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HOME > The Amazing Race > The Amazing Race 15

Exclusive: Maria Ho and Tiffany Michelle discuss 'The Amazing Race'


By Christopher Rocchio, 11/04/2009 

Maria Ho and Tiffany Michelle had such a hard time completing the Detour tasks during Sunday night's The Amazing Race episode that they were willing to take a 24-hour penalty to skip them.

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However since it wasn't a non-elimination leg the penalty was never an option, and as a result the professional poker players became the seventh team eliminated from The Amazing Race's fifteenth season.

On Tuesday, Maria, a 26-year-old from Arcadia, CA, and Tiffany, a 25-year-old from Los Angeles, CA, talked to Reality TV World about how a combination of windy weather and lack of physical strength played a role in their inability to complete the Detour tasks; why they formed an alliance with "Brothers" Daniel and Samuel McMillen; and why they think an all-female team has never won the CBS reality series.

Reality TV World: Before the competition began, did you anticipate that more physical challenges -- like the two Detour tasks we saw Sunday night -- might be difficult for you?

Maria: Going into this obviously, it was 100-times harder than what we had seen from watching the previous seasons. It's totally different seeing it on TV and actually having to do it. So as prepared as we tried to be and thought we were.

Obviously once we got out there, it was a totally different animal than what we thought it would be. But we never once when into it thinking there might be something we just can't push through, we can't physically do. We never, ever came into it thinking that there would be something that would prevent us from actually completing a part of the race.

Reality TV World: We saw you two form an alliance with Sam and Dan early on. Was forming an alliance with a strong all-male team part of your strategy to help overcome those situations?

Tiffany: Yeah, actually watching seasons past we kind of realized that especially being the only all-female team this season that it was going to be really advantageous for us to have some kind of good bond and friendship with a male team -- or somebody that if push came to shove we needed some physical assistance.

But at the same time, we also felt like four heads are better than one and it's always going to be more beneficial if you can work alongside somebody. We really quickly became great, great friends with Sam and Dan. They're really great guys. I think since neither of us were a romantic-relationship team like a lot of the other teams, we naturally as the guys and the girls gravitated towards each other.

So the alliance kind of ended up forming from a strategic point of view. We both felt like there were benefits we could gain from each other, but also just because we wanted to be in the Final 3 with those guys.

We really enjoyed them, we enjoyed having them around, we enjoyed racing with them. So it was something we specifically thought could be helpful but at the same time it was really birthed from a love and respect that we have for them.

Reality TV World: Had they not gotten ahead of you do you think Sam and Dan would have helped you hit the high striker during the "Farmer's Dance" task?

Tiffany: Certain challenges you can't actually assist other teams. So that specific thing, it has to be either you or your partner that does it. Like the bell counting [Roadblock task], there was no rule against helping somebody with that. But usually when it came to a physical task, they couldn't actually lend their strength to help you accomplish your thing.

Although -- assuming that was allowable -- yeah, I have a feeling that Sam and Dan probably would have helped us out. We helped them out a lot of ways, and like I said, we all wanted to make that Top 3 together. So I'm sure they would have done what they could if they had been in the vicinity and it was within the rules.

Reality TV World: Tiffany, about how much time did you end up spending in the tower once Sam told you there were 62 bells?  Did you still actually have to spend some time climbing the levels and giving the bells the count or were you able to go right to the bell player guy?

Tiffany: I had actually had to climb down a couple times counting. I didn't see Sam right off the bat when I was there. So I counted and then before I gave my first guess -- while I was still counting -- was when Sam told me the number. Although I actually for some reason just wasn't sure if he had already gotten it right and he was telling me the truth, so I actually went with my first guess, which was 61.

I gave my guess, then I had to go back down and start from the beginning and get a new piece of paper and go back up. Obviously on my second try I went ahead and wrote down the number he told me. So I still actually had to climb up and down for a while before I saw Sam in the tower.

Reality TV World: Sunday night's show showed you both mentioning that the wind on the golf course had made the golfing task nearly impossible for you. Do you think the windy weather played a bigger role in your elimination than your physical strength issues?

Maria: I think it was a combination of both. When the other teams that you saw do the golf challenge -- which was Dan and Sam and ["Dating Couple" Meghan Rickey and Cheyne Whitney] --  when they had gotten there, the wind wasn't really that much of a factor. It was at that point that we were on the other side of the Detour trying to ring that bell.

By the time we had actually moved over to doing the golfing challenge, the wind was blowing like 30 MPH in the opposite direction of where we had to be hitting the ball. So that combined with the fact that we had just swam through that creek water to get to the other side to play the golf and we were soaking wet, it was super windy and it was just making it so hard for us to get the ball anywhere when we would get it off the ground.

Plus, I think it does take a physical amount of strength. It wasn't regular golf. It was with a wooden clog for a golf club and that soccer-size ball. Even Meghan said later on, if there was two of her, she doesn't think she could have done it because she said Cheyne would hit it so far and then she would just give it her best shot -- but Cheyne could definitely compensate for some of the distance.

