They’re back … and this time together. Big Brother fan favorite sisters Rachel Reilly and Elissa Slater are one of the 11 reality star teams competing for $1 million on this season of The Amazing Race.
While Rachel is no stranger to the trek — she competed on seasons 20 and 24 with husband Brendan — Elissa has been dying to get on the Emmy-winning series for as long as she can remember. “I was freaking out because I have always wanted to do the Race and I campaigned for my husband to try out with me,” she exclusively tells Us Weekly. “I have asked all my friends. Everyone. So I wanted to do the Race really badly for a long time. … It was seriously a dream of mine.”
“And I think that this is really fun because I did Big Brother first and then Elissa did Big Brother, but we never really got to compete on anything together,” Rachel adds. “And Elissa and I are so close and it was so crazy when she was doing Big Brother. I felt like I was in there with her, but already getting to compete with her on a show is a totally different story.”
As they tell Us, “When the Reilly sisters are involved, things get a little crazy.” Below, Rachel and Elissa explain just how far they’ll go to make it to that finish line.
Us Weekly: We’ve seen you both compete separately, but it must be fun to finally do something together.
Elissa: Exactly. I think people will get really excited. The fans are already so excited to see that we’re posting about it, that we’re doing it together, and I think people are going to get even more excited when they actually see us racing together. Because I think we do have a really fun dynamic and it’s so different. I think it’s going to be just a totally different Rachel that people aren’t even ready for.
Rachel: And a totally different Elissa too.
Elissa: I get that you definitely never saw the fun side of my personality. In the Big Brother house, I did have fun on my own but it was definitely not the same kind of fun that Rachel and I have together just because we’re best friends and we’re so comfortable with each other, so we really let our hair down.
Us: So tell me more about your strengths and weaknesses as a team.
Rachel: I think going into the show people are gonna really expect me to take the reins because, you know, my third time racing. And of course, even me, I’m thinking I’m gonna go in like, “Elissa better listen to everything I say. I’m not a rookie. This is my third time. She’s never done this.” But I think it’s gonna be really fun to see how it unfolds because maybe she listens to me sometimes and maybe she doesn’t.
Elissa: And I am not afraid of anything. I mean, I hate flying. I really do. However that’s something that I have to do all the time anyway, so I just suck it up and go with it. But other than that, I basically will try anything, and in particular on The Amazing Race, I was like I’m gonna do it all and I’m not going to even think about it. I just went in there with my mind open and ready to literally do anything. When I was on Big Brother I didn’t feel like I really got to fully play the competitions and do my very best because I just was not that comfortable being on TV and it was my first time.
Us: And you had a lot of people in the house against you…
Elissa: Yeah, exactly. This time I was like, “I am going hard and I just want to do whatever it takes to win this thing.” So yeah, I went in there with my mind set on doing anything we had to do to try to win.
Rachel: The one thing people know is that we come to play. We come to win. You know, you’re not going to see us floating in the background and you’re never going to see us just hanging out on your show … And I think it’s gonna be a really fun season. I mean the cast is epic. We have a full all-star legendary reality show cast. I mean it’s like some people I got starstruck about. I saw Rupert and I freaked out. I was like, “Oh my God I get to race with Janelle.” Rupert around the world has probably more fans than anyone. I mean, people were dying over Rupert. Dying. He’s so old school, I mean everyone loves Rupert. You see the shirt. You hear the voice and you know, it’s Rupert. Like, it’s so fun to see these people that you watch and you look up to and they’re legends to you. The best way to describe this season is crazy competitive.
Elissa: We were hardcore. We were all there to win and to compete … Rachel and I will not go onto or into anything without really giving it our all, giving it a hundred percent. We left our jobs. I have my yoga studio. I have this app that I’ve been working on for years. And we have our children. So we weren’t going to leave everything that was most important to us to just do something halfway and not just, like, give it our all. So we both had our mindsets in the right place and we wanted to … It honestly was a dream of mine. Every time Rachel got to do the race I just was in awe. I was just wishing I could do it. So this was pretty amazing for us.
Us: Who were you worried about and then who did you want to team up with?
