Exclusive: Chad Waltrip and Stephanie Smith talk 'The Amazing Race'
By Reality TV World staff, 11/22/2010
Chad Waltrip and Stephanie Smith felt confident they were likely to make it to the next leg of The Amazing Race's seventeenth edition when they began the competition's ninth leg in first place.
However a missed airplane flight opportunity and a lost rickshaw driver combined to place them last in the Race's ninth leg, resulting in the "Newly Dating" turned "Newly Engaged" couple becoming the seventh team eliminated from the around-the-world competition during Sunday night's broadcast of the seventeenth edition's ninth episode.
On Monday, the 26-year-old operations manager and 23-year-old hair stylist and former Miss South Carolina from Ft. Lauderdale, FL talked to Reality TV World about their The Amazing Race experience -- including whether overconfidence played a role in their failure to discover an earlier flight, what Chad has learned for watching himself lose his temper on TV, how meeting Chad resulted in one of the most difficult decisions of Stephanie's life, and why they should now be billed as the "Newlyweds" couple.
Reality TV World: You guys went from first to last in one leg. Were you surprised you fell that drastically or is that what you had come to expect at this point in the Race?
Chad Waltrip: No, I was definitely a little surprised. I got really comfortable and pretty much just told Stephanie, "Ah don't worry about it, there's no way going to Bangladesh that there's going to be multiple flights going in there to get ahead in this one. Don't worry about it, so let's go enjoy it."
And ultimately, it bit us in the end a little bit. Or it definitely hindered us from behind ahead as much as the other two teams.
Stephanie Smith: I think we just got a little too comfortable at that point.
Reality TV World: What happened at the airport in Oman? You guys were the first ones to get there but didn't seem to aggressively push for an earlier flight and obviously ended up getting shut out of the 5AM and 8AM arrival flights Jill and Thomas and Nick and Vicki managed to get.
Stephanie Smith: Right, I think we did show up first so we did have -- I mean, we had a good lead on everyone -- we had been pushing for awhile, and we went to every airline that we could possibly go to and bugged the heck out of them.
So we were kind of, after a few hours passed, we were just so over it. And we were really were convinced that there was no other flight that was possible to come up, and we were hungry and tired and frustrated so we thought, "Hell, we're just going to get some food." (laughs)
Reality TV World: So it wasn't like you just decided to take off to the Dairy Queen [almost immediately] like last night's episode suggested? (laughs)
Stephanie Smith: We did push, we pushed pretty hard. We did have a lead on people so we were there and we stopped at every single place to get our flight and once we bought a flight we thought that that was that.
Chad Waltrip: Yeah, and we didn't think -- Jill and Thomas, they pushed hard and just got really lucky and were able to slowly but surely get tickets and get on a flight and then...
Stephanie Smith: We both wished we would have done that.
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Chad Waltrip: Yeah, but we ultimately went down [to eat] a little too soon and relaxed too early.
Reality TV World: So do you have any idea how Jill and Thomas and Nick and Vicki pulled that off and got their tickets on the 5AM and 8AM flights? Had you guys known about those flights...
Chad Waltrip: No.
Reality TV World: ...and they sold out at the time and those were last minute cancellations?
Chad Waltrip: I have no clue how they really pulled it off. Like I said, I think it was a matter of them [being] there at the right time. And as you could see, it was only two teams that were lucky enough to get those flights.
Stephanie Smith: There had to be a cancellation or something.
Chad Waltrip: Yeah, we don't really have an idea exactly how it took place but...
Stephanie Smith: It was just that we were pissed, but you can imagine how happy we were when we did see Brook and Claire and Nat and Kat. We thought, "Oh geez, finally okay, we're back somewhat in the game!"
Reality TV World: What's the status of your relationship now, are you two still engaged or have you already gotten married?
Chad Waltrip: Yeah, we are actually heading back. We just got married... in Florida on Saturday and had a small wedding with family and friends. (laughs)
So, we are just happy to be married now.
Stephanie Smith: Yeah!
Reality TV World: Wow, congratulations!
Stephanie Smith: Thank you!
Reality TV World: So are you guys on your way to your honeymoon?
Stephanie Smith: You know I think, I've been begging Chad -- I'm a big Disney fan -- so I want to do Mickey's Christmas this December. (laughs)
I think that's going to be our honeymoon. You know, taking that month off, for going on The Amazing Race, from work was kind of hard this year.
So, I figured we'd take it easy from both of our jobs and yeah I've actually just got back... our priorities have to shift a little bit. I think we're going to do our whole little trip to Belize as our one year anniversary.
Reality TV World: The Belize trip you won on the show?
Stephanie Smith: Yeah, yeah.
Reality TV World: According to your CBS bio, you guys had only been dating for five months before the Race...
Stephanie Smith: That is correct! (laughs)
Reality TV World: Can you talk a little bit about how you met and some of the background about your relationship? Because some viewers were surprised to see you two get engaged so soon.
