Siesta Key woman's trip to American Gladiators proves it: reality TV loves Floridians
With a nickname inspired by a Seinfeld episode (the one where Jerry called his girlfriend Mulva) and an unshakably sunny spirit, Siesta Key fitness trainer De Day was the last person who ever expected to pull on the spandex tights and knee pads to compete on NBC’s revived version of American Gladiators.
But a trip taken to help a client through an Orlando audition landed her a spot on the Hulk Hogan-hosted competition, instead. Now the 29-year-old is just hoping to get through tonight’s episode without embarrassing her husband Bruce or the regulars at their Siesta Key Fitness Center.
Oh yeah, she’d also like to win $100,000 and become a Gladiator herself.
Day is also the latest example of a not-so-obvious Florida tradition: reality TV's fascination with Floridians.
There is, of course, American Idol's third place finisher, Syesha Mercado, who hails from Sarasota. This year's idol actually had two Sunshine Staters, including Miami moppet Ramiele Malubay. There was also Crazy James Zinkand, another Sarasota native who competed on CBS' latest edition of Big Brother after jumping off the roof of a resort in Sarasota and, possibly, starring in a few gay porn movies.
Think back a little more and you may remember Tampa rapper Tango, who won the heart of Tiffany "New York" Pollard on VH1's first spin off of Flavor of Love, I Love New York. And the classic Tampa Bay area reality TV celebrity is Tampa resident Mary "Fists" Delgado, who was picked in the sixth season of ABC's Bachelor and was arrested last year on charges of assaulting her onscreen love, Byron Velvick.
Why do reality producers so love us Floridians? My theory: Florida to these Hollywood types is the next best thing to the Midwest, stocked with average folks who are nevertheless a little bit crazy, just because our brain have been baked in the tropical sun for awhile. And let's be honest, it's a lot more fun for casting directors to hang in Orlando or Miami than, say, Oklahoma or South Dakota.
So keep your eyes peeled tonight for De on NBC's American Gladiators (8 p.m., WFLA-Ch. 8), and see if yet another Tampa Bay area contestant makes a mark on reality TV. Click the link below to see a slightly longer interview than the Three Questions we published today with De.
Day: “I literally would eat my cereal at home and watch the show (years ago). It was something I remembered very well... I don’t like to be the center of attention, ever. I don’t like to be in pictures. So this was an opportunity not only to do some new challenges and test my body –it was a way to make myself grow as a person; put myself out there. And, I’m not going to lie, there’s $100,000 at stake.”
If you actually win the show, have you figured out what your Gladiator name would be?
“Oh yeah! It would be De-Struction. That came from a friend of ours who called and said ‘She’s going to be famous.’ It just stuck.”
What was the toughest part of competing?
“I weigh, on a good day, 113 pounds. These girls you go up against are 50, 60 pounds heavier than me. You are looking in the eyes of somebody who gets paid –some of these women are (martial arts) fighters – they get paid to take women out. I’m just a dumb personal trainer. The hardest part is looking in these girls eyes and knowing they have the upper hand because they’re trained to kill.”
Tough as the competition is, was it tougher for someone who doesn’t like attention to be on national TV?
“I still don’t know if I’m even going to watch it (laughing). When you’re in the middle and they’re filming it, you’re not thinking, this is going to be on national television. You’re thinking about getting knocked off a platform in 50 degree water. I’m a procrastinator by nature, so I’m still debating whether I’m going to hide and shut off my phone (today).