Pretty impressive stuff considering Eric, a 28-year-old waiter from Deerfield Beach, FL, and Danielle, a 23-year-old bartender from Staten Island, NY, were the only All-Stars team to never have competed with one another during a previous season and were instead actually adversaries during The Amazing Race 9.
On Monday, The Amazing Race: All-Stars champions talked to Reality TV World about being the only team Yielded during the competition; why they were paired wth each other instead of their original The Amazing Race 9 partners; how they purposely threw a challenge to see one of their rivals be eliminated; and the current status of their relationship.
Reality TV World: How does it feel to be the winners of The Amazing Race: All-Stars considering you both never raced as teammates before?
Danielle: It's pretty amazing, huh? Eric: I'm not sure what it says, if it makes a good case for either way, you know? I didn't really know what to expect. I'm sure the other teams didn't know what to do with us as a team. They had never seen us race before.
Reality TV World: How did it feel when you crossed the finish line?
Danielle: Shock... Eric: Disbelief... Danielle: ... being so thankful that it's over. We couldn't believe it. We really were shocked. It's an exciting thing. You don't even know how to react honestly. You want to cry -- but then you're like so excited -- and all these things are going through your head. It's crazy.
Reality TV World: How do you think your old Season 9 partners feel about it?
Danielle: I'm sure [her The Amazing Race 9 partner Dani Torchio] was maybe a little jealous, but she never really told me that. When we talked she was very supportive of [Eric and I]. She was happy for me the whole time, so I'm sure she was a little upset but she never told me that. Eric: [His The Amazing Race 9 partner Jeremy Ryan] was happy at that point. But I'm sure... I know he's a little upset because we did a really good job on our season and I know he wanted to be there and I just felt like he deserved it. You know, happy but sad.
Reality TV World: How about the other teams? Did they voice any complaints that a team that had never raced together before got to compete in All-Stars?
Eric: Not to our faces. Danielle: Yeah, not to our faces. I'm sure they had their opinions. Eric: I'm sure some of the teams... I don't think we had any kind of an advantage or anything at all, by any means. I think actually it was probably a disadvantage because the other teams already knew how to work together and Danielle and I had no clue. Obviously there's a lot of friction there so... It just turned out we got a little luckier than some of the other people.
Reality TV World: Eric were you surprised at how Danielle's gossiping paid off for your team during the final challenge?
Eric: You know what? Actually, it was kind of fitting just how it all came down to it. I felt like throughout the first part of the race, I was doing a lot of the work and she was, you know, holding her own but I was making most of the decisions. Danielle: He's lying. It's all me! It's all me! Eric: I did all the driving and all the map work. She was just kind of following behind me and as it came down to it, if she wouldn't have talked so much, then we wouldn't have won. So she gets as much credit as anybody for how we did.
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Reality TV World: How long were you at All-Stars finish line before second-place finishers Dustin Seltzer and Kandice Pelletier arrived?
Danielle: About 10 minutes. Eric: Ten minutes or so. It felt like longer. I don't know. Maybe 10 or 15 minutes. Maybe it wasn't that long, but... Danielle: About that long... Eric: ... it felt like a long time.
Reality TV World: Going into the twelfth leg and having been the only All-Stars team to be Yielded, how did you like your chances of winning the entire race? Did you feel like underdogs?
Eric: Well in the last leg we felt... Once we were there, we felt like we could actually win. Up until then, as we were getting pulled off of airplanes, missing flights, getting pulled off of standby, Yielded... Danielle: Yeah, I mean we were definitely underdogs. It was ridiculous. There were times when we thought we weren't going to win, and you know we'd get back into the game. Up until the last second, we didn't know. Eric: I thought it was like every time we made some ground up and caught back up, something else would happen and we'd get hosed. Danielle: Hosed...
Danielle: Did it look like I had some trouble with it?
Reality TV World: Yeah it did.
