Interview: Carla Triplett, Joelle Gwynn talk about 'The Biggest Loser'
By John Bracchitta, 02/04/2009
Carla Triplett and Joelle Gwynn sure tested the definition of "Best Friends" while competing together as the Silver team on The Biggest Loser: Couples.
Whether it was dealing with the season's surprise sudden twist that sent Carla, a 36-year-old assistant bank manager, home for 30 days or Joelle, a 41-year-old non-profit founder, facing the unexpected wrath of trainer Bob Harper and her other teammates, the Silver team's The Biggest Loser stint didn't go very smooth one before their elimination on Tuesday's night broadcast of the NBC weight-loss reality show.
During an awkward and emotional conference call with reporters on Wednesday, the Southfield, MI residents -- who have rarely spoke since their tumultuous departure from the show -- spoke to Reality TV World about how long the alleged "best friends" have known each other, why they initially made the decision to keep Joelle on the ranch and send Carla home, where Joelle secretly snuck off to during a portion of her sixth week at the ranch, and what Joelle said to defend herself from allegations that she "quit" on her teammate before their elimination.
Reality TV World: Did either of you foresee that having Joelle stay at the ranch instead of Carla might lead to a situation like what happened?
Joelle: The surprise of having one of us make the decision to stay on the ranch was a shocker for everyone on the ranch and it was a hard decision.
I was the person that suggested we audition, I proposed this to Carla, and when we were talking I asked Carla [to] let me stay here and let me fight. There were times when I was walking and I knew it would be a hard decision and this was an opportunity that I wanted for a long time and I knew from Week 1 that it would be a hard challenge. But my goal was to fight and go through challenges.
I did that and I was able to bring her back. Who knew that I would go through so many, but I did persevere to ensure that she did would be brought back.
Reality TV World: Carla, based on the conversation you had when you decided which one of you went home it seemed like you were a little skeptical of Joelle's commitment [before you even left], was that accurate?
Carla: Yes it was very accurate, [because] the first week on the ranch I started seeing signs that she was struggling a little bit and she wanted to prove, not just to me but I guess to family and friends at home, that she was able to overcome these challenges, and so I said "Okay I'll go home, and that way you can be able to prove that to the people that you want to prove it to, and prove it to me." So that's what I did,
Reality TV World: How long had you two been "best friends" before the show?
Carla: I had known Joelle for two years, and I would say that we're still friends. I'm not sure how she feels, but I'd still consider her a friend.
Joelle: Yeah. Carla and I are actually more of acquaintances. We have known each other for two years. She did suggest for the marketing purposes that we put "Best Friends." We are still interacting in the same way that we did before, and we're still working on achieving our goal. We're just doing it separately.
Reality TV World: Had there been similar problems like this in your relationship in the two years, or is it something new?
Joelle: We had not really had that much interaction prior to that. [It was] minimal.
Carla: I differ, I disagree. We have. I've never seen that side of Joelle until we got to the ranch, but you know. That's all in the past and we're just gonna move forward.
Reality TV World: Joelle, I know you tried to explain at the ranch, but just to be clear: Looking back at it [now], do you think you gave up a little or didn't give your full effort at any time?
Joelle: (Lengthy pause) No.
I think I went through tremendous challenges, and any time that you try to grow, you're going to have hills like a roller coaster. You're going to have peaks and valleys.
Now dealing with the challenges between my personal teammate and then with the outside teams I tried to stay on the high road and keep quiet about them and that was kinda tearing at me some, and that may have brought me down a little bit more, and maybe my weak point was not speaking up or interacting.
But the focus on this opportunity was to lose weight, and I challenged myself to do that, and that was the goal: To stay in, get stronger, and to stay on the show as best as possible, and the strategy I used for doing that was to try and keep quiet, and to try and ignore as much as I could. And that's what I did.
Reality TV World: Carla, do you think that Joelle had given up at all in that last week?
Carla: I think she worked out hard the week to bring me back and when I got back I think she may have given up a tad bit, yeah.
Because the workouts weren't as vigorous as the ones she was doing the week before and, you know, everyone noticed it, and I mentioned it to her, and of course there were some times she wasn't on the ranch cause she decided to do other things.
But, yeah. I think she did give up a little bit.
Joelle: Now, if I can add... I didn't know you were speaking specifically of Week 6. Week 6 was a special week. Week 6 was the [the U.S. presidential] election week.
I submitted my absentee ballot prior to that and found out that somehow it had been messed up and the week before I worked diligently to bring Carla back because that was the only thing I could try and do. I felt she deserved, as everyone who auditioned for that show, her opportunity to be on that ranch.
