'The Biggest Loser' trainer Dolvett Quince talks about fifteenth season
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 10/15/2013
The Biggest Loser's fifteenth season premieres Tuesday night with a one-hour episode at 8PM ET/PT on NBC.
In a new twist, returning trainers Dolvett Quince, Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels not only got to assist in the casting process, but they'll also have the opportunity to save one contestant from elimination during the season.
Alison Sweeney will be reprising her role as host next season, which will feature the theme of "second chances." Second-season American Idol winner Ruben Studdard, for example, is the season's heaviest contestant at 462 pounds and will be looking to "reclaim his health and re-write his future" along with the other 14 players -- who will all compete for a $250,000 grand prize.
During a recent conference call with Reality TV World, Dolvett talked about the upcoming season and Ruben's participation. Below is what he had to say.
In terms of the new twist introduced in which each trainer can save one contestant from elimination this season, was that decision stressful for you and did it weigh on you throughout the season? Also, did you almost feel like it changed your relationship with any of the contestants in that maybe they tried to suck up to you a little more than normal or something?
Dolvett Quince: Well for me, it was a bittersweet gift, you know? It was one that I was -- I felt empowered. Okay, if I see an opportunity where I can save someone, I can spend more time with them, that's great.
But then on the other hand, I thought, "What if I don't use it on that person and really save it for that person over there who's really trying, who I know really needs it and struggles?" So you really know week to week where the chips will fall. So yes, it was bittersweet. It was difficult for me, but I felt when I did use it and I had to use it, I made the right decision [looking at the] big picture.
Since the trainers were involved in casting this season, I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about what it was about Ruben Studdard that made you want to choose him to be a part of the show's cast this season?
Dolvett Quince: I think that was Ruben's decision. I think like everyone on every season that we have, we have individuals who submit to say, "Okay. I've struggled with this long enough," and they realize thatThe Biggest Loser is a place that they can get extreme help. I think it was a decision on Ruben's part -- for himself to get healthy.
Choosing Ruben was a no-brainer for me. Not only am I just a fan of his, but just in general, I knew that I could help him find his way. I think it was a good fit for me, it was a good fit for him, and I'd do it all over again.
Dolvett, I know you've worked with some pretty big-named celebrities in the past. How was it working with Ruben and was it a completely different experience because he was kind of on a level playing field with everyone else?
Dolvett Quince: You know, for me it was great. I made the decisions. You know, Ruben is a great guy and it took me a couple of weeks to convince him mentally that he should be on the ranch and that he can do the things that he -- I know he could do.
The difference from the perspective of working with different celebrities is that I went to celebrities as opposed to them being isolated to me. So I think something very key is, I think it was a hard adjustment for him -- not being able to talk to his family and do some of the things that he knew would boost his spirit and give him energy to go on to the next thing.
And I think when you isolate someone on the ranch the way we do, it makes the experience difficult for that person. I enjoyed training him, however, I definitely ran into obstacles. Is that fair?
Since this is the first time in the show's history that trainers sat in on the casting sessions, I wanted to ask you, what did you look for when choosing contestants?
Dolvett Quince: That's a good question. I looked for, I guess, authenticity -- people that didn't just talk to you but you could see it in their eyes that they were ready and they wanted to actually move.
They wanted to make a difference. I looked for compelling stories. You know, as a dad, as a parent, I looked for people who not only struggled with their own issues but it spilled over into their families. You know, things like that were things I looked for.
I noticed that some people are in the food business like a cake decorator. I mean, that creates additional challenges, I imagine, for them. Is there ever a time when you suggest to someone, "You may want to consider a different occupation?" And when you're in that line of work, how do you cope with being able to maintain weight-loss and that sort of thing?
Dolvett Quince: I think people are inspired to make choices and make changes because they understand quality control and portion control. [They'll use] some knowledge in their recipes. For example, they would use sugar. You know, they can substitute things and make better choices and then switch their whole menu out and cater to a new audience. So there's options out there to always improve.
What would you say to people -- as you know, thousands of people try out for the show all the time -- who are critical of the fact you're putting a celebrity on the show over an everyday person, like say, a housewife who would love to take advantage of such an opportunity? Because Ruben is a celebrity, he was fast-tracked in the casting process although he could probably afford special training outside of the show unlike the average joe.
Dolvett Quince: You know, it is a process for each individual to be a part of this show. That said, you know, there is not only medical approval, there's psychological approval and then physical approval.
