INTERVIEW: 'The Amazing Race's Azaria and Hendekea Azene dish
By Christopher Rocchio, 12/10/2007
Azaria and Hendekea Azene feel they ran into a greedy ticket agent who tried to make a few extra bucks commission by selling them illegal business-class tickets instead of the required economy class ones.
As a result, Azaria, a 27-year-old facilities engineer from New Orleans, LA, and his sister Hendekea, a 23-year-old aerospace engineer from Torrance, CA, became the sixth team eliminated from The Amazing Race's twelfth season during last night's broadcast of the CBS reality series.
On Monday, Azaria and Hendekea talked to Reality TV World about their family bond with fellow racers Ronald and Christina Hsu; why they feel luck contributed to their dominance in the first few legs of the course; why they don't solely place the blame for their elimination on the ticket agent; and how they caused a ruckus on a flight.
Reality TV World: How were you cast for The Amazing Race 12? Was it your first time applying for the show?
Hendekea: Well, I'm a HUGE fan of The Amazing Race. Obviously, I've loved it for a long time. I met somebody who was involved with the show, and she really encouraged me to go and audition. I felt like my brother was the perfect teammate for me. He's super-competitive, athletic, and I felt like he would have some of the strengths that I don't have. So we teamed up, went through the whole audition process, and here we are!
Reality TV World: You just mentioned you're a fan of the show, so I take it you had watched The Amazing Race before?
Hendekea: I have. My mom and I would always watch together on Sunday night, so I've been a big fan. Azaria... Not as much.
Reality TV World: How did you prepare yourselves both physically and mentally for the competition?
Hendekea: Azaria was emotionally abusive to me to prepare me (laughing)...
Azaria: Yeah, so she could get used to it!
Hendekea: ... No, I'm kidding. I tried to work-out a bit. I'll be honest, I'm not the outdoor-type. It doesn't come that easy to me. But I think Azaria and I just tried to make sure we were mentally prepared for everything. We had all that we needed in our backpacks...
Azaria: We went back and looked at some of the old episodes we got off DVDs and stuff. Just training, lots of running, lifting weights, we tried to get in the water every now and then and go swimming. Really a mind/body kind of thing...
Reality TV World: Had either of you previously done a lot of international traveling? Do you know any foreign languages?
Azaria: I've traveled around to Asia and to Europe with my job. The only language I know is English...
Hendekea: We traveled to Ethiopia -- the motherland -- together. But as far as that, I've just done local traveling. Nothing extravagant.
Reality TV World: During the premiere broadcast, Christina said you two had a "family bond" -- similar to her relationship with her dad Ronald -- and thus shared information with each other. Would you say you had an alliance with them?
Hendekea: I think that it was a loose alliance. I felt like we always had each other's best interests in mind. I think Ron and Chris are great and I wanted them to go far in the race, and I feel that they felt the same way about us. So we'd always share information, but at the same time, in this race you trust people -- but still -- they're your competitors. So there's always that little amount of, "I want to help these people, but they're still in the end going to try to beat me."
Reality TV World: Did you form alliances with any of the other teams?
Azaria: I'd say we were aligned with ["Dating Couple" Jennifer Parker and Nathan Hagstrom] to a much loser extent than Ron and Christina.
Hendekea: I think that was mostly because we were always neck-and-neck. Nate and Jen were always... We always saw them for the first five legs, they were always there with us. So it kind of just worked out that it makes sense to stay at the top of the pack together.
Reality TV World: You two were the first team to reach the Pit Stop in three of the first four legs. Why do you think you did so well early on the course? Were you confident you'd be able to keep it up throughout the whole race?
Azaria: I think that Hendekea and I were pretty steady during the first few legs. Even the leg in Lithuania when placed fourth, we were steady. It took that, and you factor in a little bit of luck, and first place just managed to show-up on our doorstep...
Hendekea: A lot of it is luck too. In Ireland, we had the most amazing donkey (laughing). Of course there's some skill involved and some athleticism, but we had a great donkey. There were a lot of other little things that happened in Burkina Faso, like we ran into this kid that knew where the village was. So things just fell into place.
Reality TV World: What was your honest reaction when Jennifer began whining about you guys not "sharing" the first place prizes and allowing them to reach the check-in mat before you in Ouagadougou?