So I would say both sides of the Detour this time had a very physically demanding component. For one reason or another -- not for a lack of effort though, we definitely felt like we gave it our all -- we just could not complete either side.

Reality TV World: In hindsight, do you think there were any approaches to either golfing or hitting the high striker that you didn't try that you think might have worked?

Tiffany: I think with the golf specifically, it just came down to mother nature. I think when production probably tested that out, they didn't have the windy circumstances that we had that day, which is just a part of the race. Life happens, things happen. I don't think it was accomplishable with how the wind had picked up by the time we had arrived.

With that dinger striker, we gave it over 70 attempts -- which you saw. We were there for -- between the two -- for over three hours giving our best attempts and we really tried every possible way. That mallet was over 40 pounds, so just to lift it over your head, it was hard enough just to lift that hammer and get it to swing down. We really tried every single possible technique. We hit it soft, we hit it hard. I tried to let the weight of the mallet hit it.

I think it was just a combination of it being a very physical task that we didn't have the strength and muscle mass to do, and it with the weather conditions and us being freezing cold, we just got weaker and weaker and weaker -- which is finally the point we realized we just had to be honest with ourselves and say, "Okay, there's no way we can complete either side." For as much as we wanted to give it our every effort, at the end of the day as we were getting weaker, we were getting worse and worse at the challenges. So that's when we had to bow out.

Reality TV World: Do you think that had you just picked the golf task right from the beginning [before the mallet swinging weakened you and the wind picked up] you would have been able to complete it?

Maria: Yeah, that's definitely a possibility because actually when we were riding up on our bikes [to "Farmer's Game"] we saw Meghan and Cheyne leaving and they had just completed that side of the Detour. So yeah, that's definitely a possibility. There's so many different factors that you can't foresee in this race, so who knows? We might have been able to do it, and that's our hope, that's what we're going to stick with. We like to think that there's not ever going to be something on the race that we cannot do.

Reality TV World: You two seemed to make the decision to quit without even knowing whether the Amsterdam Pit Stop might be a non-elimination Pit Stop.  Did you guys ever discuss that possibility?

Tiffany: Technically what we did -- it wasn't quitting -- if you can't finish a Detour, the penalty is 24 hours. A Roadblock is four hours if you can't complete it. But a Detour, because there's two options, is a 24 hour penalty.

We really what we said was, "Okay, we can't do either side of the Detour, we'll take a 24 hour penalty from the point ["Married Couple" Ericka Dunlap and Brian Kleinschmidt] checked in." Like I said, we spent over three hours between those two things -- so we didn't very readily say that we quit.

But after a good three hours we had a feeling that the last team had probably already checked in. So we took the 24 hour penalty, and that's the point where [host Phil Keoghan] had come out to the field. Obviously Brian and Ericka had checked in and it wasn't a non-elimination leg so that didn't really play a part.

Reality TV World: So the idea to quit there came after you knew it wasn't a non-elimination leg?

Tiffany: Well we had no way of knowing whether it was a non-elimination...

Maria: We had said that we wanted to take the penalty and basically Phil came out and said what he said, and that's when we knew that obviously it wasn't a non-elimination or they would have just let us take the penalty.

Reality TV World: Would the penalty have been the same if you had skipped the high striker and just done the rest of the dance Detour option?

Tiffany: Some people have been confused because obviously Brian and Ericka had like a 30 minute penalty [for not riding bikes to the Detour task]. But specifically in the rules, you have to complete the entire side of each side of the Detour, so you can't skip one portion of it. You have to completely complete one or the other side of the Detour.

With Brian and Ericka, their penalty was incurred because they didn't follow the instructions in arriving at the Detour in the correct way. That's why they got their specific penalty. But it's actually 24 hours if you can't complete either side of the Detour in its entirety.

Reality TV World: An all-female team has still never won The Amazing Race. Do you have any personal opinions why you think that's the case?

Maria: I personally can't really pinpoint why. I think for the most part, it's a very hard show to logistically produce and figure out. So I commend all of the people who work so hard to think of all these challenges and try to make them balanced. But the bottom line is any time there is something physical, for the most part, one woman is not going to be able to physically be stronger or necessarily faster when put up against a guy.

So I think in some cases that's kind of something that's hard to equalize, and that's why with Detour there's two different sides and one side is usually less physical than the other. So we can't really say why there hasn't been.

I definitely think it's possible and I don't think that there's inherently anything unfair with the way that the race is made that makes it harder for women, but I just think it's just logistically hard to just make it completely equal. For whatever reason, it's been harder for an all-female team to emerge on the top. We can't really put our finger on one thing though.

Tiffany: Each season, each cast is different. It's going to be a very different competition when it's me and Maria going up against ["Teammates" Herbert "Flight Time" Lang and Nathaniel "The Big Easy" Lofton]. You can have a race that's fairly equal in tasks, but now once you start adding in the elements of your opponents or us going up against Sam and Dan or us going up against Brian, it just comes to sheer muscle mass and strength for some of the physical things.

