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Velorio - Si TV’s Jammin’ Battle of the Bands — Photo by Alexomega Photography

Oh, reality television. We love to hate you and we hate to love you. No matter which way you phrase it, the drama, the over-the-top challenges, and the heated competitions keep us glued to our TVs several nights a week, mainly because we’re secretly hoping for a cat fight. And it’s even harder to pull our eyes from the TV set when someone from Bakersfield is in the running.

The outcome doesn’t matter (though the amount of contestant drama certainly does)—these local reality TV survivors experienced the 15 minutes of fame we all crave...and lived to tell the tale.

Velorio ~ Si TV’s Jammin’ Battle of the Bands

Velorio is a name you will hear around town in local venues where loyal fans flock to hear latin-infused rock. The Bakersfield band was a fan favorite when they appeared on the first season of Si TV’s Jammin’ Battle of the Bands in 2008.

The show began with an online contest in which bands would generate a fan base for the show and the top 15 moved on from there. The next round included a video submission and Velorio was then picked in the top six to come to L.A. and be a part of the show. The top six bands were given a per diem and Si TV “really gave us the star treatment I guess you could say,” said Eric Powers of Velorio.

Each day was packed with an itinerary of rehearsals and performances. In the next rounds the bands battled in head-to-head competitions. Velorio made it to the top four, and then the top two.

“It was the first time we’d ever done anything with the media, it was definitely a learning experience for everybody,” said Powers, adding, “Interviewing was really kind of stressful for everybody at first, then we let loose and hammed it up a little bit.

“It seemed pretty big budget when we were down there, but when the final product came out, we were like, ‘It’s no American Idol,’ ” joked Powers.

Three years later, Velorio just wrapped up a nation-wide tour, has been working in the studio, and is releasing a new album, as well as regularly rocking the socks off their many local fans.

Powers feels that the real benefit of being on the show was the experience they gained as a band working in a professional environment. “For us it was like a new echelon of band,” he explained. Although they accumulated a lot of new fans, for Velorio, the experience trumps the exposure.

Sheila Heninger ~ Cupcake Wars

Sheila Heninger - Cupcake Wars

At Frosting, Ink locals can find specialty treats and killer cupcakes. Sheila Heninger put those frosted dreams to the test when she accepted the invitation from Food Network to compete on a season two episode of its hit show Cupcake Wars.

The whole episode was filmed in one day and Heninger had to prepare several different cupcakes. The first round, she was given three mystery ingredients and had to include them all in one cupcake. The result was a drunken blueberry cupcake that got her to the next round where she was able to make three cupcakes of whatever flavors she liked, decorated in the episode’s “weddings” theme.

Heninger made two cupcakes she knew well and tried a third in a new recipe she had never made before. The second round proved to be her downfall as she struggled with a new cupcake recipe.

Although they had 40 minutes to prepare the cupcakes Heninger said, “it felt like two.”

Heninger, who was a fan of the show before said, “If it looks easy, it’s not. It’s really really hard; your adrenaline is just going.

“We were really bummed that we didn’t take home the $10,000 prize,” said Heninger who appeared on the show with her daughter.

When the episode aired, Frosting, Ink held a premier at Sandrini’s. Customers, family, and friends came to support Heninger.

As for the final product? “I thought they did a really good job, it was edited really nice for me,” she said.

Overall it was a positive experience for Heninger who explained that in trying to overcome the judges critique, she’s learned to be true to herself. She also has realized that a loss doesn’t mean people don’t come in from all over the state to try the cupcakes from Cupcake Wars.

Ruth May ~ Losing It With Jillian

Ruth May - Losing It With Jillian - Photo courtesy Ruth May

In 2010, the May family was cast for the very first episode of Biggest Loser trainer, Jillian Michaels’ own weight loss show.

Michaels is known for her extreme approach and she took May and her three children to the BC stadium for their first and most difficult workout.

“I think she was trying to find our limits,” said May.