Danielle (laughing): Oh you mean [when] I had a nervous breakdown? Oh... okay. You know what it was, we knew that was like the last leg before the Top 3 and my biggest fear this whole race was having all the pressure on me... like, [to] do a lot of Roadblocks. So I guess it was like doing it, I'm not really good with directions as it is, and then having all the pressure of knowing if I messed up it was all on me. I think it was both those things going through my head that made me freak out. Directions definitely aren't my thing and apparently even when an arrow's pointing in the direction I still can't follow it. I need to waste money on a Tom-Tom or a GPS system for my car (laughing).
Reality TV World: What was it like seeing your photo at the eleventh leg's Yield, the second time in All-Stars you were Yielded?
Eric: Honestly, that was like the most surprised we were the whole race. The reason being is [All-Stars' fourth-place finishers Ozwald Mendez and Danilo Jimenez] and [All-Stars third-place finishers Charla Baklayan Faddoul and Mirna Hindoyan] had made in agreement with us in Malaysia not to Yield each other. We'd only Yield the blonds [Dustin and Kandice]. It wasn't even our idea... it was the other teams.
Reality TV World: Yeah, I think I remember Mirna approaching you guys about that.
Danielle: Yeah. Eric: When that happened, we felt really, really betrayed by Danny and Ozwald because it's hard to make friends on the race and we actually felt like they were our friends. Danielle: And then they back-stabbed us. Eric: They stabbed us in the back. You now they can say they had their reasons, but Charla and Mirna offered them money, they said, "Oh we already have money." They could have given the money back to Dustin and Kandice. Danielle: They could have given the money back. Eric: They could have begged for money, which you're allowed to do, whether you're a guy or girl you can beg. We originally got some money when we were kind of low on funds. It felt really personal. You know, maybe it's strategy but if you shake my hand and say you're not going to do something -- then don't do it -- because I wouldn't do it to you.
Reality TV World: Eric, you commented during the ninth leg that if you and Danielle couldn't win you'd want Ozzy and Danny to win. What was you relationship with Danny and Ozzy like both before and after the eleventh leg's Yield?
Eric: Before the Yield, I counted Danny and Ozwald as friends... Danielle: Absolutely... Eric: I really liked them. I thought they were awesome. I thought they were hilarious... you know, two really cool guys. Afterwards, I mean honestly, it was like they were dead to me. The fact they didn't even say anything -- come up to us at a Pit Stop -- and actually say anything like, "Guys, we're sorry... whatever." Danielle: Yeah, they didn't even like apologize to us. Eric: If it was me, I felt like they should have approached us and said whatever, I mean I would have been pissed and yelled at them probably. But you know what? If you did something wrong then I think it's up to you to man-up and apologize. They chose not to so I chose to not really talk to them anymore.
Reality TV World: Eric, you really seemed to really step-up your game following the Yield. Did you feel it gave you that extra push to win?
Eric: I mean definitely that leg... Danielle: It lit a fire under our butts... Eric: That leg... I mean all it does is -- the Yield -- if it doesn't benefit you, the team doesn't lose, it just makes them mad. I think you see it throughout the history of [The Amazing Race] that the yield is hardly ever used effectively. (laughing) It got out Dani and Danielle [during The Amazing Race's ninth season], but it's rare that it actually works the way that it could. For me, I'm so competitive as it is, it really just pissed me off more. I wanted so badly just to beat Danny and Ozwald at that point. Danielle: Yeah... Eric: Like, I was after them. They were No. 1 on my list.
Reality TV World: When you were marked for elimination following the tenth leg were you confident you'd be able to overcome the penalty?
Danielle: We just figured if we run the leg really fast, at least we'd have the opportunity to come in ahead of a few teams. But you never know what's going to happen. We were lucky Danny and Ozzy got lost, or else we would have been screwed. Eric: You know as it comes down to it, the way it plays out if you look back, we wouldn't have been in any trouble. But you never know. Just at the time, we were really, really stressing it a lot and it was not a situation that you want to be in. It was just a horrible feeling that you know you have to get there and wait. I mean if you watch it, I was just pacing back and forth... I was going nuts.
Eric: The first time we got Yielded... it wasn't expected at all. Danielle: Rather it was a waste for [Dustin and Kandice] because it was like the beginning of the leg... Eric: Danielle was more upset than I was. I wasn't even mad, I was just like, "Whatever." I was joking around and stuff, but it's part of the race. I know it's there to be used. I'm not like mad at them for using it unless they actively tell me they're not going to use it and they do so.
