INTERVIEW: Marianna and Julia Ruiz talk about 'The Amazing Race'
By Christopher Rocchio, 11/19/2007
Marianna and Julia Ruiz stopped playing the game for only a moment.
But that brief mental lapse ended up costing the Los Angeles-based sisters, as they became the third team eliminated from The Amazing Race's twelfth season during last night's broadcast of the CBS reality series.
On Monday, Marianna, a 25-year-old art gallery manager, and her older sister Julia, a 26-year-old office production assistant, talked to Reality TV World about why a misunderstanding with one of the others teams ruined a potential alliance; how their maps mysteriously vanished between legs; what stopped their donkey from moving and their camel from giving milk; and how a friendly gesture directly led to their ouster.
Reality TV World: How were you cast forThe Amazing Race 12? Was it your first time applying for the show?
Julia: It was our first time applying for the show, and we've always kind of wanted to do it and talked about doing it. I've even downloaded the application [before but we weren't old enough yet]... so this was our first time actually since we've been old enough to compete... Like we were aware they were casting, and [so] we got a submission together.
Julia: Yeah. I mean who in the heck watches that show and doesn't want to do it? Like the minute you watch even the first five minutes, you're like, "Oh my God I'd do that so much better because that person doesn't even know what they're [doing]!" Yeah, you say that. We've always just wanted to do it because we're big fans of the show. A trip around the world for $1 million?! What more do you need to understand.
Reality TV World: How did you prepare yourselves both physically and mentally for the competition?
Marianna: Well I think physically, we're both pretty in shape. Or so we thought we were (laughing). But I think we would just run around the block every now and then, and just really watch what we were eating. Mentally, it's just a matter of talking to each other and dissecting. Because we've seen past shows -- and you see people freak out -- and everybody just starts getting on each other's nerves, so we really worked at... I really started focusing on not fighting so much and just really communicating with each other. Then really just trying to explain to each other what we're going through, what we need of the other person, and everything like that. It's a really big stress factor, and you've got to deal well under pressure. That's pretty big. You can't really lose it. So communication is pretty huge. If somebody's pissing you off, you've got to let them know exactly what they're doing, how it's making you feel and what they can do to stop it. Because if not -- if you're just fighting and bickering the whole time -- then that's going to be your demise. So you've got to really communicate well with each other. That was really big preparation for us.
Reality TV World: Had either of you previously done a lot of international traveling? Do you know any foreign languages?
Julia: We both speak Spanish fluently. I mean I lived in Jamaica -- which is a third-world country -- but I didn't live where like people from the States go on vacation. I lived pretty much, like rural, deserted Jamaica. I had red dirt, you know? We've been to a lot of places together, my sister and I have been to the Bahamas, we've been to Spain, we've been to London... Marianna: After I graduated from college, I went for about four months and I traveled around Europe with one of my best friends. We went basically everywhere. I had been to Amsterdam before. I had never been to Ireland before, but I went to about eight or nine different countries, and spent a couple days or two weeks at most of them.
Reality TV World: What were some of your first impressions on your fellow racers? How did they react to meeting you?
Marianna: The first impressions of your fellow racers... You know, when you immediately see somebody in a competition -- whatever it may be, whether you're playing a soccer game or whatever it is -- you immediately size-up your competition based on they look. In this case, we weren't allowed to talk to anybody, we weren't allowed to get to know anybody until they said, "Go!" So based upon first looks, you start sizing people up to who's going to be able to handle what. The physical challenges, the cultural challenges that you face when you go to these foreign countries. You start breaking people down. You immediately think you're going to be able to outrun the older people. You immediately think you're going to be able to relate better to the people that look like... you know, hot-pink hair [a reference to "Dating Goths" Kynt Cothron and Vyxsin Fiala]. Let's say we go to India, they're never going to be able to relate to this culture because they're going to think whatever. You just start breaking people down like that and definitely underestimate and overestimate a lot of people.
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Reality TV World: Were there any teams you initially butted heads with? Any teams that you got along with really well?
Julia: We really didn't get along with ["Father/Daughter" team Ronald and Christina Hsu] from the get go. Actually, when we met them in the [Los Angeles] airport, we found out we speak Spanish, they speak Chinese. I was like, "Let's form an alliance. I'll help you out if we go to a Latin American country, you help us out if we're going to go anywhere where they speak Mandarin." So we kind of -- I tried to form somewhat of an alliance -- but the minute we got to Ireland, we got into a fight with Ron because he didn't believe we were telling the truth that we never exchanged dollars for euros. We really never did. I don't know why, looking back now (laughing)... Marianna: I don't know... who knows? Julia: Who knows? Anyway, we didn't even think about it really. So we never exchanged dollars for euros in the airport or at a bank. We actually did it by our own calculations through our cab drivers. We actually got our cab drivers to exchange the money for us, and exchange us out money for their fare and to buy the ferry ticket [in Ireland. [Ronald and Christina] thought we were lying about that. You know, we're going to come up with this whole elaborate story just to let them know that we saved money (laughing). So yeah, that was an issue. They somehow bad-mouthed us so much to everybody, that we automatically had enemies with the other teams.