Hendekea: Like see, my perspective's really different because I know Jen and Nate. As individuals, they're very competitive and that's obvious during the race. So I kind of just took it as her being frustrated and kind of disappointed, and not really upset at what happened. Hindsight is 20/20, and afterwards, she apologized for what she had said and she understands that it was like rubbish...
Reality TV World: You two seemed to thoroughly enjoy your time in Africa. Was that the case, and if so, why?
Azaria: I think being in Africa, it was easy. From a cultural standpoint, we probably didn't have a leg-up on the other teams, but we did know what was coming from being in Africa [before when they traveled to Ethiopia]. And then it's always nice to interact with the folks in Africa, particularly because they're very genuine...
Azaria: ... They're willing to go out of their way to help you. Not just because you're a westerner or because you have camera crews running behind you, but because they really and truly just have the sort of attitude that people and family are first, which you don't really get when you're living in the U.S. so much...
Hendekea: I loved it! I loved Ethiopia, I loved being in Burkina Faso. Less because of the landscape and wonderful scenery there, but because of the people, like Azaria said. That's why we enjoyed it so much.
Reality TV World: Azaria you seemed to have some problems milking your camel during that Roadblock challenge. What was the major problem you encountered there?
Azaria: (laughing) I think I need to go to remedial camel-milking school. Maybe I needed to sweet-talk the camel?
Hendekea: Nurture it more (laughing)...
Azaria: Hendekea's giving me information on how to milk a camel...
Hendekea: I just felt like I needed to give you some advice (Azaria laughing)...
Reality TV World: Why did you decide against using the fourth-leg's U-Turn?
Azaria: We were thinking forward. We knew that... I'll tell you our biggest concern was that somebody would use it against us. A team that will get to a U-Turn will either use it on a team that's at the back of the pack -- like ["Friends" Shana Wall and Jennifer McCall] did -- or a team that they look at as a real, strong threat. So when we got to the U-Turn -- and we were in first-place there -- we knew that, "Hey, you know what? We're doing alright." We had no chance of being eliminated, at least this [leg], or very little chance I should say. And it leaves the option open to use the U-Turn later because there may be a second one coming.
Reality TV World: Were you surprised when you learned Shana and Jennifer used the U-Turn on "Dating Couple" Jason Widener and Lorena Segura?
Azaria: I was not. I would have done the same thing if I was in their position.
Hendekea: I don't know why it's like... It kind of surprises me that people are like, "Ooh... karma! They used the U-Turn." It's like a tool in the game. That's why it's there. Like Azaria said, I would have totally done the same thing. They were just saving their behinds. Granted Jason and Lorena were an hour-and-a-half behind them, you never know what's going to happen. What if something happened to their car and they got pushed back even further? So I understand.
Reality TV World: What was the problem you had when you were trying to contact Polish Air from the Vilnius airport? Was nobody answering the phone?
Azaria: I don't know if it was that or we couldn't get the country code. We couldn't get the right one there...
Hendekea: Yeah, the problem was we had the phone number for Polish Airlines, but to call into Poland you need an international country code. No matter what we did, it just wasn't going through. So we had to make a decision and do something else...
Reality TV World: Hendekea you criticized Azaria for making all the decisions during the race. Do you really think that hurt you two or were you just frustrated at the time you made that comment?
Hendekea: I think that I was frustrated, but I didn't mean he was making all of the decisions for the whole race. I meant at that moment, I felt like he was making a lot of the decisions. Because everything was pretty 50/50 up until that point, and so I was just frustrated that I was kind of going along with what he was saying. It's partly my fault too. I should have stood-up and been like, "Hey, slow down. We need to think about this." That never happened.
Reality TV World: Once you were able to purchase tickets on that flight via the ticket agency, you bought business class tickets. What happened there? Did the ticket agent just not tell you that she was giving you business class tickets? It seems there were economy class tickets left, since Nathan and Jennifer purchased them after you.
Azaria: I imagine that [the ticket agent] wanted a larger commission.
Reality TV World: Okay, so the agent received a larger commission by booking you business class instead of economy?
Azaria: It's a travel agency right? It wasn't like American Airlines or Polish Air ticketing office, it was a travel agency...
