Exclusive: Alison Vincent talks about becoming 'The Biggest Loser'
By Christopher Rocchio, 04/21/2008
Alison Vincent's goal was always to become The Biggest Loser's first-ever female champion.
The 32-year-old hair stylist from Mesa, AZ achieved her goal last week when she was crowned The Biggest Loser: Couples winner and claimed the NBC reality weight-loss series' $250,000 fifth-season grand prize. She started the competition at 234 pounds and lost 112 pounds for a 47.86% weight-loss percentage.
On Monday, Ali talked to Reality TV World about what was running through her head when she stepped on The Biggest Loser scale for the final time; how she reacted when she realized her mission was accomplished; how she initially thought the fifth-season home viewer voting twist was unfair until she remembered it was a different twist that brought her back into the competition; and how she plans on encouraging others to reach their dreams.
Reality TV World: You were the last of the three finalists to step on the scale during The Biggest Loser: Couples finale broadcast. What was going through your head when you stepped on the scale?
Ali: Once I saw [Roger Schultz'] weight just before I got on the scale I definitely felt like I had a chance. You learn how to gauge your body and where your weight is, so when I left campus I had already lost 99 pounds, so to lose 105, I was more than confident that I had done that.
But I still get anxiety, and everybody knows that I hate that scale. It does something to me. I don't know how to explain it. (laughing) I just don't believe it until [the weight] is actually up there. So I was a little bit nervous, and it's just like everything is built up to this moment.
It really is just a simple moment. I look down and it says my weight on the scale directly, but I had to turn my head to the right to see my weight loss. Once I did that, I was just like (deep breathe), "Oh my gosh. I did it." But it was almost like time stopped for a second.
Ali: I think that was the ultimate. From the beginning I wanted to be the first female Biggest Loser.
I think that's really what drove me, because I had overheard some thoughts from people online and just different things like, "There needs to be a separate female winner. A female can't beat a guy. There's a possibility that they should switch it to a female and a male -- two different winners each season." I was like, "No way! We can do it!" I totally wanted to prove that a woman can do it.
It's not right, wrong or indifferent -- it's just the way our bodies are made. Men tend to lose weight at a faster pace. So given The Biggest Loser -- where you have the same time frame and you're dealing with percentages of weight loss -- it isn't surprising that men have taken it each time. What is surprising -- and it's not that a woman can't do it -- but the reality is women have to work twice as hard to compete with the big boys given the same time frame. That is the game we play atThe Biggest Loser.
So I wanted to do it. I wanted to prove that it doesn't matter what odds you're up against. If you put your mind to it, you believe in yourself, you put action behind that belief -- you can be, do and have anything you want in your life and accomplish anything. It was definitely an honor and a privilege, and like a "Hell yeah!"
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Reality TV World: Viewers know trainer Jillian Michaels has been hoping for a female winner since the show started. What did she say to you after the final weigh-in?
Ali: It's true. The viewers are right that she's always wanted a female to win just to prove that it can happen. She was basically just like, "Alright! We did it." (laughing) It's four years that she's been trying and seeing if there is one out there.
She had some women on her team that made it to the finals last [season] -- well her whole team made it to the finals, they were all Black -- and she really thought that they had a great chance. But [The Biggest Loserfourth-season champ Bill Germanakos] is just a maniac. I'm kind of a cut of that same cloth. (laughing)
Reality TV World: How did some of your fellow cast members react?
Ali: It's really funny. There's not one player that was part of my season that wasn't happy for me -- except for maybe the people that went up against me [in the finale] -- everybody wanted me to win.
When I left originally and we came back and I was the woman that got to go back on [campus], and it was like, "Kumbaya." It was like I was still there from the beginning. I really tried to consciously hold that spirit and keep it with me and say, "You know what? We're here for health. We're here for weight loss. Yes, there's a game part of The Biggest Loser. Absolutely. But at the same time, does it have to get ugly? No. It doesn't. That's a choice that's made."
I think everybody was really thrilled and excited. Yeah, there were ones that wanted it for themselves. But to have a woman win? It just says so much. It was such a powerful statement. I think everybody was proud to be a part of this season, where a woman took The Biggest Loser.
Reality TV World: I'm assuming your mom must have been very proud too.
Ali: Oh my gosh! My mom has supported me obviously from Day 1. She said it, the only reason she went through such humiliation is because Bubba wanted to go -- and Bubba is me. (laughing) So she's been a trooper. She's been amazing. She's been a great support system for me.
