Exclusive: Nick and Starr Spangler dish about 'The Amazing Race' win
By John Bracchitta, 12/08/2008
Nick and Starr Spangler may have not pleased all of their fellow contestants with their aggressive style of gameplay on The Amazing Race 13. However their strategy worked, as the "Brother and Sister" team dominated much of the competition before being revealed to be the CBS reality series' thirteenth-season champions during last night's finale broadcast.
Nick, a 22-year-old actor from New York, NY, and Starr, a 21-year-old former NFL cheerleader from Fort Worth, TX, were the first team to reach the race's finish line in Portland, OR, beating "Separated Couple" team Ken and Tina Greene, who finished second, and "Fraternity Brothers" Andrew Lappitt and Dan Honig, who finished third.
On Monday, Nick and Starr spoke to Reality TV World about a misconception they hadn't yet had the opportunity to clarify until now, how they really feel about rivals Kelly Crabb and Christy Cook, and what regrets they have regarding some of the actions that resulted from their bold style of play.
Reality TV World: Congratulations on the win.
Nick: Thanks a lot. It's been a fun 24 hours.
Reality TV World: I'm sure. So, first thing's first, how did it feel to round that corner and see everyone there cheering you on?
Nick: It was unbelievable. I can't really put it into words except... (pauses) Honestly I never stopped doubting that maybe Ken and Tina had somehow beat us...
Starr: See, I knew in the cab as we were going to the mansion that we were ahead of them, and as long as we didn't stop and we got to the mansion in a reasonable amount of time I knew we were going to be first.
Nick: And we had watched [The Amazing Race] enough times that you always know that second place team [always sees] the first place team already standing there and they go "Oh, they're already there."
So we came around the corner and I said to Starr "There's nobody here yet!" and we ran up there and I gave her a big ol' hug and I waited until I heard [The Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan] start in on "30,000 miles, six countries..." That's when I realized we had won.
Reality TV World: About how far ahead of Ken and Tina did you end up arriving at the finish line? When did Dan and Andrew finally arrive?
Starr: I think it was like 11 minutes, something like that. It was really close and, you know, that last leg was so stressful because...
Nick: (Interrupting) It was so close...
Starr: ... It was head-to-head with them. At every challenge we saw them. It wasn't until after the green dinosaur [across from] the Portland Building where we kinda lost them and there was so much running in going from that point to the [Russian] food stand to Voodoo Doughnuts that we knew we could run faster than them. At that point we knew we were ahead of them.
Nick: That run to Voodoo Doughnuts, it was several city blocks. It was a very long run, we couldn't even run the whole way we had to stop and walk for a little while. So I think we may have gained a little time on them there as well because we were really hustling.
Reality TV World: Actually, just so we know, [how long was it] until Andrew Lappitt and Dan Honig arrived at the finish line?
Nick and Starr: About an hour-and-a-half after.
Starr: I guess they had some really bad cab trouble.
Nick: Well, first off, they got stuck coming off the plane. Ken and Tina and us were right at the doors when they opened and [the four of us] actually got our own shuttle bus away from the terminal. So [Andrew and Dan] came on a later shuttle bus. They were just plagued with problems.
Reality TV World: A lot of teams we talked to were critical of you for your aggressive game play tactics and the "do whatever it takes" approach to the competition that you took. How do each of you feel about that? Looking back, is there anything that you did that you regret?
Nick: Well we won, so you can't regret too much.
Reality TV World: That is true.
Nick: I guess the one moment I regret would be [when I was] rude to [Sarah Leshner] at that first Roadblock in Brazil when we were at the wall and I said "Oh screw this," and I didn't work with her. First off, it was extremely rude. Second off, it would have been a completely different race for us had I not done that because that's really where the tide turned and [Terrence Gerchberg] and Sarah started to hate us. It was because of me, and they were honestly trying to be nice to us and work with us.
Starr: In Nick's defense, they didn't show too much on the episode, but we had left that Detour first and we were lost for two hours on this dirt road in the middle of a field. Everyone else is driving through a city and we're in a rainstorm in a field with nobody around. We thought we were gonna get eliminated.
So by the time we got to that Roadblock and I [told Nick to do it] we were stressed, and I think his stress came off quite differently.
