With the season's first episode set to air at 9 p.m. Monday, Statesboro resident Tonsheia "Toy" Grandison cannot reveal how much weight she loses on NBC's "The Biggest Loser." But she can tell us how much confidence she gained.
Grandison plans to use that self-confidence to pursue goals such as going back to college for her MBA and continuing in a fitter, healthier lifestyle.
"It kind of took a lot of fear away because I had to face a lot of my fears, so I'm ready," Grandison said. "I know that I can do it now. I have the confidence to do it, to do anything I want to do."
Grandison, 35, entered the show at a weight of 316 pounds. As a condition of participation, contestants on shows such as "The Biggest Loser" agree not to disclose things that could spoil the show's outcome for fans. She was interviewed in a conference call with NBC Publicity's Jill Carmen, who said that how much Grandison weighs now, and how long she was in Southern California for the show's filming, were off-limits.
But the new season of "The Biggest Loser" began shooting in mid-September, Carmen said.
The competitive weight-loss reality show has been in production for 11 years, but this will be the 17th season, since multiple seasons have been created some years. Grandison is one of 16 contestants in the latest season.
During the show's production, she revealed a tragedy in her past, and a clip of her tearfully recalling it appears on the NBC website. When Grandison was 20 years old, her 13-month-old son wandered into a backyard pool and drowned. She acknowledges that this was very difficult to talk about, but says that her child's death had a lot to do with her weight gain.
"I think at that point I just stopped caring, and I had a lot of guilt, and, you know, me just not caring and the guilt of his passing was just a recipe for my weight gain, and then my not dealing with it, just trying to suppress it with food," Grandison told the Statesboro Herald.
But talking about this so openly was something she had never done before, and proved therapeutic, she said.
"My family is a pretty private family," Grandison said. "So to talk about it was in itself something out of character for me. But I'm glad I did it because it allowed me to kind of move over the mountain, I would say. I knew I had a problem with dealing with my son's passing but I just didn't know how to deal with it."
Her tragedy did not happen here. The youngest of seven children, Grandison was born in Waycross and grew up in Orlando, Florida. She has lived in Statesboro since 2007. Her sister was already here pursuing a doctorate at Georgia Southern University, and Grandison came to study for her degree, which she completed, a bachelor's in finance with a minor in information systems.
Her mother also lives in Statesboro.
Grandison is married - her husband's name is William - and has three sons and a daughter.
"My biggest motivation for going on the show is to be a good role model to my kids," Toy Grandison is quoted in her NBC bio. "I want to get healthy and teach them a healthy lifestyle.
The bio identifies her as a store manager as well as a part-time caretaker at a group home for girls. However, she hasn't worked at the store, a title loan place, since going to film the show. Grandison still works part-time at Ordered Steps Home for Girls, in Brooklet.
"It's a really awesome place that allows me to kind of work with the girls and add to their lives and, of course, make sure that they get the nutrition, the counseling, everything that they need," she said. "I love it."
More energy for this work and for her church, Statesboro Mission Outreach Ministries, is another motivation for Grandison. She is involved in door-to-door ministry and said she will be working with a committee that will provide services, such as resume writing and job search classes, through the church's computer lab.
Grandison debuts on "The Biggest Loser" at a time when the show itself has undergone a partial makeover since last season. Former trainer Bob Harper is now the host, replacing Alison Sweeney. The gym has been updated with new equipment, and there's a new logo. Format changes include a new "Temptation" theme, which the show's publicity says will help contestants learn how to deal with temptations in the real world.
Trainers Dolvett Quince and Jen Widerstrom are back, but will now be seen training eight teams, each with two members.
One of the contestant pairs arrived as strangers, but the other teams came to the show with some sort of relationship. One pair consists of two best friends; another, of two brothers. There are also two married couples, a mother-daughter team, and a father-daughter team. The father and daughter are also Georgians, Rob Kidney, 56, of Warner Robins and Sarah Gilbert, 27, of Perry. So is one of the married couples, Hope Wright, 35, and Colby Wright, 31, listed as hailing from the K'Ville, Georgia.
Grandison is paired with her niece, Britney Anderson, 27, a health unit coordinator and makeup artist and hairstylist from Kissimmee, Florida.
During the competition, the contestants were housed, as in past seasons, at the ranch, "a beautiful ranch, one out of the storybooks," Grandison said.
"It was an amazing opportunity," she said. "I feel blessed to have been a part of it, and anything that can, you know, just add something positive to your life, I'm all for it."
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.