Azaria: So with that in mind, I'm sure that she gets paid a commission based on what she brings in.
Hendekea: Obviously, we never said [we wanted] business class or first class.
Reality TV World: You don't remember her telling you they were business class when she gave them to you?
Hendekea: She didn't. Never.
Azaria: There was such a rush. I mean we sat down at her desk at maybe 6:05AM, and the flight was leaving in 20 minutes. So we just basically told her, "Get us these tickets to Croatia, and we need them fast." She probably assumed, "These guys are from outside Lithuania, maybe I can pull a fast one on them?" Which she managed to do...
Reality TV World: What time did your flight arrive in Croatia? At that point, were you confident you'd be able to make it to the Pit Stop without being eliminated?
Hendekea: No, we were like four or five hours behind everyone. So it was kind of a surprise that we saw ["Grandfather/Grandson" team Donald Jerousek and Nicolas Fulks] there. I don't know. I just had this feeling I knew we were going to be last.
Reality TV World: Where were everyone's backpacks when they were getting off those planes? It looked like everyone left their backpacks back at baggage pickup or something for this leg.
Azaria: They confiscated our backpacks -- production did -- when we got off of the airplane... I assume that they knew that we'd be doing zip lines and potentially jumping into water. So that's why they took them...
Reality TV World: You just touched upon this, but you were surprised to see Nick and Don when you arrived at the Detour challenge?
Hendekea: Yeah. I'm still not sure what time their flight got in. But they were obviously much slower at the tasks then we were, because we actually got into the Pit Stop 10 minutes after them. It wasn't that far...
Reality TV World: Azaria it looked like you did that wall-building Roadblock challenge pretty quickly? Was that the case?
Azaria: I did not actually. It took me about 20 minutes to do, whereas some of the other teams might have gotten it done faster because... So there were eight slots [in the wall] to fit the blocks in to start out with. So the team that got their first had the advantage of using a single block out of eight. By the time I got there, there were two...
Hendekea: There were three...
Azaria: Okay, so there were three out of like 140-something blocks...
Reality TV World: I see, so your odds of finding a matching block were less than the team that did the challenge first.
Azaria: Yeah... I was running. I was running...
Reality TV World: Following your elimination, Hendekea you commented how you felt like you two beat yourselves. What did you mean by that?
Hendekea: Well, I felt like it was a simple oversight that basically cost us the race. Even though the ticket agent might have screwed us over by giving us business-class tickets, it basically comes down to the team to make sure that everything's kosher. Azaria and I didn't stop and check our tickets before we left the ticket agency -- and if we had, and gone over the ticket with the lady that was working there -- it may have helped us out. We may have been able to get on that flight. It wasn't like we didn't navigate properly or we were just too slow, it was a stupid business-class ticket that screwed us over.
Reality TV World: Why did you two call Sequesterville after your elimination?
Hendekea: We did not end up going to [Sequesterville], so we called in to give them the news.
Reality TV World: Is there a reason why you didn't go there?
Hendekea: Because of our location at that point in the race, we ended up traveling with the rest of the teams to go to the finals. Because we were closer to the final Pit Stop, we flew onward rather than going back to Portugal [which is where Sequesterville is located].
Reality TV World: Could you talk a little bit about the situation with the Lithuanian pilot you talked about during your Elimination Station video?
Hendekea: (laughing with Azaria)... Azaria?
Azaria: Oh my gosh... So we got these business-class tickets. It's 6:25AM, one of the workers from Polish Airlines -- the ticketing office -- is like, "You need to make a decision. Are you getting on this flight or not?" I look at Hendekea, and Hendekea looks back at me, and we make the decision that we're going to get on this flight and see what happens with regard to the rules and using business-class tickets.
Hendekea: Because at that point, the lady would not give us the proper tickets. She kept on pushing us to go to someone else, who really wasn't helping us either. So at that point, it was like, "Look. Get on the plane, or we're leaving." So, we were like...
Azaria: We go through the gate. We go through security. There's actually a bus waiting to take us to the plane once we go through the check-in. We're the only people on the bus, the plane's waiting on the tarmac. We walk onto the plane, we see all of the other teams, all the other production people. We get in our seats, and we look at each other, and Hendekea and I both say, "You know what? If we do this, we're dead. We're dead." The penalty [for using business-class tickets] would probably put us 24-hours behind, and it's just not worth it. At that point, we opt to get off the plane...