But in terms of how we played? Yeah maybe we were a little more cutthroat than the other teams, but we're competitive! And everyone on that race was competitive.
Nick: You know it's funny when you look back at the season. In my eyes, yes we did some questionable things regarding the race. But everything we did that people disagreed with all related specifically to the race [and] to the gameplay. It always got us a step further, whereas a lot of the other teams, they would make personal comments or personal attacks about other racers that had nothing to do with the race. Starr and I never did that, so in my eyes it's a very different situation. It's two ways of measuring other teams.
Starr: We were there to win $1 million and play a game, and we played it to the best of our ability.
Reality TV World: Last night Ken joked that you both must have "lucky horseshoes in your rear ends" and I think we all saw what some bad luck can do when it came to Dan and Andrew. How much of your win do you think was helped by having generally good luck throughout the race?
Starr: I think luck is a huge part of it.
Nick: It really is.
Starr: I would say 50% of it is how you get through the tasks and the traveling and the challenges and 50% of it is luck. When you choose between left and right, do you choose the [correct] way? When you have to choose between [cabs] A, B,C, and D, do you get in the right cab?
A lot of it is luck, and there was so much cab driving in our season that you could finish a task in eighth place and then get an awesome cab driver and come into the Pit Stop in second. That happened several times.
Nick: Over the course of the season I would say Starr and I probably... we got more than our share of good luck and that probably accounts for several of our first place wins.
But as far as the last leg goes if you look at it logistically, Ken and Tina had a better cab driver for every section of that leg because every time we would get to a task they would [have gotten] there first, then we would get there and we would pass them and leave first, and then their cab would pass us and would arrive at the next task in first. Then we would get there after them and pass them, and that just kept happening.
So I don't think luck had anything to do with that last leg because we were -- I mean, yes our last cab driver got us to the Pit Stop first -- but in reality...
Starr: (interrupting) ... We were already ahead at that point.
Nick: We had already been to Voodoo Doughnuts and gotten in our cab before they even arrived there.
Reality TV World: Going back to a little before Voodoo Doughnuts, you two were able to do the memory board challenge so much quicker than [Ken and Tina] as well. Had you guys been expecting something like that...
Starr: We knew that it was going to be a memory... (pauses) They always have a memory task at the end but usually it's a Roadblock and only one person can do it, and usually you go right from that Roadblock to the Pit Stop. So as Nick and I were going down that zip line we were seeing Kenny and Tina run through these boxes and we thought "Damn, they have a fifteen minute lead on us because Nick can't start until I get down there.
Then once we saw that it was a task that we both had to do, I mean, it was just so intense. Seeing all those boxes from that bridge was absolutely incredible and it's a sight I'll never forget.
Nick: From watching previous seasons we took very specific notes. As soon as we checked in at a Pit Stop for the entire season we would write "Leg 1 notes" and we would write down who the greeter was, what the Roadblock and the Detour was, any kind of tools that we used in each of the tasks.
Then, on that last flight -- if you remember looking at the map last night, it was a long flight from Frankfurt to Portland. I think it was like a thirteen-hour flight or something -- we spent that entire flight going back over the legs and making sure we both still remembered what happened.
Reality TV World: You both seemed to be in control for much of the race, I think you won six of the race's 11 legs...
Nick: Seven actually.
Reality TV World: Oh yeah, seven, I'm sorry. But at what point during the race did either of you feel the most in danger of being eliminated?
Starr: I would probably say [the second leg] when we got lost for two hours. We thought we were going to go from first to elimination. We knew all the teams were all in very close vicinity to each other, and we knew that we had left that Detour first but we were literally lost for two hours. So when we showed up at that Detour and only a couple teams were there we were so relieved to just still be in it.
Nick: Yeah, that was definitely the most... that or the first leg in [Moscow, Russia]. We had a pretty good assumption that it was a non-elimination leg. [unintelligible] But that was a tough, tough leg for us.
Reality TV World: Starr, I've gotta get your side of this now, what happened between you, Kelly, Christy and that sports bra after the second leg?
Starr: Okay, let me tell you. Nick had gotten extremely sick when we were on that Pit Stop. He had gotten food poisoning, so I was going in between our room and the doctors room.
