Exclusive: 'The Amazing Race' runner-up couple Jenny Wu and Jelani Roy dish on the season
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 05/20/2015
The Amazing Race's blind-dating couple Jenny Wu and Jelani Roy finished the 26th season in the runner-up spot during Friday night's finale on CBS.
Jenny and Jelani crossed the finish line in second place after winners Laura Pierson and Tyler Adams, who also met on the show for the wildest blind date of their lives. Laura and Tyler won the $1 million grand prize on the twelfth and final leg after conquering five continents, eight countries and more than 35,000 miles.
Jenny and Jelani didn't find love on the show but admitted to finding a lifelong, wonderful friend in each other.
In an exclusive interview with Reality TV World on Monday, Jenny and Jelani talked about their experience on The Amazing Race. Below is what they had to say.
Reality TV World: How long after Laura and Tyler did you arrive at the finish line?
Jelani Roy: Not too much behind them. It was pretty close. I'd say, like, the 10-15 minute range. It was pretty close.
Reality TV World: Are you two happy that Laura and Tyler won? They seemed to rub a lot of teams the wrong way.
Jelani Roy: Honestly, we got along pretty well with them throughout the Race. They were super cool. You don't always get what you deserve, but you can definitely deserve what you get. And they had a good Race, so I can't complain. I'm super happy for them. They performed really well... They definitely deserved it... so, I'm totally happy for them.
Jenny Wu: Yeah, I agree with Jelani. Of course, you know, I think I would've been a lot happier if Jelani and I had won, (laughs) but I think, you know, in that leg, the final leg, Laura and Tyler just ran a better leg than us and they were, you know, amazing Racers at the very end.
So, I think if it wasn't us, then I'm happy it was them. Because from the very beginning, us two teams were like, "Okay, we're going to be going to the finals together. It's going to be us in the finals -- Top 3, Top 3," and we kept saying that from the very first leg. So yeah, for sure, not us, than definitely them. We respect them a lot.
Jelani Roy: We thought we'd be on top, but hey, that's the way the cookie crumbles.
Jenny Wu: Yeah.
Reality TV World: I was going to ask you if you had hope heading to the finish line that you could come in first place or if you were pretty certain Laura and Tyler were ahead of you.
Jenny Wu: You know what? We always looked at it as, like, anything can happen. And even when we were getting to the taxi heading to the [Pit Stop], at that point, we didn't know how far it was.
And so even though we knew they were 10-15 minutes ahead of us, we were like, "Anything can happen." And yeah, for sure, and we were still pleading with our taxi driver, like, "Please, go as quickly as you can! Hurry, hurry, hurry! So much is at stake!"
And we were running, like, our hearts out until we actually saw them at the finish line with [Phil Keoghan]. At that point, Jelani and I, I think we still totally hoped that we could still get there before them.
Jelani Roy: Exactly. You never know what could happen. You could get lost on the way there and not know the exact distance from where the mat was to the last challenge. Anything could happen, so we were like, "Alright, if the other team does something wrong, we could be right there."
Reality TV World: How difficult was that final memory task? Did you do a lot of guessing on the numbers like Laura and Tyler had? And how long did it take you to complete it?
Jelani Roy: No, we were really good with the lock. We got the lock open [quickly] because we knew the numbers and so that was fine. Actually, we were pretty good with the selfies but we obviously didn't take as many selfies as the other teams. But we really only made one or two mistakes in the order, and then rearranging them was difficult, so that's where we lost time.
Jenny Wu: And I think Tyler was really the "King of Selfies" on the Race and took a lot of selfies at a lot of different locations versus Jelani and I.
Most of our selfies were in airports or in the back of cabs, so it was definitely a bit more challenging to determine the location when all of them sort of have similar backgrounds. We tried to figure it out based on the outfits we were wearing. It was like, "Oh, hmm, I think I wore this outfit in Namibia," and things like that. Reality TV World: How long did it take you to complete the final memory task?
Jenny Wu: Oh my God, when you're there, you're just focused on the task and you lose all track of time, so I have no idea.
Reality TV World: What's your relationship like now? Are you good enough friends that you hang out and talk all the time or what happened after the show?
Jelani Roy: Yeah, totally. We're still good friends. We just, I mean, Jenny was here in New York for the finale. Laura and Tyler hosted a viewing finale party for all of us, which was pretty cool. So we hung out. And the last time I was in LA, we hung out and watched an episode together. So yeah, we talk and hang out. We're still really close.
Jenny Wu: Yeah. We make an effort to communicate through text and phone calls, and every time Jelani is in LA, we hang out. If I'm in New York, we hang out. In fact, right after the Race, about a week after, I was in New York and he was the first person -- and really the only person -- I wanted to see.
We went to his friend's party together and we had dinner together, and this bond with Jelani, it's a lifetime bond. It's unbreakable because we shared an amazing, amazing [experience].
Jelani Roy: Yeah, how many people do you get to race around the world with?!
Jenny Wu: I know.
Jelani Roy: It's pretty crazy what we shared, and it's stuff that only me and her know. And the finish that we had, it was a great time.
Reality TV World: You two worked really well together and finished the Race in second place. But were you disappointed at all that you didn't have feelings for each other? What was your main motivation for going on the show and therefore was not finding love a bit of a letdown?
Jenny Wu: My primary motivation was to race around the world, to be on The Amazing Race and to face my fears and challenge myself in new ways. And I think, through the Race, I got to accomplish all of that, so it's incredible. And even though Jelani and I didn't find love, I found a new friend. That in itself was definitely worth being on the show.