Reality TV World: What was your relationship with Dustin and Kandice like before and after the Yield?
Eric: The queens I think [out] of most teams kept to themselves a lot. They really were just focused so much on the race. They didn't interact with the other teams. Like, we would talk to a lot of the other teams during downtime, and they would kind of just stick to themselves. They can put books on their heads and walk around with good posture and do stuff like that (laughing with Danielle). I'm not into that kind of thing...
Reality TV World: Eric, is a "dirty pirate hooker" a hooker for pirates or a hooker that's also a pirate?
Eric: A "dirty pirate hooker," it's actually just a quote from Anchorman, the Will Ferrell movie. I was not implying that [Dustin and Kandice] did not wash themselves; got paid to have sex with anybody; were actively looted and plundered on the open seas. It was just a simple saying... I'm not sure what happened with that.
Reality TV World: Danielle why did Eric make you do all the Roadblocks that you commented seemed to be designed for guys?
Danielle (laughing): Because he thinks I'm a guy. My name's Daniel not Danielle... he's not sure. The thing is we really don't know what these Roadblocks are -- we just read like a really quick little sentence and we have to just pick who's going to do it. You don't exactly... Eric: You have to do an equal amount... Danielle: You have to do equal amounts. So I mean we really didn't know what they were going to be. I mean if I was going to be able to finish a Roadblock, believe me I would have done it. Eric: In my defense, for example, in the letter opening task [the fourth leg's Roadblock], she was like, "I don't want to do a Roadblock today." Because we have to like put on our microphones, and like plastic if we knew it was going to be a water task and Danielle didn't want to do it. And when she saw the rats [for the fifth leg's Roadblock], she was like, "I'm not doing the rats." And then the [Macau] tower jump -- we were going to make her do that too -- but she didn't want to... she's afraid of heights. So I mean, she acts like I'm choosing these for her... She's actively declining to do Roadblocks if it's something she doesn't want to do.
Reality TV World: What was the feeling when your flight was delayed in Kilimanjaro and you were stuck in an airport with Joe Baldassare and Bill Bartek ?
Eric (sighs): Honestly? Those were the two people I did not want to be stuck with for like the whole race... honestly. Anybody else would have been better... Danielle: Oh I know. They were so annoying... Eric: We were actually making up ground. We were still behind teams, but we weren't that behind. We were coming back again. So it was just very frustrating for us that we had just made-up some ground from the last leg and then we're back behind again.
Reality TV World: Eric you commented at the beginning of the eighth leg that Danielle wasn't as focused as she should be. Why did you think that and do you think it was affecting your race?
Eric: I think Danielle... she's a girly-girl. She's a strong girly-girl, but she's a New York girl who likes to shop, eat sushi, pamper herself... Danielle (laughing): Sushi? Eric: The thing was, I felt like she was not looking at it like it was a competition. She was just more like, "Oh..." Danielle: I was not! Eric (as Danielle): "I want a cappuccino..." Danielle: One day I got coffee and that's all they talk about. Jesus! Eric: You know what? The thing is I'm eating like 5-day-old sandwiches made with God knows what, she's complaining because she doesn't want to eat an apple because it's not going to fill her up. You know how much you want to choke somebody saying that to you? Danielle: If you loved me, you wouldn't want to choke me. You'd want to just let me get my coffee and that would be the end of it. Eric: That's not the end of it. Danielle (fake crying): If you loved me that's what you would do!
Reality TV World: Eric did you purposely eat your sausage more slowly during the "Eat it Up" Detour task because you knew Joe and Bill -- your "Intersection" partners -- were marked for elimination?
Eric: Well I'm actually pretty good at eating things generally. But Danielle and I talked about it. We wanted the Guidos to go away. When we got to the task and [Charla and Mirna and Dustin and Kandice] were already there [working as a team], we could've eaten faster. At that point, it was more of a strategic move to slow the pace down for ourselves. We knew we had a half-an-hour cushion with the Guidos, we were happy to be with them. Danielle: Yes. Eric: We wanted them gone. So I think we'll pretty much take credit for that leg for helping to get them out. We could have done a better job. If it had been a real situation, and they were ahead of us, we could have done a lot better.