Nick: I was puking. I puked like over 20 times.
Starr: I had his throw up in bags all over our hotel room, it was just gross. So you're not supposed to leave your room, but I had to go get the doctor and we were constantly back and forth between the rooms.
So as I'm walking back into my room, Christy opens her door, walks to the window -- and we're on the twenty-third story of a building and they've got the push out windows -- and she had hung her sports bra over a little, tiny hook.
Now, I think we were in Fortaleza, Brazil, and it was windy outside, and she looks down at it, and then looks at me and says "I can't believe you did that." I go "What?" and she goes "You just threw my sports bra out the window." I kind of looked at her in disbelief, like "Are you serious? Do you really think I did that," and [then] I say "No I didn't," and she goes "I know you did!"
(Nick laughs in background)
This was after the second leg, we had barely talked to them, and I had [been through] a rough leg of getting lost and Nick was sick. I ended up crying because I was like "I can't even believe... I don't know this person, and she's [saying] I threw her sports bra out the window onto a ledge or whatever."
I was really just in disbelief that these two people were actually claiming that I had done that. They're great people, but on [The Amazing Race] they were not nice people and they personally attacked me Nick several times and we never had a problem with them.
Nick: I think a friend of mine said it best when I said "Why would anybody even think of accusing somebody of that?" and a friend of mine says "Well, they thought of it because that's the kind of thing that they would do, so they could conceive of it."
Starr: Kelly and Christy came on [The Amazing Race] and they were talking about "Oh, we did cheerleading and dance in college together [in Texas]," and I go "Oh, that's awesome, you know, I cheered for the Dallas Cowboys." I think the second that they heard that, as women and competitors against each other in a race, they kinda put up their guard at that point and were like "Oh, okay, we're not the two dancers and cheerleaders, there's someone else that's just as good as us here." It was a defense mechanism I think, and they just did not like us the entire race and they did not take the time to get to know us at all.
Nick: In my opinion it was very shocking to see these two women who are seven years Starr's senior really kind of dropping to [such a low] maturity level. That was kind of beyond us. That was kind of the weird thing about Kelly and Christy, we kind of just held them in disbelief, like "I can't believe you're saying these things and doing these things." (laughs)
Reality TV World: Starr, also, we hear you and [Dallas Imbimbo] have been dating ever since the show? How's that going?
Starr: It's going very well. We got back from the show and I flew out to see him in California and we went skydiving. Since then we've gone spelunking, we've done some great adventures, so we're trying to keep the race going and it's great.
We visit each other -- I live in New York [with Nick now] and he's in California -- but he actually lives ten minutes from [where I grew up in California], which is ironic. We went to rival high schools and know all of the same people, so we're really lucky and fortunate in that sense, we see each other a lot for the distance that's between us and it's been great, so it's going really well.
Reality TV World: [Last week] he told us couldn't make it to the finale because of his passport issues, how did he react when he finally heard that you had won?
Starr: Yeah, it was really hard not having him at the finish line because [he and Toni Imbimbo] were such an important team for us. We had raced with them really for the entire race and we had become very good friends.
That night we had a wrap party, and he and Toni had come, they had finally gotten their passport situation worked out, caught a flight into Portland and showed up at like 10:30PM that night.
Nick: It was such a bummer because they were only a couple of hours late.
Starr: Yeah, it was really sad. He of course said congratulations and we had our first kiss and it was great.
Reality TV World: Nick, [following] the tenth leg did Ken ever confront you at all about you stealing his cab with the GPS?
Nick: They had no idea until a week ago, and Tina's a little upset. I guess traveling from that bookstore to the Bulgakov museum... (pauses) For me it was really quick, but I guess for the other teams it took them quite a while for their cab drivers to find it.
So I think, in her mind, it was very meaningful to have the GPS and she was... I wouldn't say [she was] upset but she gave me a little bit of a hard time about it, you know, playfully. But it's all in the past, so it's not like they held it against us, but yeah she gave me a little jerk in the ribs for it.
Reality TV World: It also looked like you kind of irked [Aja Benton] and [Ty White] when you asked them to U-Turn Kelly and Christy...
