Reality star AsAm and adopted twins run for million dollar prize – AsAmNews
By Julia Tong, Editor of AsAmNews
(Editor’s Note: Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t seen The Amazing Race Season 34 Episode 1 which originally aired September 22, 2022)
A reality TV star, racing the girlfriend he met while competing on the show, as well as a pair of long-lost twins separated from birth after being adopted from Korea: they are among many Asian Americans competing in the 34e season of Fantastic race.
The classic reality show features 12 pairs of contestants who travel the world, taking on creative and memorable challenges. This year, the show will visit places such as Jordan, France, Spain and Nashville, following teams as they race for the million dollar prize waiting at the finish line.
In addition to that, Fantastic race 34 is a “Season of Firsts”: the first to feature no non-elimination stages, a starting line outside the United States, and a redesigned first stage called “The Scramble”, in which teams are given the locations of the three challenges to both for complete in any order.
Against this historical backdrop, three Asian Americans are running for over a million dollars.
Ancient Big brother House guest Derek Xiao has teamed up with his girlfriend Claire Rehfuss, who he met on that show. He is determined to bring his own approach to Asian representation to the screen. Meanwhile, for long-lost twins Emily Bushnell and Molly Sienert, the show is a crucial time for bonding, as well as raising awareness for other adoptees like them.
In the first race of the stage, broadcast on September 21st, Xiao, and Rehfuss rolled, hacked, and sawed their way to first place, winning a bonus prize of $2,500 each. Bushnell and Sienert followed soon after, finishing the course in 5e square.
But results aside, the race is a chance to bond, tell their stories, and most importantly, be a representation for the community of AAPIs and Asian American adoptees who are rarely seen on TV. reality.
“I wanted to create an example of what a normal guy looks like without having to fall into specific stereotypes.”
When Xiao was first selected to compete on Big brotherhe thought it would be the worst summer of his life.
Xiao had never seen the reality show before applying for an Instagram casting for fun. A few hours later, he found himself in the semi-finals of the audition process. Soon, he was forced to binge on the show in order to improve his chances of being selected.
When he finally looked Big brotherhowever, Xiao hated the show: he found himself unable to connect with any of the contestants he saw on screen.
“When I watch reality TV, I’m like, ‘Yeah, they’re definitely outgoing personalities, but nothing that I really relate to,'” Xiao said. “And then if you narrow it down even further to Asian Americans, I absolutely I’ve never seen anyone I bonded with.
Xiao’s summer begins Big brother, however, was life changing. Although they were eliminated in week 7, fans voted Xiao Runner Up for America’s favorite guest. He started dating his current girlfriend and Incredible race partner, Claire Rehfuss, while in Big Brother’s post-elimination jury house. And in addition, Xiao has been asked to participate in other CBS projects, such as The challenge and amazing race 34.
Now Xiao has traded Big brother endurance challenges to run with a travel backpack, roll beer kegs through obstacle courses and fly around the world.
He grew up watching scripted media, which often lacked Asian representation. He remembers it smothering his own perception of who he could be.
“Growing up, what did we have? Wendy Wu, Homecoming Warrior, Jackie Chan, animated series? ” he said. “I literally haven’t seen a single Asian American on TV that I felt – not even inspired, but reminded me of myself.”
Xiao hopes to remedy this by being himself in front of the camera. Being a voice for Asian Americans and simply representing them, he observes, are very different. However, he hopes to continue to lead by example. The many positive messages he received from Asian American viewers continue to inspire him to do so.
“[The messages] I really love it, it’s kind of like watching me on TV encouraged them to do something in their own lives,” Xiao says. “And ultimately, that’s what I wanted…not just to make a statement, but to help people take action in their own lives, if that’s something they needed or wanted to do.”
“Much more… than just a million dollar race”
Emily Bushnell had no idea she had a sister. Adopted from Korea shortly after birth, Bushnell had never had contact with her birth family. However, when her daughter took a DNA test, 23andMe identified another woman as Bushnell’s mother, with a DNA match of 49.96%.
The woman, Molly Sienert, reached out shortly after, wondering how it was possible. But they quickly noticed similarities between them: not only were they both adopted from Korea in the 1980s, but they looked particularly similar. It wasn’t until they found out that they were both 35 and born on March 29.ethat they realized they were twins.
“My heart started racing,” Sienert said. “It seems like true fate brought us together… We entered each other’s lives at pivotal times.”
In the year since they reconnected, Sienert and Bushnell have stayed in touch. The twins learned of their similarities – both were raised by white Jewish families – and their differences – Sienert was convinced dancing was in their DNA, which Emily quickly refuted. However, their busy lives made it difficult to find time to bond.
Fantastic race was, according to Sienert, “the opportunity of a lifetime”.
“We are 36-year-old career women who don’t have a minute to breathe. If we could do [the race]we would have exclusive time together – no cell phones – and we could travel.
“That was all we needed,” she added. “You can’t make up 36. It’s impossible. But [being] on the run you definitely get a [shot] to her.
Beyond much-needed sibling time, however, the twins hope their story will resonate with other Korean American adoptees like them.
Both Bushnell and Siebert point out that their adoptive families were loving and caring, and that they felt connected to their Jewish cultural roots. Despite this, however, both struggled with feelings of grief and isolation over losing their cultural connection to their Korean heritage.
“We also represent the adoptee community and the trauma that might come with adoption,” Bushnell said. “I hope others will connect in some way [with] we.”
Siebert remembers that she often grew up alone. At the time, she thought it was because she was an only child. However, she also felt she was different – for example, she was one of the few Asian students at her private Jewish school.
Today, Siebert has acknowledged that those feelings were a product of her experience as an adoptee. Asian adoption was still new in the 1980s, she observes, and few support systems were in place to help adoptees learn about their backgrounds. She wishes she had had the opportunity to engage with her Asian heritage from an early age.
“If more adoptees could [have a cultural connection] sooner there might be less disconnection and a bit of depression [common in] adopted,” Siebert said. “There’s this stigma around expressing your feelings, because you’re supposed to be grateful that you’ve been adopted. But in reality, there is a trauma.
Bushnell also agrees that resources for adoptees would have been important to her. She hadn’t heard of any of them, like culture camps or Korean American adoptee support groups, until she was in her late twenties.
One night, Bushnell recalled, she overheard an NPR interview with a Korean adoptee of the same age as her. The adoptee described entering a room of other Korean adoptees and feeling, for the first time, even more at home than entering her own family’s home.
Bushnell realized that she was “longing” for that experience those resources might have given her.
“How many other adoptees around the world, not just Koreans, don’t know about these resources?” Bushnell said. “And I just wish I could take our experience, our history, because we’ve been in the public eye so much…and turn that into something that could be useful to others because there are so many of us.”
Besides adoptee awareness and bonding time, there is one final factor that propels twins. Sienert’s mother recently died of undiagnosed metastatic cancer. An avid world traveler, she had regularly watched Fantastic race with Siener. Bushnell and Sienert hope to honor his memory by appearing on the show.
For Bushnell, the show’s timing was “another reason why we think the universe kind of brought us together at that time and brought us on the run together.”
“It’s so much more to us than just a million dollar race, but an opportunity for us to make up time that we lost.”
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