Before the show, May set a goal. “I had told myself I was going to do everything she asked me to,” she said, “I never once told her no.”

All of the filming with Michaels was done in one week and even in that short period of time, May found that Michaels’ in-your-face tactics were hard to deal with. “She does it because she really cares,” explained May, “but people deserve more respect.”

After Michaels left, the May family was put on a strict diet and exercise plan to follow until the cameras returned three months later for the final results. As a longtime nurse, May knew that her extreme regimen was not a sustainable plan for the long term. “The only thing I had time for was work, the gym, and sleep,” she said.

Despite May’s disappointment with the weight loss strategy, a major highlight for her was meeting chef Curtis Stone. The hunky celebrity chef met May out at Murray Family Farms where he showed her about shopping local and then came to her house to cook with the May family.

Since the episode wrapped, May still struggles with weight, but she has been able to evaluate the way she was eating and the way she cooks.

When the show aired May saw how sensationalized the show was, but she knows it was all for good TV. “I can joke about it. I am an upbeat person and it hasn’t changed how I look at life.”

Amy Adams ~ American Idol

Amy Adams - American Idol- Photo courtesy  Amy Adams

Amy Adams was America’s pink-haired sweetheart and Bakersfield’s own contestant on American Idol in 2004. In her final audition for the show she showed the celeb judges her big personality and even had Simon smiling.

When the real show began, Adams recently shared, it was non-stop work and the contestants were together all the time. “We were always going, all the time,” she said.

As for performing in front of 30 million viewers each week, Adams explained, “You can’t really imagine 30 million people so I thought, ‘I’m singing to the room here and that’s it.’ ”

Adams went on to the final 10 and was voted off on the fourth week of the show. On heading home Adams said, “It was refreshing. I was emotionally exhausted. I went there to make it to the top ten, to make it on the tour.”

She accomplished her Idol goals and has been reaching even more since. Adams spent a year on a national tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat which came to an end when she had a vocal hemorrhage.

In 2009 Adams co-founded the Garden Pathways Singing Camp to offer local children an opportunity to be mentored through the arts and has continued the program for the last three years. The summer intensives are a way for Adams to use her talent to bring something to the community she loves so much. “I am a Bakersfield girl through and through,” she said.

Adams will be releasing her first album this December. She has also been singing in Vegas for the past four months with a long-term contract for Cirque de Soleil’s La Reve, the water spectacular.

So how does Adams do it all? “With the power of positive thinking I always get success,” she said.

Sundai Love ~ America’s Next Top Model

Sundai Love - America’s Next Top Model - Photos provided by Sundai Love

Sundai Love is not your average model. She isn’t a human sky-scraper, and the girl can act. She was Bakersfield’s own contestant on the 13th cycle of a show you might have heard of: America’s Next Top Model.

She had the unusual experience of living in the house provided by the show with the other contestants.

“It wasn’t as big as it seemed, and we were hardly ever home,” Love said.

As for the pace of the show, she said, “everything went by really fast, we never had a day off.” Each episode was filmed over the course of a week. The girls would have lessons, compete in challenges, and then film the judges panel at the end of the week where a five-minute elimination was actually an all-day process.

Love made it all the way to the top five models, and she was actually in every single episode except for the finale. Although she didn’t take home the top prize, the show was a valuable experience. “Getting that first foot in the door is the hardest part,” said Love. And the show afforded her that opportunity.

Today, Love has been working hard as a full-time model and actress and also finishing her degrees in business and political science and CSUB. “I said if I could do both full-time, I will do it,” she said of her full schedule.

Although she is extremely busy, she has landed an exciting campaign as the new face of Coca Cola, and the face of both Jordana and Milani Cosmetics. You can also catch her in action as a coach on the MTV series Made. She is still modeling, but steering clear of the runway while she pursues her dream of an acting career. “It’s twenty times harder than modeling,” laughed Love.

candles©istockphoto.com/pixelfit/gigishots

Article appeared in our 28-5 Issue - December 2011