Your mom is the person that... The benefit is, that's who you go to when you have all your joys. But you also go to her when you're feeling like crap because you know your mom is going to love you regardless. So she gets the good and the bad of me. (laughing)
When you're going for something that seems so unattainable in the beginning and you're working as hard as you can and then you're working even harder than you ever thought possible -- I got tired and I got snappy. She was able to support me and not take it personally. (laughing) I really appreciated that. That to me was really what I needed.
Then she was there to celebrate my wins throughout the journey -- as well as I was there for her when she got snappy with me too. (laughing) We were a team. We really never gave up on each other, even though our goals were different. We just always supported each other. The fun part for me was that my team member who helped me achieve probably -- at this point -- the biggest win of my life, happened to be my mom. That's pretty dang cool. (laughing)
Reality TV World: When you made the comment that you would be the Biggest Loser even after you were eliminated during Week 4, what was your thinking behind that remark?
Ali: I said it from the beginning. I had this same little bell that I would shake -- and it would drive my mom bananas because it wouldn't really ring unless I shook it really hard. I'd be like, "Believe it, be it. Believe it, be it. I'm going to be the first female Biggest Loser."
But the week that I was eliminated happened to be the week that I really owned it and I really knew it with every part of who I was that I was going to be the Biggest Loser. So the fact that I got eliminated made no sense because I'm supposed to be the first female Biggest Loser. (laughing)
But it didn't stop me. I still believed it, and when your really believe in something, things have a way of working out. As we all know, I got back on the [campus] and the rest was history. Nobody was going to take that opportunity away from me -- beginning with myself, that's for sure.
Reality TV World: What were some of the things you did to continue to lose the weight and stay focused once you got home?
Ali: After I got eliminated in Week 4, I put a plan into action. I just sat down and figured out how much I needed to lose. They gave me enough information. Those first few weeks [on campus] are your core weeks of just downloading information. They give you everything you need to know to set you up to win, because you really have no time to waste on [campus]. Jillian and [fellow trainer Bob Harper] really try to give you the basic, core information -- just shove it down your throat. (laughing)
One of the things I learned from [Jillian] in the beginning was you need to know all your calories. You need to be able to look at something and know your calories so that you know how to choose at any different moment the right choice for you. It really is about calories and calorie counting. So I just did a mathematic equation -- I figured it out -- and then I would just exercise accordingly.
I have a tool that I use -- that all of us use -- called the "body bug," and it counts how many calories we burn throughout the day. So I came up with a number -- my number was 3,800 -- so I wouldn't go to bed until I hit it.
I'd wake up in the morning and get the majority of my exercise done then, starting out with cardio and a training session -- an individual training session with a trainer at home. Then I'd do some more cardio, and my mom and I would together go to a training session. So I'd get two hours of actually training with a trainer. Then the rest was some form of cardio.
Then I would go to work, and if I hadn't achieved my calorie-burn goal for the day then I would go back to the gym before I'd go home.
Ali: It was definitely a surprise. We just got an email followed up with a phone call. I don't remember the day, but it was literally a week to the date that we were [back on campus]. They were like, "Well we're thinking of possibly, maybe [bringing previously eliminated contestants back]. So we're going to fly everybody out."
We didn't know how they were going to do it, but we were all excited. Everybody looked fabulous, and we were kind of like, "What's going on?" We weren't sure if it was going to be a challenge or what it was going to be. We just went with it.
Reality TV World: Once you found out how the twist would work, were you confident of being the former female contestant with the highest weight-loss percentage?
Ali: Once [host Alison Sweeney] said it was the highest percentage of weight loss, I was pretty sure. I was a little worried about [Jackie Evans]. She looked great, everybody looked great. But I knew I was a higher percentage of weight loss above the others.
Prior to that, we were like, "Maybe they're going to choose the person that has the least percentage of weight loss because they need the help more." We had no idea, but I am very grateful. Everything happens for a reason and I'm glad I didn't give up on myself just because I got eliminated because they gave me the opportunity to come back.
Ali: My immediate response was, "Are you flipping kidding me?!" (laughing) I killed myself -- I killed myself -- that last week on [campus]. I knew that I had to give it everything and then some and then some and then some. I just knew.
Roger had been talking all week about how he was going to lose 15 pounds. I was like, "What do I have to lose in order to beat Roger at 15?" Roger still had a lot of weight to lose, so I knew if he went home and had the opportunity to do it then he probably would be the Biggest Loser. So I knew this was the last chance that I had to get him out of the game.
