Meehan said she often regarded the other contestants as family, which made a lot of her decisions on the show very personal and difficult. “I could almost not make eye contact with people when we would vote them out and I knew that there were people that had given me their trust,” she said. “The nice thing is, I’ve learned from that. I try really, really hard to not ever duplicate that in real life and I think my kids have learned that, too.”
Meehan joined the LDS Church when she was 18 years old. The “Survivor: Caramoan” runner-up, now 43, said she is thankful for habits she formed as a member of the church, such as committing scriptures and hymns to memory to be used in times of emotional distress.
During one difficult moment in her second season of the show, Meehan accidentally dropped a retainer for her bottom teeth into the lake. She recalled that just before losing the retainer, she had been singing LDS hymns as a means of relieving stress. “My faith really had to be what was recorded in my brain,” she said. “I was super, super thankful that I could recall a lot of things that would be reassuring to me when I was struggling, specifically, like a scripture or, I mean, every song that I could sing, I did.”
NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” has featured more Mormons than any other show, having showcased more than 20 LDS contestants. Sione Fa, of Mesa, Ariz., appeared with his cousin, Felipe, on season 7 of “The Biggest Loser” in 2009. Fa, a returned missionary and father of three, lost a total of 146 pounds on the “Biggest Loser” ranch, but he said that was not the only transformation that took place. He told the Deseret News that his eyes were also opened to new aspects of his spiritual life.
“You can see how the world functions without spirituality, and that right there was a testimony-builder in itself,” Fa said. “When you get out to the world and you see how religion is non-existent in people’s lives and you see how faith or any type of spirituality is not there, you can just see the difference.”
Meehan and Whitcomb, who competed on very different programs, had similar testimony-defining experiences while being a lone Mormon in a national spotlight.
“I did learn for myself, in the absence of any other community member, any other Latter-day Saint, that my relationship with God is still so important to me — that on my own, that relationship exists,” Meehan said. “I think that was a really important lesson because sometimes it’s easy to have faith when I’m at BYU and there’s 30,000 people that kind of reinforce that.”
“When I had someone else with me, like with Noteworthy, obviously, it was really easy to keep up (my) standards,” said Whitcomb, referring to BYU’s nine-woman a capella group that appeared on season 1 of “The Sing-Off.”
“But on ‘The Voice,’ it was like, all the sudden, it was totally my own decision. It made me a lot more aware of the choices I was making on a daily basis and why I made them. It really helped to define my standards a bit more and my own personal convictions to live those standards.”
Meehan related an almost-humorous instance where she received a letter from a missionary who tracted a farmer in Missouri who was a big fan of reality TV. Ultimately, she said, the farmer was baptized. The missionary told her that he believes the man’s only previous exposure to Latter-day Saints was through “Survivor.”
Fa, who now works as a personal trainer at the “Biggest Loser” resort in St. George, Utah, said he and his cousin, Felipe, were able to have several religious discussions with other contestants during season 7.
“We were able to get really close and actually invite a lot of them to find out for themselves if these things are true,” he said. “We had a lot of great experiences outside of the filming. You get to know these people like brothers and sisters, and you start opening up and people really start to get to know who you are. We were able to share our testimonies several times throughout our stay there. If you’re talking about gospel terms or church terms, it really is about planting the seed.”
The Mormon reality TV moment continues this Sunday night when Dave and Connor O’Leary return for a second shot at a million dollars on CBS’ “The Amazing Race.” The popular father-son team was forced to withdraw from the race during season 22 last year when Dave tore his Achilles tendon. Additionally, Utah Jazz CEO Greg Miller will appear on CBS’ “Undercover Boss” next Friday, Feb. 28.
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