Reality TV royalty: Virginia contestants and their success stories

Reality TV Royalty: Virginia Contestants And Their Success Stories

Photo courtesy of Korey Gandy via Instagram.

By Aila Boyd

May 13, 2024

Reality TV has become a staple of modern entertainment, offering viewers a glimpse into the lives and experiences of real people facing extraordinary challenges. Virginia, with its diverse population and rich culture, has been a notable source of talented individuals who’ve made their mark on reality shows.

Here’s a roundup of some standout contestants and their journeys.

Mai Whelan

Fairfax resident Mai Whelan won the Netflix competition series “Squid Game: The Challenge,” which is based on the series “Squid Game,” in 2023. Contestants experienced similar challenges as the characters in the series. By being the winner out of 456 contestants, Whelan, an immigration adjudicator and U.S. Navy veteran, secured a $4.56 million prize.

According to Today, she splurged a little following the show, including purchasing a new haircut, black Ralph Lauren dress, and Jimmy Choo shoes. She also said she plans to look into a retirement home and donate to charities.

Reality TV Royalty: Virginia Contestants And Their Success Stories

Photo courtesy of Mei Mei via Instagram.

Huntley

Huntley, a Fredericksburg native, won Season 24 of the NBC singing competition “The Voice” in 2023. “As soon as I got my name called, I was in shock,” he told NBC4. “You know, [with] just how many no’s I’ve gotten in my life, to get one ‘yes’ was insane.”

While on the show, his mentor was Niall Horan. His winnings included $100,000 and a record deal with Universal Music Group. After his win, he filmed the music video for his single “Holdin’ On” in Fredericksburg.

Reality TV royalty: Virginia contestants and their success stories

Jordan Jonas

Jordan Jonas, a Lynchburg resident, won season six of the History Channel competition show “Alone” in 2019. The show had contestants rough it alone in the wilderness, surviving cold conditions and dangerous wildlife.

“It’s fun for me, hopefully it has been inspirational and educational on some level for you too! I look forward to sharing more in the future,” WSET reported Jonas as saying at the time. As the winner, the wilderness living and self-reliance expert took home $500,000.

Reality TV Royalty: Virginia Contestants And Their Success Stories

Photo courtesy of Jordan Jones.

Susie Evans

Virginia Beach native Susie Evans is perhaps most widely known by fans of the ABC dating reality show “The Bachelor.” She was the winner of Season 26 in 2022. Others may know her from her reign as Miss Virginia, as well as her time competing in Miss USA 2020.

Prior to her time on the show, she worked as a photographer and videographer, in addition to restaurant work. She has since split from the “Bachelor,” Clayton Echard. She describes her childhood in Virginia as having “hit the jackpot.”

Reality TV Royalty: Virginia Contestants And Their Success Stories

Photo courtesy of Susie Evans.

Korey Gandy

Virginia Beach native Korey Gandy rose to fame in 2021 when he appeared on the CBS dating game show “Love Island.” A rental car agent at the time of his appearance on the show, he took home $100,000 by winning season three with Olivia Kaiser. He described his time on the show as “literally the best experience of my life.” The two went their separate ways later that year.

Elliot Capella

Richmond resident Elliot Capella was one of the winners of the inaugural season of “Survive the Raft” on Discovery Channel in 2023. Contestants set sail for a 21-day trip to test whether they could survive the conditions. He was able to split $223,000 with the fellow winners. He was also named the cast’s “favorite player.” As part of his appearance on the show, the cloud computing worker wanted to serve as an inspiration for other transgender individuals.

“I really did the show because I’m transgender. As a child, I didn’t really have any role models and I know that if I had had someone like me on television to look up to or watch — it would have meant the world to me. So that was really a big motivator for me,” he told WTVR.

Reality TV Royalty: Virginia Contestants And Their Success Stories

Photo courtesy of Elliot Capella via Instagram.

Chef T

Although Torrece Gregoire, also known as Chef T, is a native of the islands of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, she now calls the commonwealth home. The chef is best known for her two appearances on Fox’s “Hell’s Kitchen.” She was the runner-up on season 14 of the cooking competition in 2015. She later made an “all-stars” appearance on Season 18. Food Network’s “Big Restaurant Bet” has also featured her.

Her residency in Virginia was largely by accident. After visiting a friend in Pulaski County, she was drawn in by the rolling hills. She’s subsequently been titled the “Official Chef of Pulaski,” served as a consultant for The Black Hen and Bar Blue and Bull and Bones Brewhaus in Blacksburg, and worked as the executive chef at Radford University.

WVTF reported in September 2023 that she had opened a restaurant, Union 41, in Bristol, noting that she was “drawn to the mixture of city and country.” The restaurant celebrates the African diaspora’s rich flavors while incorporating Appalachian seasonal ingredients and her professional flair.

Reality TV Royalty: Virginia Contestants And Their Success Stories

Photo courtesy of Union 41 Bristol via Facebook.

This article first appeared on Good Info News Wire and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.Reality TV royalty: Virginia contestants and their success storiesReality TV royalty: Virginia contestants and their success stories

  • Aila Boyd

    Aila Boyd is a Virginia-based educator and journalist. She received her MFA in writing from Lindenwood University.

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