Amazing Race Canada sisters reflect on first season
For their Amazing Race Canada audition tape, Ottawa sisters Vanessa Morgan and Celina Mziray traipsed through the frigid air in parkas and short shorts wielding axes and hammers, going for what Morgan calls a “wilderness-sexy type thing.”
“We were like, meh, I think this’ll get us on,” Morgan recalled Friday.
She was right and the perennially dismissed team — physically unimposing, perpetually stressed out and cheerfully goofy — somehow upended the expectations of competitors and viewers alike to finish in the Top 3 of the reality show’s first season, which wrapped in September.
With CTV currently accepting auditions for Season 2 hopefuls — the deadline is Dec. 26 — the plucky duo is hoping they can inspire other Canadian pairs who would otherwise balk at the physical demands of the race-around-the-country series.
“I think we motivated a lot of people who might not have applied to the Race thinking it was a more athletic show,” said Morgan, seated next to her sister in CTV’s Toronto headquarters.
“We motivated a lot of people who are smaller and might not be Olympic athletes to try out. Because there’s a lot of other skills and as long as you’re a healthy person I think you can have a shot.”
The sisters certainly never seemed a viable threat to win. Early on, the pair known as the “hippies” (river-wise B.C. daters Kristen Idiens and Darren Trapp) bestowed an express pass upon the duo because they seemed the least competitive team, a move Morgan now calls “so nice but so stupid.”
In fact, Morgan and Mziray carefully played up their ditzy, hapless image so other teams would overlook them.
“We went in (wearing) matching pink, headbands galore — we wanted it to be known that we weren’t a threat here,” said Morgan, an actress best known for her role on My Babysitter’s a Vampire.
It was an image that producers also played up, the sisters attested.
“We only got like one hero moment on the show,” said Morgan, who’s separated by her older fitness-model sister by 10 years. “You know how sometimes they show hero moments, the music changes for some things? So I found with us we got mostly clown music.”
To be fair, the sisters had a habit of meeting each lofty challenge with dire, fatalistic proclamations before eventually persevering.
Perpetually frantic, they were the most expressive and, at many times, entertaining of the show’s nine teams. Particularly memorable were the sisters’ struggles with a heavy load of coal, an arctic sled schlep and, perhaps most dangerously, a manual transmission.
“I will never drive a stick car in my life again,” Mziray says with a laugh. “I don’t understand why people purchase them.”
And yet, the slyly cunning pair nearly won the event. They were the first team to arrive at the show’s final challenge, which required total recall of every provincial flag and flower.In a strange twist, Morgan had actually specifically mentioned to Mziray before embarking that they should memorize the provincial flowers but was dismissed by her older sibling.
“Can you imagine? It would have been a different outcome if not for those flowers,” Mziray said. “People would have been shocked.”
The sisters say they’ve remained close friends with some of the other contestants, including Montreal doctors Brett Burstein and Holly Agostino, hulking pair Jet Black and Dave Schram from London, Ont., and the eventual winners, Winnipeg residents Tim Hague Sr. and Tim Hague Jr., whom Morgan calls “honorary family.”
They have less love for Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod, the fitness-obsessed fiftysomethings who created the nostalgic Body Break TV fitness vignettes.
That duo was eliminated after another team used the U-turn feature against them — forcing them to complete an extra task — which the sisters said was indicative of how the other teams viewed the Oakville, Ont., pair, whom Morgan and Mziray said behaved differently than the friendly image they presented in onscreen interviews.
“They weren’t getting along with any teams,” Mziray said. “There’s another tip for you if you get on the Race: really try to get along with everybody because you don’t want to get U-turned.”
“And don’t talk bad about people behind their backs,” Morgan continued. “I think that was their downfall too. I just lost respect for team Body Break when I heard what they were saying about me behind my back. I thought it was really immature for a man of that age to insult other people like that.
“They commented (on our) eyelashes, called us the weakest team, said we were venomous . . . I’ve listened to so many of his radio interviews. I don’t know what he had against us, but I think it’s just called being a sore loser.”
Flowers aside, the sisters are pleased with how they performed during the race.
Even their family didn’t believe they would thrive, with Mziray recalling their laughing brother telling them upon their departure: “Just don’t be out first girls.”
So they feel as though they proved something.
“Watching it was an incredible experience,” Mziray said.
Contributed Morgan: “It was like watching an amazing vacation in HD.”
“Our size compared to all the other teams, to get as far as we got and to be the only female girl team there, I’m so proud of how we did,” Mziray continued. “And no one can say anything about that.”