It was no secret that [Kelly Fields] and I were planning on voting Roger off. [Mark Kruger] and I were planning on voting Roger off. Whoever was in there -- we just wanted Roger off because Roger was the biggest threat. He just was. Not that we don't like Roger, because we do. (laughing)
But at this point, it's just like, "How are you going to position yourself in the best position to try to take this title of Biggest Loser?" The reality is, given more time Roger just had the weight to lose. I didn't have any more weight hardly. I could probably shed 12 more pounds? I don't even know how many pounds I lost after leaving the [campus]. Twelve or 13 I guess. But it took a lot.
Mark was kind of already tapped out as far as weight loss. Kelly still had a lot of weight to lose, but I would rather go up against Kelly than Roger. Leaving the [campus], she was 20 pounds behind us. So she would have to lose that plus whatever else she was going to lose that we were going to lose. The obvious choice would have been let's try to get Roger below the yellow line, and if we can, send him home! (laughing)
When Alison said America was going to choose that, I was like, "Really? How is that fair!" (laughing) But that's part of what we signed up for. We signed up for anything can happen. They can change the game at any given moment, and thank God for that because I was able to come back.
I thought it was kind of fun, America gets to choose -- they go through the journey with us. I really, truly have realized that as I have all these people come up to me. It's so much fun to talk to them. I feel like I know them and give them a hug because I feel like it's more comfortable because we've gone through this journey.
Reality TV World: How did that journey begin? How were you and your mom cast for The Biggest Loser: Couples?
Ali: I was working one night and I got this text from my mom, "Good news. The Biggest Loser is in town." I was like, "What!?" So it was a Thursday night, she told me there was an open casting call on Saturday.
Two season finales prior to that -- I guess it was Season 3 -- I watched that finale with my mom and we were sitting on the end of her bed and I was like, "Mom I really want to do this. This changes our lives." So we had downloaded an application, but once I saw the application I thought of all the hundreds or thousands of people that are probably applying for it and feeling the exact same way I am. In that moment, I thought there was no way I'd get chosen.
So I kind of let it go, and when my mom called and said they were doing open casting calls, I was like, "Oh! I really want to do it." But I'm a hairstylist -- I was completely booked on Saturday. I was like, "Mom, I can't afford to." She was like, "You can't afford not to."
So we went and I was like, "Go find out where I need to line up." She went to go find out where I needed to line up and the security guard told her, "They're looking for couples." My mom heart just dropped. (laughing) When she told me that I was like, "Mom, you know..." She was like, "I know..." (laughing) She had no choice. She was coming with me.
Everything -- the way that it happened -- it was just like the way it was supposed to be.
Reality TV World: What's it been like to see yourself in 'Get Milk' ads and magazines?
Ali: It's so much fun. It's absolutely crazy. I was just a girl who wanted to regain control of her life.
So to have my physical body that people judge... What do they say? "Within your first 10 seconds you've made your impression." You know what I mean? In a lot of senses people don't get to know you, and that was the thing. I wanted to be able to show people how I felt on the inside. Now my body's a direct representation of how I feel on the inside.
I was just that girl that wanted to feel good about herself again and wanted to lose weight. Now I'm in People magazine! I got to meet [Ellen DeGeneres]! It's just the time of my life. It really is fun.
I have women coming up to me now telling me that they now have a good relationship with their mom after watching me my mom grow in our relationship. People just having the courage to be like, "You know, it's okay. But let's go on." I think a lot of women have a connection with me because I am the first female to win, but guys too. They come up to me and they're like, "You're such an inspiration." It's just like, "Oh my God!" How amazing is that? What a privilege to have the opportunity to inspire so many just by empowering myself.
I want to definitely continue on that path and encourage and hopefully inspire others through self-empowerment, especially little girls. I feel beautiful. I absolutely feel beautiful. I want little girls to understand the definition of beauty is strength and confidence. It's not what you look like. If you feel strong and confident, you can be and do and have everything you want. That is beautiful.
Reality TV World: So what's next? Do you have any plans for the $250,000?
Ali: (laughing) No. It was never about the $250,000 for me. So I get that question and I'm like, "I guess I should start thinking about that!" The obvious one for me is I'm going to pay-off my debt -- my credit cards and stuff -- because that to me is the final piece of weight. So I plan on getting that out of the way.
What's next for me in my life is I really want to take as many opportunities as I can to make a difference, to continue on this path and be able to go and talk to people and encourage people to start dreaming again. It feels so good. I can't believe I forgot what it felt like because once you forget what it feels like you quit doing it. I'm never going to stop dreaming and I'm going to dream big.
It really truly sounds like a cliche, but it's definitely a journey. It definitely is a journey, and I'm just going to stay on my path and continue my journey and strive to live this life.