Jelani Roy: Exactly. That in itself is invaluable and obviously anything else is like an [extra] benefit. But the main goal was to win and race around the world and I've been wanting to do this show since high school. I've been watching since then.
Reality TV World: Jenny, when I talked to Matt Cucolo and Ashley Gordon earlier in the season, Matt had told me he sort of had an issue with you, that he thought the Race turned you into something different from how you seemed off-camera. How did you guys feel about that team and what are your thoughts on what Matt told me? Is that a surprise to you?
Jenny Wu: I think, for me, I am someone who is very, very focused, so when the cameras are on and we're racing, for me, the only thing I can think about is the Race and completing the challenge. So I definitely turned into "Serious Jenny" and "Super, Super Focused Jenny." So, I'm not surprised he would say that.
But for me, I just see it as, "This is The Amazing Race and this is my one shot to do this, so I'm just going to put my all into it." It's not that I wanted that to come across as unfriendly or anything, but really, it's like when I'm racing, I have tunnel vision. All I can see is completing the challenges and stuff.
But off-camera, Matt and Ashley, we were having a great time together. I loved everybody on the show and we all have great relationships with each other. But it's sort of like, when you're racing, that's business, you know? And for me, I didn't mess around. I was focused. So yeah.
Reality TV World: You discovered each other's strengths and weaknesses as the Race went on. How do you feel you complemented each other as teammates? Clearly you worked well together.
Jelani Roy: I think Jenny just hit it on the nose right there, you know, how she would always be so focused and she has that "Type A" personality. But that's a great contrast for me because she's just so diligent and always kept us going.
She'd maintain our focus on just trying to win and trying to put ourselves in the best position in each leg. That really complemented me, because sometimes I can have a light-hearted approach and be a little more laid-back.
So she kept us on the grind, and I think for her, I helped her to sit back, soak it in and enjoy it a little bit more. I helped her to calm down, relax, take it all in and keep going. I think we complemented each other well in that way.
Jenny Wu: Yeah for sure. I think Jelani was the perfect partner. At the finish line, Phil asked me, "Are you happy you ran this Race with Jelani?" And I was like, "Yeah, I can't imagine being on The Amazing Race with anybody BUT Jelani," because our personalities really did complement each other -- even though we have similarities like our background of being lawyers and things like that.
Other traits like me being very, very intense and him being able to mellow me out, like, "Hey, let's chill, everything's good." Him being so calm, calmed me down. That just really helped with the Race because that is like -- even though I was able to keep my edge, Jelani was able to bring us back a little bit and just keep calm and focus as well. So I think it worked really, really well for us.
Reality TV World: If you two were to race again like on an all-stars season, what do you think you could do to better prepare for it? Was there anything looking back you think you should have done differently to better your chances of winning?
Jelani Roy: Just little things, like my bag was too big. Watching it on TV, I was like, "Come on, what were you doing!?" So I would pack less. But nothing else really in particular. You just learn from the experience. It's just so important -- and they say it all the time -- to read the clues and pay attention to that.
Being careful about reading the clues and focusing on that, that's one thing. But in particular, outside of that, in order to prepare, nothing on the top of my head.
Jenny Wu: I think as lawyers, we overanalyze situations. So, I mean, if we were to ever do it again, sometimes we just had to -- like if there was an obvious solution or the obvious choice, go with the obvious and not overanalyze certain things.
Jelani Roy: Yes, definitely. I'd agree with that.
Reality TV World: The three teams to finish in first, second and third were all blind-dating couples. What does that tell you? Would you go as far as to say the blind dates had an advantage over the pre-existing couples?
Jelani Roy: We've been asked that and I just happen to think the six individuals on those blind-date teams were really strong and they were paired together. That was probably part of making the pairings, they were looking to find matches, and part of it was just randomness.
I don't think there's an inherent advantage in being a blind-date couple. Maybe there is, but this was obvious a small sample size to test that theory. But I don't think so.
Jenny Wu: I think, in the beginning, the fact we were strangers helped us out, because we wanted to put our best face forward. But I think towards the end, as we got more and more comfortable and we got to know each other more, I don't think that was necessarily true anymore. And I agree with Jelani, I just think the blind daters happen to be very strong individuals.
Reality TV World: Jelani, how long did that football Roadblock task take you to complete?
Jelani Roy: Oh my God, it felt like forever! It felt like all four quarters. (Laughs) I don't know how long it took me exactly, but I know it took me like five or six attempts. So, I don't know. I got there a little late and, yeah, I think it was five or six attempts. So it was not too long, but it certainly felt like forever. My grandma called me to remind me of that the other day. (Laughs)
Reality TV World: What was the biggest challenge you guys had to overcome -- when it came to either a task or working together -- and what came especially easy to you?
Jenny Wu: Honestly, I don't think we really faced any issues or any of the challenges. We didn't even think about using our Express Pass until the eighth leg when we basically had to use it. I think we worked pretty well on Detours together and on the individual Roadblocks.
In terms of something we were really struggling with, I think for myself, the most challenging part was probably Bangkok, because I think that's when I realized I need to learn how to communicate with Jelani in a more constructive way and not lose my temper and let the frustration of the moment and the situation get to me.
So, I think for me, the Bangkok leg was definitely the most frustrating and the most challenging for me, and being able to learn from my mistakes and how I acted on that leg and apply it to the rest of the Race.
Check Reality TV World's The Amazing Race page for more interviews with the season's Final 4 teams.