Obviously Maria and I aren't going to be giving the Globetrotters a run for their money or beating them in a physical challenge or out-racing them in a footrace. So I think each season is a little bit unique as well when it comes to matching up the teams and their strengths and weaknesses.

Reality TV World: Were you surprised when Sam and Dan revealed they were gay in the airport?

Tiffany: That's the funny thing. We knew from Day 1, we had a pretty good feeling that they were the token gay team of the season. We knew that usually each season there's a gay team. From Day 1 we kind of pinpointed them as the gay team. Actually they told us back in Vietnam, so we had known for quite a while that they were gay.

A lot of our comments about loving them and the kind of love fest that we had with them definitely came from a platonic place of just loving and respecting them as brothers as compared to what it may have seemed like on TV -- like we were falling in love with them and wanting to walk down to the altar and have their children. That definitely wasn't the case. So we knew early on that they were gay even though it kind of appeared otherwise.

Reality TV World: Maria, maybe it was just the editing, but you seemed to defer to Tiffany a lot during the Race.  Do you think that's accurate and if so was that part of a deliberate strategy you two had agreed upon before the Race began?

Maria: That's a good question. Going into the race, Tiffany and I had discussed a lot of what our strengths and weaknesses were individually. It was no secret to either of us that Tiffany was definitely the physically stronger of the two of us. So in a lot of the situations where Tiffany would complete the more physically-demanding Roadblocks, it was a strategical thing because obviously a lot of times we were coming from behind.

So whereas I think Tiffany can definitely hold her own and stand up competing against all the other... We weren't trying to stay in the back of the pack. We were trying to move forward in our placement. So if it was a Roadblock, I thought Tiffany would have a better chance than I would per say of catching up to the rest of the group or putting us in a better position than we already were.

So the thing with the Roadblocks is you have to both complete a certain number of Roadblocks if you make it to the end of the race -- it has to be evenly split. We definitely tried to make it as even as possible.

At the end of the day, it's funny to me because when there's two females on one team people naturally expect both females to split them evenly down the middle and have their skills be completely even, when between ["Newly Dating Couple" Mika Combs and Canaan Smith] it's obvious that Canaan did most of the Roadblocks,. but nobody ever says when it's a guy and a girl that, "Oh, no wonder the guy's doing all of the stuff."

No one ever mentions that. So it's kind of weird to me that people don't expect there to be a physically stronger one between Tiffany and I. I think that I did my part in a lot of the other parts of the race that people don't really get to see, which is just as valuable in our opinion.

There's the whole logistics of getting the right flights, getting the directions, making sure you're going the right way, talking to people, getting taxis -- all of that stuff I feel like I definitely tried to play a part on how well Tiffany and I did. I don't know, you have to ask Tiffany I guess. But I think we both contributed for what was our strengths to the race.

Reality TV World: After you were eliminated, were Sam and Dan the team that you began rooting to see win the $1 million or was it someone else?

Tiffany: Yeah I think from Day 1 -- the episodes still going on right now -- but from Day 1 as we got closer with Sam and Dan and became really good friends with them and formed a bond with them. Outside of this race strategy we just really became good, good friends with them. We'll be friends for life.

We all said we'd love to be in the Top 3 together, so I think even though we love the Globetrotters, Brian and Ericka, everybody left in that Top 5 now really deserves to be there and really has a good shot at winning. But I think from Day 1 we would love to see Sam and Dan in that Top 3.

Reality TV World: What was your favorite overall experience on the show?

Tiffany: It's so hard to pick an overall experience because the entire experience was really, really amazing. Wow... Maria, you have a good answer to this question.

Maria: I would say -- even though it's hard to pinpoint one specific moment -- I would say that when we had after the first leg when we had gotten our four-hour penalty for missing the two Japanese tourists and then also having to complete a Speed Bump the very next day, I feel like a lot of people might have thought, "Hey, they're down. They're out. They might not make it through this next leg." Tiffany and I really fought our butts off to make sure that we could be at a level to say, "Hey, we're here to compete and we're going to give everything we have."

I think we proved that by completing our Speed Bump and still making it. We didn't finish second-to-last, we actually moved up significantly to the middle of the pack. So I think it was really our moment to say to ourselves and to everybody else, "We can do this and we're here to compete and we're here to push ourselves to a level." I think it showed, so that was really motivating for us throughout the rest of the race.

Reality TV World: How were you cast for The Amazing Race

Tiffany: We had actually been interested in doing the show, so we got in touch with them and were able to go through the casting process like everybody else was. We're surprised to be the only all-female team this season. But we felt like with Maria being the last woman standing in [World Series of Poker] main event in 2007 and me the following year, we just kind of have this very fun back-to-back last-woman standing poker player relationship and bond. We thought that would be interesting on the show.

So there wasn't a lot of reality shows we were interested in, but because this was a competition show and our lives are very competitive -- we play a lot of games -- we felt like we'd be able to use our backgrounds and take this crazy adventure and compete for $1 million somewhere other than the poker table.

(Photo credit CBS)


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