Hendekea: That's when the craziness ensued (laughing)! Craziness ensued... Like pilots are screaming at us. We have Ron -- who is like upset that this happened to us... and there are some other people on the flight who are screaming at us because we're delaying their flight. So Ron is upset, and he almost gets in a confrontation with somebody else. We're holding up the plane like half-an-hour, 45-minutes, and flight attendants are screaming at us. Pilots are cursing at us in Lithuanian. Some of the other teams are getting upset because we're probably delaying their flight -- potentially making them miss the next flight -- so they're getting upset at us, screaming at the pilot to go. We ended up getting off the plane, taking the shuttle back to the airport with the flight attendants escorting us (laughing), and we kind of thought, "Oh... Is she going to take us to the police?" We didn't know what was going to happen, but she ended up just letting us go.
Reality TV World: That's a pretty good story. What was your reaction when the other teams were so surprised you had been eliminated?
Azaria: Good and bad...
Hendekea: Yeah, good and bad. Bad because I felt like we could have done better. But good because I felt like they had faith in us.
Reality TV World: What were some of the "lies" you accused "Dating Goths" Kynt Cothron and Vyxsin Fiala of telling on the race?
Hendekea: That was... I don't know if you got a good glimpse of it at the Lithuanian airport. But Kynt and Vyxsin, they... Initially, Azaria and I go into one of the ticketing agencies just to figure out if there are any more tickets on this flight. Kynt and Vyxsin pop this attitude, like, "Oh! We've been waiting here! If you want to get more information, you're just going to have to wait in line!" I understand that they were doing their thing and being competitive, but the problem that I have with Kynt and Vyxsin is that they walk around like they're so respectful with integrity, like upstanding people. Then they lie, and they're really pushy. I think in Lithuania they lied to Jen about the location of one of the places that we had to go. So they pretend to be really sweet and caring, but they lie and back-stab, so that's what I was getting at.
Reality TV World: When we talked to Shana and Jennifer last week, they commented they felt how you two showed a lack of respect while they were trying to book tickets at the airport in Burkina Faso. Did you ever have any problems with them during the race?
Hendekea: It was a shock to me. I honestly did not know it was that big of a deal.
Azaria: No offense to Shana and Jennifer, but you don't really interact with a lot of the people that are in the back of the pack.
Reality TV World: Okay, I got your point. What was the toughest part about competing on The Amazing Race?
Hendekea: I think that the race can bring out the best and worst in people, and there were times when I was really frustrated with the way Azaria was treating me. But at the same time, I felt that for the sake of our race and the competition, one of us needs to swallow our pride, and just plow through it, get through it and deal with... Basically me dealing with Azaria's bitching at me constantly (laughing). That was pretty tough, but we did so well in the beginning it wasn't all bad. It wasn't bad...
Reality TV World: Which team would you like to see win the $1 million prize? Anybody you don't want to see win?
Azaria: I'll say that we are actively hoping and praying that Ron and Christina win. It felt like we had a pretty good alliance, friendship and bond generated with them... As for teams that we don't want to see win. Um... I would venture to say that I would prefer that Kynt and Vyxsin not win. Just because they're slightly irritating.
Reality TV World: If you had won, what were your plans for the $1 million prize?
Hendekea: I kind of feel like I'm really young to have half-a-million dollars. So I confided in myself that if I had won $500,000, I'd probably just invest it somewhere or keep it tucked away until I felt like I had something very important to use it for. I don't believe in frivolously wasting money...
Reality TV World: Okay, how about you Azaria?
Azaria: I would have spent the money to buy my parents a nice car (laughing). They drive some pieces right now. Not much more than that. I look at half-a-million dollars -- yeah, it's a lot of money -- but it's not really going to change my life that much one way or another.
Reality TV World: So what's next for you two?
Azaria: Christmas (laughing)... No. Individually, my life is really just the same as it was five months ago. I still work at the same place, doing the same things. Hendekea, what are you going to be doing?
Hendekea: I'm currently doing the engineering thing also, but I'm planning on going back to school soon. That's what I'd like to be doing in the next couple of years.