Rachel: So going into the show, when we’re at the starting line, I see people like Janelle and Britney, and I’m 100 percent like, “We’re teaming up with the mom squad.” Like 2.0 right? Elissa had the mom squad on Big Brother 15 but this was, like, the real mom squad. Britney and Janelle each have six kids between them. Elissa and I both have toddlers at home. We have so much in common to talk about. I knew we could team up with them. I was thinking, “I’m a Racer, and I’m a Big Brother player so there’s a good chance that we could be friendly with basically this whole cast.” Because I can play the Racers, I’m a 100 percent just racing with the Racers. And then I can play the Big Brother people, like, it’s all the Big Brother teams. So I’m worried about the Survivor teams since I don’t know them. And I know everyone’s here to win. So it was crazy because I had all these relationships with these people and I’m like, “Oh my Gosh how’s this gonna play out? Can we trust them?” So you know, never know.
Elissa: You basically know never to trust anyone when you’re competing against them. So, I felt similar to Rachel about the Survivor people. Because yeah, I don’t [trust] any of the Survivor cast. And I have never really …. I don’t network as much as Rachel with the Big Brother cast because obviously we all know that I get over things and I move forward and the past is in the past. However, that does not mean that I want to be best friends with these people or really even have a close relationship with them. I would be open to it if I felt like they were actually making an attempt to have a true friendship.
But I was excited about Nicole because I thought her and I did have a friendship off of the show. However, when you get into the show things change very quickly. So then you just realize, no. Everyone is just there for themselves and they will do whatever they have to do. A lot of people went in there with the Big Brother mentality, the Big Brother cast did, so they still thought that they had to strategize. So, there was that but I agree with Rachel. The Survivor cast was who I was a little more hesitant about.
Us: Would you ever do Survivor?
Rachel: Oh my God. If they put me on Survivor Blood vs. Water with my husband or Elissa I would die. It would be the best thing ever. And die as in just amazingness. It would be the best thing that ever happened in my life.
Elissa: And potentially die of dehydration and starvation. And the bugs. Not mentioning everything else. I’m falling off in every challenge before I don’t win. Like I literally would sit up there until I would pass out. So we saw on the [recent] episode on Survivor like one [woman] fell off and she just passed out. That would be me every week. I would literally never give up on any of those challenges. Survivor would be very dangerous for us.
Us: Is there any challenge for the Race that you were worried about? Like a head-shaving thing again?
Rachel: Yes. That. So you know, on season 20 of Amazing Race, I came to the big “should we or should we not” head-shave. And that was the most epic fail of my reality television career to-date. I look back and I’m like “I could have worn a wig at my wedding.” I was thinking I’m getting married. I’m with Brendan. I don’t know what I was thinking but I could have literally won a million dollars. And that leg alone was like 10 grand or something. So I already told Elissa. We are shaving our heads. That was the first thing I said to her. I don’t care if it comes down to it, we’re both shaving our heads.
Elissa: Rachel was saying it so much I was like, “Rachel calm down about shaving your head,” because now the producers will probably be like … not like they really care what we say. She’s, like, really asking for them to put something to shave our heads. I would do it because I did have my mind set to do whatever it took to go as far as we could go. And I was in it to win it. So I would have done it. And I think that shaved heads are really beautiful. And I would be totally cool with it. However, I was not encouraging them to really ask us shave our head. Rachel, every time we would talk, she’d be like “I’ll even shave my head. I’ll even shave my head.”
Rachel: Yeah. Oh, I was in it.
Elissa: Like every single time somebody would ask. I know. She wanted it bad. She really wanted, she was asking to get her head shaved. Pretty much.
Rachel: I need to make up for Amazing Race 20! I’m still living that down today. It’s behind me. And that’s the thing. Like I’ve never been eliminated from Amazing Race. So for me walking into this, I’m super confident. Yes, I did this with Brendan. But Elissa’s very athletic . And Elissa is a yoga instructor. She’s like the yoga person everyone wishes that they could be. Perfect body. Perfect at yoga. Elissa and I are just as good as Brendan and I. So there’s no reason. We’ll see what happens. I’ve never been eliminated.
Elissa: I definitely thought I would put Brendan to shame because I think if boys can do it, girls can do it just as well or better. So, yeah, I was really excited.