Reality TV World: What was going through your minds when you got pulled off the flight in Johannesburg during the sixth leg?
Danielle: I wanted to kill somebody. It was one of those things that we were kind of having a bad feeling about. Everything was very unorganized in those airports, so it was like made-up lists of who was confirmed, who was not... It was ridiculous. Eric: We knew the flight was overbooked... Danielle: It was a mess. Eric: I had a really bad feeling, I said, "I don't think this is..." Danielle: He had a bad feeling. Eric: ... It was one of those situations where I could see it happening. When it happened, I guess we could have said, "We have tickets. We're staying." But I didn't want to go to jail in a foreign country over an argument. I mean Danielle was more upset. I was really upset. I tried to bribe people. Once we were off, she was freaking out and I was just like, "Okay. Let's figure it out from here. Let's go from here." I mean you can't dwell on things that go wrong. You have to just push forward.
Reality TV World: During the fifth leg, Eric you said you liked making fun of the Guidos. Why was that?
Eric: The Guidos, honestly were just... bless them they've got a loving relationship -- but to me, and my experience with them -- are just very odd individuals. They take everything ultra-serious... Everything is something that's a conspiracy against them. They're just very... Danielle: They're very high-strung. Eric: They're extremely, extremely high-strung. And it's hilarious to me because we weren't even actually trying to pass. I [told our cab driver], "Don't pass! Don't pass!" But he doesn't speak English, so he was like, "Pass! Pass!" and he tried to speed up and I was like, "No! No!" Just watching Bill, his reaction [as we passed him], like his whole body turning... it was hilarious to us. Danielle: It was funny... Eric: I mean as far as the Guidos, we already had a pretty bad relationship because they stood in-front of my car... You know, they just weren't our favorite people. Danielle: No... Eric: If I know I'm under your skin in a situation, I'm going to keep digging at it. It's going to make you make mistakes, and that's what I try to do.
Reality TV World: How did you feel when Rob and Amber Mariano were eliminated at the end of the fourth leg?
Eric: I think all the teams were pretty excited Rob and Amber were eliminated. Danielle: We were pretty shocked. Eric: I mean, we were excited but we were also shocked. They had gotten three first [place finishes] in a row... but all racers know it takes one mistake and you're gone. And that's what [Rob and Amber] did. They chose the wrong Detour [during the fourth leg], and didn't get it done as quickly as they wanted to.
Reality TV World: Danielle why did you decide to work with Amber during the third leg's Roadblock challenge at the fishery?
Danielle (after recalling the situation with Eric): Yeah it was out of circumstance. I mean, it's weird because it's not that much a game where your actually making alliances. It's not like Survivor. Eric: You don't make alliances with Rob and Amber... Danielle: Especially Rob and Amber.
Reality TV World: Eric, when we talked to Joe and Bill as well as Ozwald and Danny, they made some comments that they thought you might be homophobic. I wanted to give you a chance to respond to that.
Eric: Joe and Bill, I don't care that they're gay. To them it's a bigger deal because I guess they have to deal with some stuff in their relationship, like throughout, you know? I don't know what it's like to be a gay male 20 years ago... I have no idea. But the problem is everything you say to them, they take it as me saying it because they're gay. Me calling them freaks has nothing to do with sexuality, it's because they're freaks. They freak-out about everything. Their personality... you can call a man a nervous-Nelly, it just means everything that happens they're just like, "Oh my God what's happening! Oh no! Oh no!" I called them queens. They are queens. They're older males, who are gay... Danielle: They're gay and act like women. Eric: I live in South Florida. I'm a waiter. I have plenty of gay friends. And you know what? They call themselves queens. Danny and Oswald, I treated those guys as well as I could treat anybody. They were my friends. I never said anything about them being gay... I don't care if you're gay. It's a personality thing. Joe and Bill, I didn't like their personalities. It has nothing to do with them being gay, it's a simple as that. If I don't like you, I don't like you. I don't care if you're straight, gay, blue or purple... it doesn't matter to me. I really feel like that they just want a reason, they want something to say, and to me it's actually -- especially for Danny and Ozwald to say it -- because I never treated them poorly. Never. For them to act that way, for me it shows a lot about their character then even Yielding us.
