Normally, the media doesn’t get a shot at interviewing “Big Brother” cast members until after they’re evicted from the house.
The whole point is they’re supposed to be cut off from the outside world; so, going into it, their involvement is typically a secret until the very last minute, and houseguests are contractually prohibited from talking about the show beforehand with friends, with reporters, or on social media.
But I got rather lucky with Christmas Abbott, a 35-year-old Raleigh fitness star who will get exposed to a whole new (and much wider) audience this summer on CBS’s “Big Brother,” which premiered Wednesday night.
Less than three weeks before she was revealed as one of the new houseguests on the 19th installment of the perennial summer-reality hit, she did a more-than-40-minute-long phone interview with me to promote her second inspirational self-help book, “The Badass Life.”
Based on that conversation, I wrote this profile about Abbott, a former Iraq-war civilian contractor who transformed herself from a chain-smoking alcoholic and drug user into a competitive weightlifter and CrossFit Games athlete, a pioneering woman in NASCAR, and a best-selling author.
In her official CBS bio, she noted that “the physical and mental games are the easy parts” of “Big Brother,” but didn’t elaborate. So I culled from my recent interview in putting together this collection of quotes, which provide a much more detailed look at how she regards the mental and physical strength she’ll need to rely on in her quest for the half-million-dollar prize.
On how she defines “badass,” a word she has now incorporated into two book titles: “For me, ‘badass’ isn’t about being edgy, or having tattoos, or being totally ripped. ... ‘Badass’ is a mental state. It is how you approach things. And that doesn’t necessarily mean aggressive. I mean, ‘badass’ as in having that mental tenacity to make it through any situation, and being able to see the positive in any situation. That, I believe, is ‘badass’ – just saying, ‘You know what? The world is throwing a whole bunch of crap at me right now, but no matter what, I’m not gonna allow that external situation to determine my internal being.’ When you have that mentality and that mental fortitude, that’s ‘badass.’ ”
On whether it’s painful to talk about the mistakes she’s made in life, particularly as they pertain to drugs and alcohol: “It is. It’s kind of like breaking open an old wound. I remember different things every time I talk about it. ...
“I love the movie ‘Inside Out’ – yeah, I’m such a big kid – because it teaches us that we have these feelings. As humans, we try and avoid sadness at all costs, and it’s actually detrimental to some of our other actions when we avoid sadness. So I allow myself to be sad about what happened, whatever memory I’m reflecting on. I feel it, and then I can move on. It’s an emotional cancer, if you’re not coping with it. And for me, it’s a constant reminder of how far I’ve come. ...
“So, I still have these powerful memories, and they still invoke hard feelings, but I want to use them in a positive way and not a negative way.”
On her greatest regret: “I think the biggest thing that affects me to date, still, in a negative way – that I still am working towards healing – is the fact that I exposed other people to that drug lifestyle, that drinking lifestyle. That’s the one that I can’t wrap my head around a form of forgiveness for myself. ... I carry a lot of guilt about that.
“But other than that, I don’t have any regrets. Those experiences are what drive me today. It’s not the core reason why I do what I do, but honestly, it helped form who I am and it helped influence my purpose for today.”
On her physique: “It looks the way that it looks because I demand it to work a certain way. I’m not working out to look a certain way. The physical appearance of my body is just a byproduct of what I’m doing for health and wellness, with sports and lifting. ...
“Bodies in general are such amazing, incredible machines. ... But there is no perfect body. I mean, I have a little cellulite on my leg. I’ve got stretch marks on my booty. These are reminders to me that imperfection is still beautiful. ... I’ve had to take a lot of time off over the last year (for medical reasons). And my body changed. When you don’t work out and you eat the same, things get a little bit thicker, and you’re like, ‘Whoa! Where’d that come from?’ ”
On the skin she bares in many of the photos of her that you’ll find on the Internet: “There’s a lot of pictures out there of me half-naked or implied nude, but that’s just because I love my body, and I’m proud of it, and I worked hard for it. ... Plus, when I sweat, I don’t want to sweat with clothes on. There’s no intention of, ‘Let me just take my shirt off so they can take a sexy photo’; I’m like, ‘Let me take my shirt off ’cause I’m too hot, and I’m gonna use my shirt for a sweat rag.’ ”
On her priorities: “I want to lure people in with my story, and then keep them with what I have to offer – my lessons, and my products. But I would much rather have somebody tell me about how they heard my story and they changed their life than have somebody buy a program. ...
“(For example) this one girl, she wasn’t even a CrossFit-ter, she wasn’t even working out, and she came to meet me at a CrossFit regional competition. She stood in line for an hour (to meet me), and she said hearing my story gave her the confidence to check herself into rehab for crystal meth. It was my story that kind of pushed her to be able to make those changes. So that’s really my hope and aspiration: I’m hoping that people see me in a way that helps them see they can do more positive with their life, and that they have that opportunity to make those changes.”