I'm not trying to give excuses but I worked so hard I was outdone [and] sore. And what you may not be aware of is that I had to make a decision that the producers and cast did not like. I felt to uphold my civic duty, and I had to leave [the ranch] and go [back home and] vote.
I wanted to do that for several reasons. It was a historic moment for my community, and at point there had started to be a lot of division again, and Carla honestly [had] minimum faith in my efforts, and even after I brought her back there was a lot of kinda dogmatic behavior and there was a building tension between us and the other cast members could see that, and it was almost like we were competing [against each other].
So when I made a choice to go and vote, it was not well received, and when it was time for me to speak with Carla she didn't really want to speak at that time. But I understood that was a really hard decision and I did ask the producers that I did not let it impact Carla.
When I returned, I came back and I worked. I was working like 90 minutes on the cardio, on the walker and everything. The light that I said that I had was on, and even though I was in pain and could not physically do it as much I was pushing, and I knew I had to do more.
Could I do as much as [the prior] week? No. But I've never heard Carla express there was a good thing regarding my workout. It was stressful physically and mentally at that point, but I did not give up.
Later in the conference call, Joelle and Carla talked about their varying experiences with trainer Bob Harper, what Joelle called "one of the most humiliating experiences" of her life, and why Carla ate so much food to ensure that Joelle and Bob would come to visit her at home in Detroit.
Joelle, what was your biggest hurdle when it came to following Bob's instructions?
Joelle: No, it was not hard following Bob's instructions. When I saw some of the feedback -- and you all got to see it before I did -- to me I think it was a bit of the editing.
The [second] week when Bob had that [shouting] incident [with me] it was more of a mental thing. I remember that specifically, when he said I wasn't doing the 30-second intervals. I had an ankle with a plate inside with pins, and a while ago when 9/11 happened I had not been running, I had not been athletic. In my mind I [was] like "I'm a fat woman, and if an emergency happened I could not save myself," and here I was facing that with that kind of negative mind set, and this man is telling me to run. That was a mental block that I had to [deal with].
Now his methods was excessive, and it was not the best for me, but I did not stop. At that point people were saying "You know, you're being selfish." I was humiliated, I wanted to defend myself, I wanted to cry. I wanted to walk out, but I knew it wasn't just for me and I had to remember [what the goal was]. I had to figure out what I needed to do to make it through. And even though people saw that I was trying to be weak or people didn't think I was defending myself enough, I persevered to make sure that I stayed on that treadmill and [pushed on] not just for me, but for Carla and for everything that I wanted because I had this opportunity.
A lot of people, when they talk to me about that moment, [they say] that they laughed, "Oh that was funny." Bob even texted me when that show aired [and said] "Wasn't that good TV?"
That was one of the most humiliating points of my life. But the fact that I stayed on, I was never rude to anyone, nor Bob, I consider that a victory. In fact I didn't do the 30 seconds at that moment, that was again some good editing. But later I was able to master that, and now I'm doing 7.0's [in two minutes], so I'm glad that was a hurdle that I passed.
It seemed like you had a hard time telling the other teammates that you wanted to be there when they asked you if you wanted to stay. What was going through your mind?
Joelle: I was at an all point, filled up to the brim. My strategy was trying to be quiet and block things out. [But] man, after Bob did that [tirade] when he, in my eyes, lost control, but in everyone else's eyes it was love. I didn't receive it that way, [and] I think it kind of opened the door for everyone to very much heckle me and belittle me. Carla wasn't there to see all of that, and I had to be quiet [in an effort] to stay on the show.
I had been called things outside my name, and a number of things happened that I've made it a point never to try to address it, never to name call. We all had an obesity issue, and that was the number one goal, so it wasn't about getting petty, getting juvenile [and] going into he-said-she-said.
But it hurt me. I heard it, and it still got me angry. When [Carla and I] had that issue in Detroit, I didn't go back to the campus and say that Carla and I had an argument. I was quiet with that, I said "She's doing phenomenal." It was Bob that actually told people during the weigh-in, and then that's when they were coming to me.
So in those two moments, in the first moment I was trying to put into words for people who wanted to know about the argument, that I had a teammate who was doing very well, but she had a lack of faith in her teammate.
[On that last night during] the sixth week, I wanted to stay. I really wanted to stay. I really wanted to make it. The light was on. But I was so tired of being verbally abused, not trusted in my eyes or supported by my teammate [in favor of] dogmatical coaching. And I definitely felt [like I was being heckled again].