Stephanie Smith: Well, I think that life is so funny and it's just -- I never really knew... you know, "When you know you know," people say that. But literally, Chad and I met over coffee because I had joined his company and I was in town for the weekend and just wanted to briefly meet him and we ended up talking for two hours over coffee.
We instantly had a connection and I knew that either I was going to marry him or he was going to be my best friend for life. And over the course of a few months, we had been working together and everything, and then we just took our relationship to the next level and then when the Race came about, we couldn't stop the opportunity.
We had to take it because we're both very energetic and feel very alive everyday. I think it was the perfect way to jumpstart our relationship because boy, we got to know more about each other on that race (laughs)
Reality TV World: Yeah, I guess one of the things that came as a surprise was that during your CBS.com intro video Chad mentioned that Stephanie, you were actually engaged your boyfriend of seven years when you two first met?
Stephanie Smith: Yeah, I was engaged to my high school sweetheart. So of course that was very hard.
We had moved to Miami for his job, and I just found a job in sales with IST Management -- which is who Chad is still with now. And when I moved down to Florida and I met Chad, I immediately knew that I wasn't as happy as I thought I was.
And I broke it off and was very honest. I broke it off with my current boyfriend or fiancee and then I was single for a little while and told Chad that I did want to be with him.
It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do -- it's easy for nobody. And it happens more often now, I've found out, than ever.
But you just have to be honest with yourself and ultimately, if it comes to your happiness, you have to be kind of selfish and I was happiest with Chad.
I mean, we just got married and I knew the second I met him that he was the one I was meant to be with.
Reality TV World: Chad, what had made you decide you wanted to propose to Stephanie during the Race?
Chad Waltrip: Well, when do you ever get an opportunity to travel the world and be at a destination that you may not ever get a chance to go back to? So I though, "why not?"
We had already talked about marriage and we're very, very honest about our feelings toward each other. And so when we got the opportunity I just made up my mind that I was going to go ahead and do it then.
Reality TV World: So Stephanie, how big a surprise was the proposal? Obviously you guys had already talked about marriage and I saw you two had already bought a home together, so it sounds like something you might have been expecting it a little?
Stephanie Smith: I think that I was sort of expecting it in the near future, but I didn't really think that he would have the guts to ask me not only on television but during the Race, because it was already a stressful environment.
But he knows I love the Middle East and I've always talked about going to Egypt one day and we were right there sitting there -- the second I walked off the plane I said, "Oh my god Chad, we're in Oman, this is amazing!"
And he could see how excited I was and I think he just knew it was the perfect opportunity. There was no hesitation, I knew that I wanted to be with him, it was perfect.
Reality TV World: So Chad, was that the case -- was it like Stephanie just described? Because there's been some speculation that after you almost finished last in Russia and then overslept afterwards, that maybe you thought you might be running out of time if you wanted to propose the Race [like you had said before it began].
Chad Waltrip: No, I never -- when I went on the Race, I didn't sit there and plan and think [it out]. I tried to at first, but then after thinking so long I said, "You know what, when the opportunity arises I'll jump on it."
And that's all it was really. Getting off the plane, like Stephanie said, [and seeing] how awed she was at the place and the fact that we did have a little bit of a break -- we were on off time and not being released until the next morning.
So I knew I was going to get the sun coming up and we were on the water in the mountains in a place that she liked and enjoyed and always wanted to be in, so why not -- I jumped on the opportunity and did it then.
It wasn't only a matter of thinking I was coming up short [in the Race]. I mean all the way down to the very last leg, even when we got eliminated, I still thought that no matter what we were ultimately going to be in the final three [teams] and win. But, we didn't.
Reality TV World: What happened when you guys overslept and were late leaving that Pit Stop? Did the hotel forget a wake-up call or what happened?
Stephanie Smith: I think by far, that is the worst feeling in the entire world. When we came home from the Race, we would wake up in the middle of the night and yell at each other -- "We're late, we're late, we're late!" and go jump out of bed!
I mean that was our fear and ultimately it came true, and we had to immediately forgive ourselves and just say we can not let this ruin this leg of the Race. Because you can see -- and everyone that is a fan of the Race knows -- how quickly the game can change.
You saw that we went from last to first and from first to last. It's an amazing game.
Reality TV World: Chad, one of this season's reoccurring storylines obviously was you losing your temper and yelling at Stephanie.
Chad Waltrip: (laughs)
Reality TV World: Was that something you were aware of prior to the Race, and do you think what they showed was an accurate representation of you or do you think it just resulted from the pressure of the Race?
Chad Waltrip: Yeah, no, I mean I can honestly say that yeah, I know I get very anxious sometimes and come off a little brash. But I think since the Race or since the beginning, that I was very antsy and very amped up going into it thinking I was going to do whatever I could to win the million dollars and nothing was going to get in my way.
But since the second leg I think I did kind of calm down and we had a heart-to-heart. "Just kind of calm down and try to relax a little bit and let go of the Race."
Because I'm a manager, so I'm used to telling people what to do and having control of the situation. So now I have my potential life partner with me -- I just really learned to let go and just go with the flow and make decisions together.