Reality TV World: Were you surprised to be considered All-Stars considering you never raced together in the first place? How did that all unfold?
Eric: You know I think what it is was, I felt like an All-Star contender with Jeremy as a team. I felt like we were probably one of the most dominant teams in The Amazing Race history. And I knew they wouldn't have us as an alpha-male team because they didn't want an alpha-male team on the [All-Stars] race because they didn't want to risk having first places or second places throughout, which we did our first season... Danielle: Right. Eric: So they didn't ask Jeremy and I to do it, they asked Danielle and I to do it because we met on the race and were dating. And so I assume that's why they did it. But you know I felt like I definitely earned my spot, and you know obviously Danielle didn't do as well [during The Amazing Race's ninth season, when she finished sixth with her partner as opposed to Eric finishing second with his], but you know she's a strong girl and you know the creators of the show knew us and knew our relationship and obviously thought we could bring something to the table. And you know how it is... we won.
Reality TV World: Could you briefly describe how you two formed a romantic relationship while competing against one another in Season 9?
Eric: Yeah, ummm.... Danielle: He... (laughing) When me and Dani were actually just auditioning [for The Amazing Race 9], we actually saw Jeremy and Eric in California for the audition and we were like, a little bit flirty. So we knew something was going to happen, of course, on the show because we did a lot of flirting. So we went on the show, and they're just like tards, those two boys... Eric: Yeah, we're kind of perverted. Danielle: They're very perverted. But you know what? Me and my friend Danielle have really good senses of humor as well, and we don't take anything like that personally... So we had a really good time with Jeremy and Eric -- even though we didn't last as long as them -- the amount of time we did spend on the race, it was always fun because on our downtime we were flirting and all that kind of stuff. But the truth of the matter is Eric liked me so much he called me as soon as he got home, so... Eric: We started talking on the phone... Danielle: A lot! Eric: ... a lot, and we started taking some trips back and forth. I actually moved up to New York this [past] summer to try-out how it would be. And you know, actually, we did pretty well but it was just too much too soon. We tried to do long-distance and we went on [All-Stars] to kind of see, you know, how our relationship would hold up, if we wanted to look into moving to either place again. Since then, Danielle and I have actually broken up...
Reality TV World: So you're not together anymore...
Danielle: Yeah... Eric: It was after the race. I mean we're still cool, we're good friends, it's just as far as a relationship goes, it's not in the cards for either of us.
Reality TV World: Who did you consider your biggest competition and why?
Danielle: We didn't really think of anybody as big competition because... Eric: Danielle was afraid of Rob and Amber. You know, [Uchenna and Joyce Agu] had already won [The Amazing Race 7]... you know, they're great people. I mean every team -- [Teri and Ian Pollack] got second [on The Amazing Race's third season] -- you can't count anybody out. It's so much stuff mixed in, luck, skill, you know all these things. We know that you're running against the course. I mean you hear that a lot. You're not racing against other teams, you're racing against the course. You are. If you run a flawless leg, you're not gonad go home. As long as you get the flight that everyone's getting that's running the leg, you're not going home. It's impossible.
Reality TV World: How are things going in your life currently and how are you going to spend the $1 million?
Danielle: Things are going well. We're still going to be at our jobs for a little while because you don't want to just rely on this money because then it will be gone. So we're definitely just going to go on with our lives and buy ourselves some nice things, go on a few nice vacations... but nothing crazy. Eric: Things are going well for me. I'm in a new relationship... just working, hanging out. Just enjoying this, you know? I'm happy to have my friends and family around for it and I just want to see how the next couple of months go. Maybe try-out some other options with television things if possible. If not, I'll just live under a bridge at the beach with my money in a pillowcase.
Check back with Reality TV World on Tuesday and Wednesday for interviews with The Amazing Race: All-Stars second-place finishers Dustin Seltzer and Kandice Pelletier, as well as third-place finishers Charla Baklayan Faddoul and Mirna Hindoyan.