Nick: (Interrupting) Total misconception! This is the first time we can finally defend ourselves!
Reality TV World: Oh, okay, well I also just wanted to know what your mind set was behind that decision, but go on...
Nick: It was all so misleading because Starr said one thing and then Aja repeated it the wrong way, and then Christy repeated it the way Aja said it. And then in the next episode Phil even narrated it in the wrong way, so in the audience's mind it was so set from [repetition] and hearing it again and again. But here's what really happened...
Starr: So Nick and I are in Bolivia, and we had to go to a hat shop, and for life of us -- Nick and I, Toni and Dallas -- could not find the hat shop. By the time we got there we knew were last, and it was the Detour and when we decided to do the bikes.
When we got on the bikes and we saw that we were passing Kelly and Christy, we could not... Oh, and our clue said that there was a U-Turn coming up, so we knew that we had to get there ahead of Kelly and Christy because, out of pure spite, we were sure that they would have U-Turned us.
Then when we came up to Aja and Ty it was right up at the end of the Detour and I wasn't sure if we were going to be able to pass them.
Nick: We were both, like, in sight of the U-Turn and we weren't sure who was going to get their first.
Starr: Right. So, in the heat of the moment when I said "Please guys, don't U-Turn us. If you're gonna U-Turn somebody U-Turn Kelly and Christy, but please don't do us." I didn't say "Hey, U-Turn Kelly and Christy."
It wasn't because I was afraid of U-Turning them, it's not because I wanted to U-Turn them, I just didn't want Aja and Ty to U-Turn us! And so the whole situation was just completely misconstrued.
Nick: The audience saw it as "Hey guys, we're already ahead of you, and we're not gonna U-Turn you, so as a favor to us, [U-Turn] Kelly and Christy, and that is absolutely not the intent.
Starr: And the situation was just (pauses) I shouldn't have said it in the first place, but we were in the heat of the moment and we're going down [the street] on these dangerous bikes and I just didn't want Nick and I to get U-Turned, because I knew at that point if we were U-Turned we would have been out.
Nick: The audience I can defend. I mean, watching it back in the episode I can understand how it could come across the other way, but Starr was really just in a panic. (Laughs) You watched the season, you know how frazzled Starr can get at times...
Starr: Hey... (laughs)
Nick: But it came out a little...
Starr: (Interrupting)... And that was right after the sports bra incident, I mean it could not have added more fuel to Kelly and Christy's fire against us.
So needless to say, watching Kelly and Christy go down in that paint challenge in India was kind of rewarding, I'm not gonna lie. (pauses) That was bad, but you know...
Nick: But in all respects, they should have been eliminated in that third leg. They came in last! If it hadn't been for [Mark Yturralde] and [Bill Hahler]'s penalty. You know, that's such a shame, if anybody had U-Turned anybody, Mark and Bill would have been fine.
Reality TV World: When you two did that Fast Forward eating challenge in Kazakhstan, was that as tough to eat as they made it look on TV?
Nick: It was gross.
Starr: The amount of food that we had to eat was ridiculous. We both had these huge platters of food, and the actual taste of it wasn't that bad, but it was just how fast we were eating and how much of it. Sarah and Terrence were right there, [so] we knew we had to eat it faster because we knew whoever lost that and whoever opted out was going to come in last place and gonna get eliminated.
So we didn't read what we were eating. The pieces of fat, we honestly thought they were potatoes and they slid down really easily and we didn't even chew the food, we were swallowing it whole. The taste of it wasn't bad but it was just how much food there was and how quickly we were trying to down it.
Nick: The taste only affected you the next day when you were burping it up for twenty-four hours.
Starr: Ugh, yeah!
Reality TV World: So one last question, what are you both gonna do with the money?
Nick: Well I'm looking into finding an apartment actually. My lease is up on the first of May and New York rents are sky high right now, so I think that I'm gonna look for a place that I can put a down payment on and start putting my money towards owning a place rather than just putting it in somebody else's pocket.
Starr: I'd love to move back to California, which is where I grew up and is where Dallas is, and work out there and get some real estate out there. In these tough times with the economy I think that both of us plan on being smart with it: saving it, keeping it, investing it, and hoping to turn it into more money.