Reality TV World: You just mentioned an attempted alliance with Ronald and Christina. Did you form any alliances with any of the other teams?
Julia: The blondes ["Friends" Shana Wall and Jennifer McCall]... They were the only other girl-team our age and stuff... Marianna: They were a little [like outcasts] as well, so we kind of just took to each other. We were both usually in the back of the pack, and nobody was really aligning with them either. So it was just like, "We mine as well." Not really though. We also kept at a safe distance. We aligned a little bit -- we helped out a little bit here and there -- but really it was just like we're still on the fence because this is a competition.
Reality TV World: It looked like you made a few wrong turns while navigating the course during the first leg, but other than that, it appeared to be smooth sailing. Was that the case?
Julia: Not at all...
Reality TV World: So it was harder than it looked?
Julia: We had a horrible time with the donkey. Pretty much, we were there the same amount of time that ["Dating Couple" Jennifer Parker and Nathan Hagstrom] and ["Best Friends" Ari Bonas and Staella Gianakakos] were there...
Reality TV World: So what was the big problem with the donkey? You just couldn't get it to move?
Julia: Yeah, the donkey just... We had this little stream flowing over from the rocks that the donkey had to cross, and for some reason our donkey was super-afraid of water.
Reality TV World: What approach did you take in eventually mobilizing your donkey?
Marianna: I basically shoved my hand up its ass, and it went running.
Reality TV World: That's a good strategy.
Marianna: Literally... I'm not kidding. To sit there and push, and push and push until it starts moving, and then you just kind of start having to hit its butt to keep it going (laughing)...
Reality TV World: You took a longer route to get to Shannon's airport at the beginning of the second leg, causing you to be the only team to take a later flight to Dublin. Where did you get the directions for that longer route?
Marianna: I don't know if that's something we can talk about... Julia: Well basically we had maps before the [first leg's] Pit Stop, then after the Pit Stop, we didn't have maps. Somehow, those maps disappeared...
Reality TV World: Okay, but you can't say how they disappeared?
Julia: Well, I mean whatever. It was a fault in production. Somebody confiscated our maps and our written directions, and they're not going to air that obviously. So we ended up at 3AM with no maps to get to Ireland airport! They show me saying, "I don't remember if this is the route [to the airport]," because I didn't photographically memorize the maps. They didn't really take the maps from the other teams, so we basically honestly went by photographic memory of how we got there (laughing). We took the route that we used to get to the harbor to take the ferry to get to Inis Mor... Marianna: I thought that we even made it back to that airport is unbelievable... Julia: That was so amazing to us! We stopped along the way -- finally -- and found out that there had been a quicker route, but it was already too late.
Reality TV World: Seeing as how you overcame quite the deficit just to finish the second leg without being eliminated, how confident were you heading into the third leg?
Julia: Oh super-confident. Even as the third leg started, we exchanged money on the plane so we were the first people out of the airport. Because we knew. We're like, "We're all on this flight. Like all the teams. So we've got to get a leg-up somehow." So we exchanged money on the airplane with somebody who had just come from the States, so we had just freshly exchanged our money and knew the exchange rate and everything -- and we didn't really care what the exchange rate was -- we just wanted to be the first ones off [the plane]. We were in first place for like the first time in the race! And then of course, we all have to sleep in the same place [and wait for the ticket counter to open at 6AM], so blah, blah, blah...
Reality TV World: Julia, what were the main problems you encountered in milking your camel?
Julia: The main issue was that there was no milk in my camel (laughing)...
Reality TV World: Okay, so the first camel you tried gave very little milk?
Julia: No. Not like gave "little milk." Like "no milk." I mean it gave like... Maybe I filled like a tiny, tiny portion of what I had to fill. But I mean until all the other racers got to get their milk, I was unable to switch camels. I mean my nomad -- my farmer -- was like, "There's no milk in here. You're just pissing off the camel." (laughing)... I was sort of dry-rubbing its nipples. The camel was like, "Are you not getting the point?"... Out of frustration, you can't leave it. So until we were able to switch, you've got try -- and try and try -- but it ends up frustrating the camel and making it kick the tiny bit of milk you might have had in your hands. It was crazy...
Reality TV World: How long did that Roadblock actually take?
Julia: I would say about four hours... They didn't show it, but that whole sandstorm that came through to the other [teams], came to us. It was insane, insane, insane intensity. It was like a wall of sand coming at us. It was rain, and then lightning, and...
Reality TV World: So I'm assuming that made the Roadblock even more difficult for you?
Julia: The camels would like scrunch up. They would go down to the ground to keep their body temperature high. So you couldn't even get them to stand up to milk them! It was pretty intense...
