Kelsy Reynolds at Rotary

Mansfield native Kelsy Reynolds speaks to the Monticello Rotary Club about her experience as a competitor on the CBS television show “Tough as Nails.”

MONTICELLO — Kelsy Reynolds not only proved some things to herself when she competed on CBS’ “Tough as Nails,” she also made some great friends.

“We actually still talk to this day, every day. They’re a great, great, great group of people,” Reynolds said of her 11 costars and competitors.

“We’re actually doing a reunion. We’re going on a cruise. We talk all the time,” she said during a talk to the Monticello Rotary Club on Dec. 22.

Reynolds, a Mansfield native and Blue Ridge High School graduate, took part in the third season of “Tough as Nails,” which aired in the fall. It pits people who work with their hands against each other for prize money, with the winner receiving $200,000 and a new Ford Truck.

Lia Mort of Richfield, Pennsylvania prevailed in the finals, which aired Dec. 8.

Reynolds was able to show off the versatility she has gained as a crop-dusting helicopter pilot and owner of RAS Aviation, based out of Mansfield.

During the show, contestants changed light bulbs via high-reaching cranes, laid field tile, put up fences and moved heavy equipment, all while trying to be the first to finish.

Reynolds was eliminated from the individual competition midway through the season, but still helped in team competitions and said she earned about $15,000 for her efforts.

It wasn’t easy. Their work days started at 5:30 a.m. and they got back to their hotels about 10 p.m.

Contestants were issued just two shirts especially selected for them by CBS, which for Reynolds were the olive green ones she always wore on screen.

That made it difficult to keep shirts even close to fresh. Reynolds resorted to showering with it on at night, soaping it up and rinsing it in order to get it ready for the next day.

When asked if that was enough, show officials said it just need to look presentable on the air.

“Cameras can’t smell,” she was told.

“I haven’t worn that shirt since” filming wrapped up in July, she chuckled.

The atmosphere on set was not only exhilarating, but positive, said Reynolds, saying that host Phil Keoghan paved the way for both.

“Phil was great,” Reynolds said.

She also relayed how CBS/Tough as Nails owns her, in a sense, with a two-year contract. If they want to advertise the show on her social media accounts, it is fair game for that period of time.

For branding purposes, Reynolds also has the market on Kelsys who can compete on the network’s reality shows, which also include “Survivor,” “Big Brother” and “Love Island.”

“Anybody who applies named Kelsy for ‘Survivor’ or ‘Big Brother’ or ‘Love Island’ is eliminated because I took the Kelsy name on ‘Tough as Nails’. That’s how crazy it is.”

She also told of a crew of up to 300 people behind the scenes, including two cameras for each competitor.

Reynolds may not be quite finished with the reality scene, hinting she may try out for “The Amazing Race” one day, another show hosted by Keoghan.

Role model

In the meantime, she hopes to speak in schools not only about her television experience, but her choice to pursue a career right after high school and earning her associates degree from Parkland College.

“I started flying helicopters at 19,” she said. “I want to get in with the younger generation and tell them all the different avenues that are available.”

Other tidbits about “Tough as Nails” that Reynolds shared with Rotary members:

— Convincing fellow competitors how small Mansfield (population 928) is: “I told them we don’t even have a stoplight. We’ve only got one cop. He works on Wednesday.”

— Contestants cannot strategize; they go into every competition cold, as seen on TV.

— No talking is allowed unless you are on camera, because stories are hard to re-create with non-actors.

“I did not like not talking,” said the energetic Reynolds.

— Three interviews per day were required of each show competitor.

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