Student’s family shedding pounds on ‘Biggest Loser’

For most St. Thomas students, watching TV shows offers relaxation from the insanity of the day. But for one St. Thomas student, watching TV on Tuesday nights causes anxiety and concern for his father and sister.

Sophomore Jazz Hampton’s father and sister, O’Neal and Sunshine Hampton, are current contestants on NBC’s “The Biggest Loser.”

Although Jazz and his family have always lived in Minnesota, this did not keep his sister, a big fan of the show, from auditioning in Phoenix.

“She went to the casting call, and it’s just like ‘American Idol,'” Jazz said. “There are thousands of people lined up.”

Although all the other contestants were auditioning with their partners, Sunshine auditioned alone, with her dad back in Minnesota.

“She just had a picture of him and said, ‘This is who my partner would be,’” Jazz said.

Even without her partner, Sunshine was offered second and third callbacks. At the third, the interviewers finally asked to meet her father. O’Neal was able to fly down the next day for an interview and return after. But the process was far from over.

“They probably filled out over 400 pages of paperwork, just constant paperwork,” Jazz said. “They also had to write essays and shoot a video. Like we had hours of footage when it was only supposed to be 20 minutes long. It was rough. It was a process for the whole summer.”

More interviews followed, during a week that overlapped with Jazz and Sunshine’s brother’s wedding.

“They had told [the shows’ producers] in June that the wedding was going to be at the same time in September, but they still said there was nothing they could do,” Jazz said.

O’Neal and Sunshine stayed with the show up to the day before the wedding, until O’Neal told producers he would not miss his son’s wedding. But as the Hamptons prepared to leave, the show’s staff told them they’d arranged a flight home.

“They came home at like 8 a.m. the day of the wedding, missed dress rehearsal, missed everything and then flew back out two days later, never to return,” Hampton joked.

The first episode of this season aired Jan. 5 and featured all contestants weighing-in in front of their family and friends. This was a first for the show and evoked many emotions, not only from the contestants but also their families.

“It was so nerve-wracking,” Jazz said. “The first episode when they weighed-in to their families and I cried, it was like one single lone tear, so it looked so cheesy,”” Jazz said. “I got so many texts.”

Although Hampton is back on campus now, he still finds time to watch the show every week.

“I’m the president of Pulse, and we have practice from 7 to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays, so I TiVo it to watch it here in the dorms now that I’m back at school,” Hampton said. He even follows trainers Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper and the show’s host Alison Sweeney on Twitter.

“Anytime they mention a weigh-in, I get so worried,” Jazz said. “But we’ll see how it goes. So far, it’s really exciting.”

“The Biggest Loser” usually airs at 7 p.m. Tuesdays. However, due to Winter Olympics coverage, the show is on a brief hiatus and will return March 2.

Meg Tvrdik can be reached at