Reality TV World: So once you finished that Roadblock challenge, what was your reasoning in offering Lorena Segura help by suggesting she try to milk a nursing camel? Did you every consider that offering the advice could come back and bite you like it did?
Julia: At that point in the game, I'm going to say I really, really wasn't thinking about the game anymore. At that moment in time, it was really about taking care of another human being. Because one of the trees during the sandstorm where one of the camels had been tied up got struck by lightning, and I'm like, "You guys! For the sake of the game, it's really not that important!" So I honestly was telling her... After Ireland, we really started liking Lorena and [her partner Jason Widener] a lot because they took us in. So it was really more like... It's not about the race. Get the milk! It's not worth dying for the milk!!
Reality TV World: You just said Jason and Lorena took you in. What do you mean by that?
Julia: Well we stayed at an inn in Ireland, and Jason and Lorena had one of the rooms and we didn't have a room. So they offered us to stay with them.
Reality TV World: Was there a reason why you decided to move slowly with the camels while you were walking them on that path? Did you ever think of picking up the pace once Lorena and Jason caught up?
Marianna: Earlier... Julia: The clue said... Marianna: It said no fast movements, they get really freaked out. And I think Julia even asked the nomad if we could run with it, and he said no. Julia: I was like, "Can we run with the camels?" And he was like, "No, no, no. They're crazy." Marianna: You really have to think, these camels are being led literally by a ring through their nose. I don't want to yank on that thing, and the nose-ring goes flying through the camel's [nose]. That's disgusting! But also at the same time, you really want to respect these animals and especially because they're not like wild animals. These nomads that are with them obviously own those animals, and if they see you treating them badly, that's just like a huge disrespect. At the same time, yeah, we want to win. But at the same time I'm not trying to offend every single person in my path. You really try to respect these animals and just relax. Yeah we were in the back of the pack, but sometimes you don't really think about it like that... Julia: After we got the milk (laughing), it was such a victory that we were like [hums the theme music from Rocky]. We didn't even think about it. The [nomad] said, "No running," he was telling that to everyone. So of course once we saw them running, we're like, "Oh crap. Now it's pointless to keep walking."
Reality TV World: How hard was that "Learn It" or "Teach It" Detour? Learning five foreign words a piece would seem to be a pretty easy task as far as Detour challenges go. Did you guys try splitting the words between you like some of the other teams? About how long did the entire thing take?
Julia: Yeah, we split up the words and just kind of... And we also -- I don't know if you saw -- but I knew the first half of the word and she knew the second half. It was definitely like, "Let's just split it up and try to figure it out from there." We did alright. We did it quickly actually. We learned our words in about five or six minutes, and then we [recited them for the teacher] in like three to four minutes. So we were out of there pretty quickly.
Reality TV World: A couple of teams mentioned lack of sleep as a reason to pick "Teach It." How much sleep had you guys had before the Detour?
Marianna: You're sleep deprived. You haven't had anything to eat. You're basically... It's really intense. It's a really intense race. Even when you do sleep -- you're so in race-mode -- that you would wake-up with nightmares. It's like, "Oh! We've got to go!" You don't realize it's 2AM and you're sleeping on the ground under a mosquito net and you really don't have to be anywhere for another four hours. You're definitely, definitely sleep deprived.
Reality TV World: How far behind Lorena and Jason were you in reaching the third leg's Pit Stop?
Marianna: Just over a minute...
Reality TV World: Julia, during your post-elimination "Elimination Station" video segment on CBS.com, you said all the other teams hated you. You kind of touched upon this a little bit when discussing Ronald and Christina, but were there any other reasons why you made that comment?
Julia: So before [Marianna and I] even started racing, we did discuss a lot about what we thought about the other teams. I think that probably throughout that thing -- since the other teams hadn't gotten to know Marianna and I -- they look at us, and we look like two kind of tough girls. I guess to them it's like we were more even-keeled than a lot of the other teams. I mean like ["Newly Dating Couple" Rachel Rosales and TK Erwin]. TK's a big, athletic guy, but then Rachel's a skinny, petite, frail little girl. Obviously she's not, but you know what I mean?... We were a very even team and I feel like people got intimidated by that, and then when they actually saw us racing in Ireland at the airport and stuff, I think people were like, "Wow. They'll do anything." Then with Ron making up lies about us, it's like, "[Gasp!] They're scandalous! They'll do anything to get ahead in this competition!" In reality, we were running our own race...
[At this point, Marianna and Julia only had time for one more question]
Reality TV World: So what's next for you two?
Julia: Right now there's [the Writers Guild of America strike], but I'm finishing up a feature film. Writing a feature film... Marianna: I'm contemplating whether I should move to New York or stay in Los Angeles. Maybe to pursue some art galleries some art galleries in New York, or stay in Los Angeles and continue working in production. About The Author:Christopher Rocchio
Christopher Rocchio is an entertainment reporter for Reality TV World and has covered the reality TV genre for several years.