I am often asked how I ended up on Extreme Weight Loss. How did they choose you? I would like to think it’s obvious, that my southern charm won them over. But, it took a lot more than that to make the final cut. As the casting process begins for Season Six of EWL, I have received a lot of questions from those applying for the casting process. “How can I stand out in a casting call with hundreds of others? What should I expect from an open casting call?”
Here are my tips, and some insight, into how I was selected for the show:
-Make a great first impression. I am big believer in putting your best foot forward, always. I am not one to go to Wal-Mart in pajama pants, or even leave the house without at least giving a little effort to looking presentable, so I certainly gave some thought and pulled myself together for the casting call. You don’t have to dress up, but dress neatly. I looked at the casting call as a job interview, because it is. They are making a decision to spend a year, two hours of primetime television, and a million dollar budget on you. Look like you’re worth it. I wore jeans (Lane Bryant, what else?!) and a blazer (JC Penney), nice jewelry, nice shoes. I know how hard dressing well at a size 24 is, but there are options out there. Make the effort. Get up early, fix your hair, put that make up on, and go into that casting room feeling confident in yourself.
- Get there early. They suggest not lining up more than 2 hours before the start time. I got there exactly two hours early and I was number 15 in line. And as 10am approached, the line had grown longer and longer. Hundreds of people filling in behind me. Bring a chair, settle in, and make the best of it. There will be a lot of nervous chatter. Some people will tell you their life stories; others will be stand offish- sizing up the “competition”. I brought a book, but it was hard to focus on reading and I ended up talking to the people around me. One guy brought donuts and passed them around. I did not take one, as much as I wanted to. I wondered if they planted him and were watching us. They weren’t. He was just a dude with donuts.
- What should I expect from the casting call? There are two casting directors who will be talking to you. There will be Production Assistants counting you off into groups before you go in. They will give you a short application to fill out and give you a run down on what to expect. Each group (I think ours was 10 people) is taken in to see the casting directors. We all sat around a table and were given about 2 minutes each to share our stories. (I’ll expand on this in just a minute). Each group takes about 30 minutes or so once they are settled in. This is where arriving early pays off. If you are in group 15, think about how long that wait is going to be. Once you share your story, they may ask a follow up question or two, and then that is it. It moves very quickly. If they are interested in you, you will get a call that evening. If not, you just don’t hear from them. It’s a lot like waiting for that call for a second date. You’re really hoping the phone will ring and they want to see you again. I have never been happier to see an “unknown number” call coming in. They called around 3pm and gave me the rundown on what to expect next.
- Know your story. When you are called in, and it’s your turn to share, be prepared! You don’t have time to ramble; you need to make the points that matter. They are looking at each episode as a story. What story are you there to tell? Mine was that I was a wife and mother who had put family first and let myself fall to the back burner. I was a gymnast and cheerleader who was ready to feel athletic again. I told them how my daughters were grown and this was the time Scott and I had been looking forward to, and I was not enjoying life because of my weight. I brought one of my high school cheer uniforms to show them how small I was then. I practiced what I was going to say. It’s about an hour and half drive from my house to Oklahoma City where the casting call was held. I spent a lot of the drive talking out loud to myself, passing cars, looking like a crazy person. But, it was worth it. I timed myself, edited things that were not important, and made sure that I knew what I wanted to communicate to them. Don’t say how desperate you are to lose weight, everyone is. Tell them WHY you are desperate to lose weight, WHY you are ready to change. Are you worried you won’t see your kids grow up? Are you ready to date and feel like you won’t find someone because of your weight? Tell them those things.
- Bring a good, clear current photo. They will collect your photo and attach it to your application. Don’t bring an old photo. They will use that photo as a reference throughout the casting process, so make it a decent one. You don’t have to go all out, but make sure it’s a good clear shot of you. I also brought photos of my family, since they played a big role in why I wanted to do the show. I brought photos of when I was thin, so they could see how small I had been. If you were an athlete in the past, bring pictures from that time. Bring pictures that relate to the story you are telling. They may take them all, or they may only take your “headshot”. Have a good close up, and a good full body picture. If you’re like me, I didn’t have any good full body ones, because I tended to hide my body in pictures. I just had my husband, Scott, take a couple the day before the casting call and then printed them at Walgreens.
- Be yourself and have fun. I went to the casting call hopeful, but knowing that the odds are slim on being chosen. If I didn’t get a call back, I would just chalk it up to being an interesting experience. I decided to just make the most of the day. Have fun with it. Don’t get so nervous that you fail to enjoy the experience and can’t be yourself when you’re in with the casting directors. If you’re funny, let that show. If you’re a crier (like me) it’s ok to tear up when you’re sharing your story. I know it’s very emotional for a lot of us. You won’t be the only one to cry. Just don’t cry so much you can’t talk. I talked to the people around me, I complimented a girl on her shirt, and after my show aired she sent me a message and said she remembered me saying something to her. Don’t get so caught up in the big picture that you can’t enjoy the ride.
- Let this be the beginning of your journey to change. Out of the thousands who apply, only 16 were chosen for our season. When I left the casting call, I drove through McDonald’s and got a large diet coke. As I drank it on my drive home, I realized that if I told them I was ready to change, I really better be ready to change. And I knew that I couldn’t go back to being who I was before. That was the last diet coke I had. I haven’t had one since April 20, 2013. I began to make changes that very day. As the weeks passed during the casting process, I was working out, making changes to my diet and had already changed my mindset that this was it. I was going to get healthy whether they chose me or not.
The casting call is just the beginning. After my callback, I went back for a longer interview the next day. It snowballed from there. Home videos, mountains of paperwork, doctor visits, blood work, background checks, more paperwork, photos, you name it, they wanted it from me. But more than the logistics, the paper, the blood work, the number on the scale, it was about changing me. Just going to the casting call allowed (forced) me to have conversations with Scott for the first time about how unhappy my weight was making me. The casting process and the show are not for the faint of heart. You must be willing to open up to strangers about your deep insecurities, the one issue that has been a burden for so long. It was good for me. I really did open me up to change. It opened me up to sharing things I had bottled up for so long.
I am so glad I was selected. Losing the weight and getting healthy has been life changing for me, my marriage, and my family. I could never have known when I went to that casting call what the next year would bring, but I am so glad I went. If you’re going to a casting call and need to lose half you body weight, or if you are just stuck and can’t lose the 30 pounds you been working on for years, think about your story. What is your reason why? Why are you ready to change? Use that to motivate yourself, TV show or not, begin changing now. Let it be a catalyst to a better you!