Casting call held for local version of ‘Biggest Loser’

Marie Havenga • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:21 AM

A panel of six “appraisers” chose eight finalists who will spend eight weeks working with personal trainer Cari Draft. The weekly sessions will be televised on Muskegon Community College’s channel 902 (Comcast) and 994 (Charter) beginning at 8 p.m. Feb. 14. For complete broadcast information, including analog availability, visit www.fitgirlcari.com.

“This is real-life reality because it’s the way it would be if a normal everyday person were to do what the ‘Biggest Losers’ are doing,” said Draft, who has been a trainer for 11 years in the Lakeshore area and owns Ecotrek Fitness. “We’re doing this to motivate and inspire people in our community to get fit and live healthier lifestyles.

“We have a good age range and a good range of fitness levels, so anyone who turns on the show will be able to identify with at least one of these contestants,” she added.

Appraisers selected eight contestants based on two-minute interviews discussing their history, patterns and goals.

Appearing on the “Lakeshore Slimdown Challenge” series will be: Darlene Cyr, Stacy Eding, Brittany Hilla-Johnson, Kendra Holmes, Charlotte Johnson, Diane McLeod, Marila Schild and Don TeBeau. Jennifer Brown was chosen as an alternate.

During her personal interview, Cyr, brainchild of the event, showed the appraisers a pair of jeans that she accidentally ripped when she was bending over on Monday. She described how she lost 65 pounds, but has since gained it all back, and how she stood in the rain for eight hours to audition for “The Biggest Loser” in Detroit two years ago.

“Cari and I brainstormed and wanted to do something West Michigan-style,” said Cyr, 37, who is 5-foot-5 and weighs 265. “Whether I’m chosen as a contestant or not, I’m going to tag along on the side to make sure these people get the help they need.”

Contestants will be trained in diet, exercise and proper nutrition. Fad dieting is not allowed.

David Loring Production Co. of Muskegon is filming the episodes, which will also be available for viewing at www.vimeo.com.

“We’ll have a different theme for each of the eight weeks and they’ll be given homework to do on their own,” Draft said. “They have to bring it home and do it with their family watching. They don’t get to go away to a fat camp and learn all this stuff. It’s more like real life. You’ve got a job, you’ve got other commitments and you’ve got to make your health a priority.”

Contestants earn points by adhering to eating and activity charts. At the conclusion of the program, winners will receive a gym membership and other health and fitness prizes.

Besides the television series, each participant will be a guest on a Muskegon radio station WKBZ (1090 AM) at noon on Sundays beginning Feb. 19.

“It’s a positive effort we’re putting into the community,” Draft said. “Even people who don’t get chosen will be able to tune in and find someone they can identify with. Our community is hungry for this and they need inspiration.”

That’s exactly why Lowell resident Diane McLeod drove an hour for an audition.

“I lost 70 pounds last year,” said McLeod, 47. “Now I just need to do the last part of it and I want it to stick.”

Grand Haven resident Jennifer Brown kept moving during her audition — rocking on her feet and swinging her arms.

“I lost almost 60 pounds already,” said Brown, who has been a fitness club member since June. “I come here two to three times a week, and I’m trying to change my whole entire lifestyle. I’m kind of nervous, but it would mean a lot to me to be on this show.”

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