MINOOKA — Kim McCulloch may not have been the grand-prize winner of the Jazzercise edition of the A&E "Be the Boss" TV series, but she feels like the true winner.
"It was probably the most crazy experience of my life, but it was the most rewarding," said McCulloch of Minooka.
McCulloch, a three-year Jazzercise instructor, was one of the competitors on the new reality series that puts two people against each other to compete for a promotion — or so they thought.
At the end of the show, McCulloch was given the promotion of Jazzercise, Inc. Ambassador, which is a liaison between the corporation and the franchises.
But after she was given the prize she had been competing for, her competitor, Sophia Hubbard of Michigan, was given the grand prize of her own Jazzercise Fitness Center.
"I see friends and they say, 'I'm sorry you didn't win,' and I say, 'Oh, but I did,'" McCulloch said.
"I'm very happy for Sophia. I'm very happy she got her own center," she continued. "I got what I wanted. I work from home, I set my own hours, it's good pay, I get to travel and I get to work with people I have always admired."
The Jazzercise episode was shown Dec. 30, but the week of challenges for the competition was held in September in the company's home state of California.
ALL THAT JAZZERCISE
McCulloch was first introduced to Jazzercise by a friend about seven years ago. She used to tease her friend about her commitment to it, until her friend made her tag along for a class.
"It kicked my butt," she said. "I was sweating like crazy, and then I wasn't laughing anymore. I joined that night."
After she committed it to her routine, McCulloch ended up losing 80 pounds over three years through Jazzercise and healthier eating. And now she teaches it at least three days a week in Romeoville, and she sometimes substitutes in other towns.
In addition to being a Jazzercise instructor, she is the director and choreographer for the theater program at Victor J. Andrew High School in Tinley Park. She is also a wife and mother of two boys.
McCulloch was subbing Friday morning for a class in Joliet, where about 11 students participated, some who followed her from her Romeoville location.
Rose Slotkus of Romeoville has been taking Jazzercise with McCulloch for about two years, but she's been a Jazzercise participant for about 13 years.
"You're dancing, working out and having fun all at the same time," Slotkus said.
And it continues to be fun for McCulloch, even after seven years, which is why she was interested in competing for the promotion.
Instructors from around the country were interviewed for the competition, but McCulloch was recommended by one of the company's quality coordinators and a district manager. After several interviews, she was invited to compete with who she thought would be multiple other people.
In the meantime, they sent a camera crew to Minooka to record some of her life for what she was told would be a documentary.
"It wasn't until I was at the corporate office and saw there was one other contestant that I thought, oh crap, this is a reality show," she said.
The two competitors were then recorded doing multiple challenges, which included recruiting college students to Jazzercise while putting an impromptu class on campus, and recording their own Jazzercise DVD.
They didn't just have to perform for cameras to record the DVD, they had to do every role involved, from choreographing, picking costumes and props, building sets, picking the venue, feeding the crew and setting up camera angels.
"And you only got one shot (to record). Holy nerve-racking!" McCulloch said.
She did a Broadway theme based on her theater background. Although they ran through the routine twice, she did have a slight mistake in her video, but she said she recovered well.
The contestants then watched their DVD recordings at a movie theater on a big screen, and met with corporate officials for feedback.
In their last interviews with the CEO and Founder Judi Sheppard Missett, they were asked why they should be the winner. McCulloch said she wanted the position because she wanted to help improve the franchise communication with corporate.
"What I said was corporate does a great job communicating information down to us, but I think there is room for improvement on it coming back up," she said. "I feel I can be that voice."
She left the office that day thinking she won the ultimate prize of becoming the Ambassador, but was later told her competitor won a grand-prize they were unaware existed.
"(Missett) said she really saw both of us as winners," McCulloch said. "It felt good that she was so proud of me, and that corporate was so proud of how it turned out."
Although she said the experience was "absolutely worth it," being on a reality television show is far from true TV.
"There were some amount of fabrications to dramatize for the sake of reality television," McCulloch said.
There was some word play done in editing that made it appear like some negative things had occurred during the competition that did not actually happen. And many statements she made regarding her passion for Jazzercise was not played, including the fact that she lost 80 pounds through the Jazzercise classes.
But due to her participation in the show, she received a promotion that has enabled her and her husband to worry less about their financial situation and focus on their family.
"I don't have any regrets, because even though I had to deal with things that were edited, at the end of the day I got a wonderful job with Jazzercise and had this amazing experience," she said.
"Jazzercise changed my life before this ever came along, and now it's made it even better," she said.
For more information on Jazzercise, visit jazzercise.com. For more information on the "Be the Boss" series, visit aetv.com/be-the-boss.
Kim McCulloch teaches Jazzercise classes at Romeoville Friendship Centre,175 S.Highpoint Dr. in Romeoville. Class times are Monday at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. and Saturday at 8:30 a.m. Cost is $40 monthly, $30 joining fee, 12-month minimum; $45 monthly, $50 joining fee, 6-month minimum; or $15 single visit price.