Let me just say, [by] Week 6 you can't be on that ranch and not work. You all saw how Bob lashed out on me in Week 2 on a treadmill. So you saw images of me walking around in a cloud [on Monday's episode], that would not be tolerated on The Biggest Loser ranch. There is work for everyone. And I kept in so much, and at that moment it was hard to speak. I wanted to say [some things], but in order to stay at that time there would have to be a lot of changes, and I was at a point where I was weak. [I was] drained physically as well as emotionally, and I knew, for me, I had to believe to get to a different place where I could regroup. I was really hurt that Carla couldn't see...
(Pauses and begins crying)
... I wanted the best for her, and I wanted the best for our team, and it was hard but I'm thankful I made it through. I am grateful to have challenges and make it through. That's what life's about. And for people it may be weight, it may be addiction, but you keep fighting and you keep trying. Some may be good, some may be bad.
If they wanna cast me and twist up some editing as the bad person, I'll take it. Because at least I never stopped, a and I cared enough to try, and I made myself proud. Hopefully some other people [were] inspired, in a negative way or a positive way. I'm still proud. Thank you.
Carla, during that temptation challenge you ate a lot of food and calories. Was that just a good excuse to eat, or did you really want to see Bob?
Carla: I really wanted to see Bob because I knew.... You see, after Bob and Jillian leave the weigh-in they don't see us. They don't see who's decided to go home [until they come back]. So it was understood that the heaviest people on the team would still be there. When they found out that I was not, I knew he was going to question [why that happened].
I made sure... I knew that a few of the people might have eaten something, and I definitely knew that [Sione Fa] was definitely going to try and eat something. The game was you had to eat more calories to ensure that you wanted to bring your partner and your trainer home, so I had to eat more than what they ate. Because I wasn't sure what they ate, I had to double that.
Now I will say that I had worked out all that morning, so my calories were already burned and that 2,700 calories didn't' affect me at all. And as you can see, even when I came home I was still able to lose the weight, so I'm proud and I'm glad I ate that food, even though it tasted different and it took me three hours to eat. (Laughs) But I'm glad I did it.
Even though the result of it spawned that fight between you and Joelle?
Carla: No. When Joelle and Bob arrived, I was already informed that she was struggling on the ranch. I was upset because you... we decided that I was goin' home but if you knew that you couldn't handle it then why didn't you decide to go home if that's what you wanted to do? If you let me go home and now you don't wanna be there...
That's what you guys don't see, is that case where we are at home and, you know what, if I had not shown that side of me I would not have been true to myself. I was angry because, like I said, it was thought that the heaviest teammate would've stayed, and no one could understand why I left. I left because Joelle... was [saying] that she wanted to prove to her family and friends and me that she was a true friend. And I said "Okay I'll go home, and I'm leaving this to you to represent for our team." And that's how that happened.
Joelle: Just going back to that point. As far as Carla, and they keep talking about that eating [challenge], that was just strong competition and excellent strategy. The only reason I didn't go for it was because I was diabetic and I was already on the end of the rope on campus. At that moment, that was one thing where I kinda knew her and I knew she would deliver and that's he type of strategy.
And just again to go back to that decision to decide who was staying [on the ranch]. That first week we kinda started with challenges. Carla [is a manager], she likes to manage and I like more of a team effort because there are a lot of people giving their two cents about what should be done, and in the back of my mind its like "It everyone's such a high authority, how did we get to have all of these huge obesity issues and why are we on The Biggest Loser?" Because everyone was such a strong authority on what should be done, they should be home and fit and coaching somewhere. Otherwise we need to be quiet and listen to those professional [as they] coach us.
One of the things, when I was walking back and speaking and we had to make a decision, I had actually lost 13 pounds, and I said "Doggonit, I did it. I did something this first week." And Carla had some challenges that first week that I never brought to the front and I'm not going to do that. She had some challenges and we had talked about that and I think we kinda had this little quiet thing like "Okay, whoever wins on the scale can say something." That, I think, was were she put me to the test and said "Okay, you prove it to yourself and everyone else," and that is why I was so hurt.
That is why even when I lost zero pounds, no one needed to say a thing to me. I was crushed. Whether it was a plateau or what, no excuse. It is not adequate at The Biggest Loser ranch. Two pounds is not adequate on The Biggest Loser ranch. Maybe if I was at home, but not at the campus.
So we had a lot of challenges, but we actually had growth. And it really does depend on what you wanna focus on. I think we're two women, despite our challenges, who have made tremendous improvements. Hopefully if the focus on the show is to inspire, we can focus on that more than some of the challenges we had to go through.