The Salt Lake Tribune
Is it something in the proverbial water?
Or are Utahns taking classes in "How to Be a Reality Show Star"?
Currently, four summer reality televisions shows have local
contestants. I haven't seen an explosion like this since first
covering the phenomenon in 2002 when Davis County's Neleh Dennis
blurted out, "Oh my heck" on "Survivor: Marquesas."
* Of the 20 finalists, there are four Utah contestants -count 'em,
four - on this season's hit Fox show, "So You Think You Can Dance."
They include Chelsie Hightower, 18, Pleasant Grove; Matt Dorame,
22, who studied at Salt Lake City's Odyssey Dance Theatre; Gev
Manoukian, 21, Centerville, a background dancer in "High School
Musical"; and Thayne Jasperson, 27, Springville, another featured
dancer from the "HSM" movies.
* Marcus, of West Jordan (no last name, how chic) is in the
running on this season's NBC series, "Last Comic Standing."
* On the Food Network's "Next Food Network Star," there's Utahn
Kelsey Nixon vying to be a cooking-show star on the highly rated
fourth season premiere.
* NBC's "Nashville Star," which was ported over from the USA cable
network, has Murray's Charley Jenkins, 30, competing to be a country
All this coming after a couple of amazingly successful seasons of
Utahns on reality shows.
Local reality show stars include Utah ballroom dancers starring on
every season of ABC's megahit "Dancing With the Stars" (Park City's
Julianne Hough won two of the seasons in a row), Todd Herzog's win on
"Survivor: China," and Roy's Sabra Johnson winning the last season of
"So You Think You Can Dance." Then there was the most-watched journey
of all, David Archuleta's run to second place on the last season of
It once was a novelty to hire a Utah Mormon for your reality show
in an effort to boost the conflict between the righteous and the
beer-drinking (think Brigham Young University's Julie Stoffer in the
2000 edition of "Real World").
But locals now are proving they aren't on these shows just to
heighten the drama, but because they can effectively "outwit, outplay
and outlast" as well if not better than other contestants around the
The Wasatch Front, for example, has become an epicenter for
talented and nationally renowned professional dancers, which has
sparked the success seen on "DWTS" and "Think You Can Dance." That, in
turn, has caused Hollywood to view Utah as a pool for dancing talent.
"Think You Can Dance" producer Nigel Lythgoe said he had such a
successful set of auditions in Salt Lake City earlier this year for
his show, he decided to hold the first "American Idol" auditions here
in the fall for next season.
Like I said, must be something in the water.