely have its advantages and disadvantages, and it's really figuring out -- I think at the end of the day, it's still more than age. It's very individual. And, you know, each person is just depending on the person.