So I think things have gotten a lot better and watching the Race I've learned, "Hey, you may be right but the way you say things, the way you come off needs to change a little bit."
So yeah, I'm a very emotional, high-strung individual at times but I always mean well.
Stephanie Smith: And I think reality television too, you only see a few sides of a person. Of course you're not going to see the everyday of Chad and I because we're not traveling from country to country every day doing these odd tasks. (laughs)
Reality TV World: No, but you had identified his temper [in your pre-show interview] as one of the biggest challenges you felt you two were going to have before the Race even started, correct?
Chad Waltrip: Yes, definitely.
Reality TV World: Stephanie?
Stephanie Smith: Right. No, you're exactly right. I think because Chad and I are so alike -- we were born in the same month, we're both the oldest. Chad's the oldest of seven kids and I'm the oldest of four kids -- we're used to being very independent individuals. Headstrong. We know what we want.
And you know we're young and we've accomplished a lot in our lives, independently. It's just about respecting each other's decisions and respecting it in the right way. (laughs)
And communicating rightly and treating each other how we want to be treated. I think that's hard to do -- and I don't want to ever say that we've mastered it because there's no perfect relationship -- but we just got married this past weekend and we're working towards a wonderful life together.
So people see what they want to see on TV, and ultimately that's the point of reality television too. If we got along all fine and dandy...
Chad Waltrip: ...why would people watch?
Stephanie Smith: ...what would be the point? (laughs)
Reality TV World: Do you have any idea about how far behind Brook and Claire you got to the Pit Stop? Because it was hard to tell what happened at the Roadblock, but looked like you were kind of starting the brick Detour task as they were finishing it.
Stephanie Smith: Oh, we definitely gained a lot of ground during the rickshaw [Roadblock task], that was when I [picked up] good ground, I think. When we got to the Pit Stop, we were literally right behind them.
That was heartbreaking, but it was also a little encouraging. Because I think Chad and I just patted each other on the back and said, "Man, that sucks." But you know, we did try our hardest.
Reality TV World: It seemed like the key thing was when you struggled to find the Detour after leaving the sugar cane press. Would you agree that was kind of the thing that ended up doing you in?
Chad Waltrip: Yes... our rickshaw driver, I don't think he really understood anything. He just started pedaling and he smiled and shook his head.
So we thought we were good, and then when I started realizing -- I just had a gut feeling, he would stop and I stopped to talk to the gentleman on the corner and finally he understood a little bit of English and I was able to communicate to our driver where to go.
That cost us a lot. I really think that if we were able to leave the sugar cane challenge and then go directly to the Detour we would ultimately have been able to U-Turn Nat and Kat instead of them U-Turning us.
Reality TV World: Yeah, when you were leaving Oman you had already said that you would like to U-Turn Nat and Kat. Why was that? Did you really consider them the strongest team left? Because [based on what was shown] the other teams seemed to feel otherwise.
Stephanie Smith: Oh, you know we were competing against the best teams so of course as you get closer and closer [to the end] I think we were up against a ton of teams that really, any of them would have been good to eliminate. (laughs)
Chad Waltrip: Yes.
Stephanie Smith: But I think Nat and Kat had won so many legs. I think I was just kind of tired of seeing them winning legs and I think that somehow they pull ahead. They're smart, very intelligent women and I think they had the same thing in mind for us.
Reality TV World: What did you think of Nick and Vicki? They seemed like a pretty weak team at the beginning of the Race, but they really seemed to have turned things on since they finished last in that non-elimination leg.
Stephanie Smith: (laughs)
Chad Waltrip: Nick and Vicki, I love 'em -- great people -- but they are the ideal team that have been the luckiest team I think I've ever seen in Race history. Because they're athletic, but they really have gotten some major breaks along the way and that kept them in the game. And hey, good for them.
Stephanie Smith: More power to them.
Reality TV World: How were you cast on The Amazing Race? How did you end up on the show?
Stephanie Smith: Well actually I had applied with one of my girlfriends from Miss USA right after I competed. And we didn't make it -- we made it on [the] alternate [list] two seasons ago and I called to get my passport back from the Race [producers] and they kind of asked me how I was doing and how everything was going.
And I just told them about my new life -- I was living in South Florida, I had this amazing boyfriend, and life was good. And I sent them a picture of us and told them to keep us in mind, we were adventurous people, and they were looking for a "newly dating couple" and so we were just thrilled to death.
I think at first I was very nervous because I was like, "Well, we are very newly dating." But we're very passionate people, so they loved us and we were totally thrilled to be on the show.
Reality TV World: Wow, they had your actual passport all that time?
Stephanie Smith: You know what, they did because I had moved so much. I moved from South Carolina to Miami and Miami to Hollywood, Florida and Hollywood, Florida to Ft. Lauderdale. I'd done a lot of moving in the past year and so they were basically waiting to hear from me, just to send it to me.
And they sent it to me and I had to send it right back! (laughs)