Everyone has to meet a certain criteria in order to get on this show. So it takes different steps for one person to even qualify to see us as trainers. So just because someone wants to be a part of this show doesn't necessarily mean that they qualify for the show or they're ready for the show.
Does a celebrity contestant need anything different from a trainer than an average joe would require or request?
Dolvett Quince: That's a good question. You know what? There are differences. An average person can sometimes, you know, walk into a scenario where they're ready. They're like, "I have nothing to lose. Let me go." A celebrity who has a lot of responsibilities on a daily basis may have to be humbled from the perspective of "trust this process."
But I think with that said, I've encountered it from regular people as well. You know, I think we all face our obstacles and we come across what we know and what we don't know, and sometimes, it can get in the way of my job. So there's more similarities than not. I'll put it that way. There's more similarities than not.
What do you think Ruben took away from the experience that he could utilize once he got home, especially considering he's Southern and is surrounded with all that fried chicken and biscuits, etc?
Dolvett Quince: You know, I think Ruben has learned that that's what lifestyle's all about. That's what we try to preach on the ranch or teach on the ranch with every contestant. It's about having balance. We don't believe in deprivation. I know as a trainer, that's the [last] thing I believe in. I believe in having balance, but you always want to lean towards clean no matter what.
I think it's very powerful how The Biggest Loser sticks a number on somebody and makes them realize, "I weigh this many pounds," as opposed to, "Oh, gee, I need to lose some weight." How does that affect the journey on the show for the contestants if the numbers are out there getting waved in front of the world?
Dolvett Quince: The reality is right there in your face. You're forced to look at yourself. Often times both men and women can confess, "Well, you know, I had no idea I weighed that much." You know, "I realized I was kind of soft." But you know, many people are scared to get on the scale and they hide their physique with clothes.
But when you're forced to look at the exact number of what you weigh, you're forced to pay attention to your habits. You're forced to have that reside in your head. So yes, it's a huge impact and we do it purposefully... It gives you a goal.
Are you surprised, Dolvett, that after numerous seasons ofThe Biggest Loser, we still have this obesity problem in the country? You would think with the contestants who have been on the show and the numerous viewers that have watched, that we would be making, you know, monumental changes throughout the country with our eating habits.
Dolvett Quince: I think that obesity is still in existence because of lack of education. I think one of the most common denominators on the ranch, and in the world in general, is that people are uneducated on portion control. They're uneducated on quality foods. Often times, people say things like, "Well, I'm just going to have a little bit of this and it shouldn't do any harm," and then a little bit becomes a lot.
I think habits trickle down, so getting to the homes of Americans and teaching each individual, "No, this actually isn't good for you and these are the reasons why..." Education is key. The more we can educate families, the more you can educate individuals and then take it into their homes. I think we have to get the problem at the core.
Then we need the support from government. We need the support from legislation to take and remove away certain pesticides and products and high-caloric ingredients in foods -- remove them in their entirety from the agricultural system and we can win on that front as well. You do those things and you can watch the percentages decrease in years to come.
We did a very important show last season, working with childhood obesity. It's affecting our children now because children don't have access to quality foods, and access is key. Education is key. So yes, the problem -- we're just chipping at the surface unfortunately.
How do you help people with nutrition who have food allergies? I mean, allergies to the healthy stuff. For example, I cannot eat nuts and you guys are always telling people to snack healthily on almonds or other nuts. How do you address that for those people who want to make healthy lifestyle changes.
Dolvett Quince: I wish we had enough time to address every individual issue on this show, but because we're doing 15 people with three trainers, we don't necessarily address key things like that. But however, we do incorporate education on food and we're getting more involved in portion control, to answer your question.
But knowing what to swap out, everything from The Biggest Loser recipe books and swapping out options, they exist. They're there. They're online. They're on our services. We provide you with information. What you don't see on the show, you can definitely get from our brand on BiggestLoser.com as well as the books that we provide.
Things like if you can't eat nuts, you can still get a crunch from kale chips, for example, that are seasoned. So it's just about finding what works for your taste buds, but also there's a tremendous amount of other options out there.
It appears like in the first episode, Jillian makes a comment about Ruben's back hair. How did you feel about it?
Dolvett Quince: Listen. Listen. There's chest hair and there's Chia Pet, okay? You'll definitely have to watch that episode [to see if Jillian gets her way].