Rachel: Let’s talk about how much Elissa made us train before Amazing Race. It was every day. It was nonstop. She was calling me in the morning. 6:00 a.m. “Hey could you go running today? Hey I wanted to make sure that your treadmill is at 8.0 because you need to be able to sprint.” And then oh my Gosh, Elissa lets calm down. It was literally like that every day from the second that we told her that we were gonna be on the show. And I even told her I’m like, “Oh, Elissa they’ll never make us run more than two miles.” And then don’t ever say that because never say never on The Amazing Race.
Elissa: And Rachel was like “Oh I can definitely outrun you Elissa. Any day.” She’s like, “You may be good at yoga but I can outrun you.” And maybe the first couple things we did together she was saying “Elissa come on, come on Elissa.” And then how quickly things change.
Rachel: Amazing Race is very physical. You have to be in really, really good shape.
Us: Right, people have lost in footraces before.
Rachel: Yeah. 100 percent. And you never know what’s gonna happen. Because you never know what place you’re in. Ever. Like you never know if you’re in first or you’re in last. So the whole time you have to just race like you could be in last place. Because you never know what’s going on. And like you said, people have lost in foot races. I remember on the first episode of All Stars, Brendan and I won the first leg in a footrace. And we thought, I was like “Oh it doesn’t matter, Brendan, we don’t have to go all out.” And he’s like “Yes we do.” And I’m like, “OK.” So we won that leg because we ran out in a footrace. So you never know what place you’re in.
Elissa: Honestly, you don’t even think about anything other than getting to the pit stop. You don’t even think about stopping. You don’t [think] about eating food. You don’t think anything. You’re just like go, go, go. You really don’t even think about the challenge, you’re just like, “I just need to get done with this to go, go, go.” You just want to finish. You just want to be safe. Basically is all it is.
Us: How did you prepare? You talked about training. Did you practice any languages, learn to drive stick, that kind of stuff?
Rachel: Yeah. So we both tried, we both had to practice our stick. Because I relied so heavily on Brendan for manual or stick shift when I raced with him before. So I had to do stick shift lessons. Then I had to definitely brush up on Spanish. You never know where you’re going. Literally they say you could go anywhere around the world. So you’re like “I’m gonna learn Spanish. I’m gonna learn Italian. I’m gonna learn French.” But I can’t learn every language. So you’re kind of hoping that you can make your way around and that people are gonna be nice to you.
Elissa: We focused on the key words. Like how to get to the airport. How to get a car. Where we could do really annoying crazy hand gestures to people and they’re still, “What are you even saying? These idiots.” But we were like whatever we have to say, we’re just trying to think of whatever one-word sentences we could basically get across in every language. That’s what I did and Rachel’s like, “There is absolutely there is no way you’re learning Mandarin, French, anything.” But I was determined. I did. I had my flash cards out. And I knew airport in basically any language you could throw at me. And I knew taxi in every single language. And I drove a stick shift car for a month. Basically used it from the time that we found out we were gonna go until we left. I had a friend, actually that was on my son’s basketball team, and they let us use their car for an entire month so I could stick shift drive.
Rachel: And I think what’s really cool about Race, is that it’s such a different show from Survivor or Big Brother in that you’re in the world. And so you’re actually out with the real people and you’re interacting with people that are not actors and they are not paid to be there. They’re just living their life. And it’s nice you see how friendly people are around the world. And how welcoming they are. And how willing they are to help you. We’re crazy screaming in their faces about a taxi. And they’re just like “Oh let me help you. Let me take you to the taxi stop. Let me show you how to use this ticket so you can get on the train.” And sometimes I’m blown away by how courteous people are to me when I’m literally sweating with two cameras around me and like screaming at my sister. You’re just in a panic. You’re like “I don’t where I’m going.”
I think that when we show them kindness they’re so willing to just help. I mean, they’re on their way to work and they’re dropping stuff so they can help us Americans running around on a TV show. So they can just help us to get to another stop. It’s so nice and it just really gives you extra hope in humanity.
The Amazing Race premieres on CBS Wednesday, April 17, at 9/8c.
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