TV show contestant lives near state park

Monday, August 31, 2009
Liz Young, a contestant on a reality show, weighed 270 pounds before she left to Tennessee to participate.

CHAPEL HILL - A homecoming was held recently at Henry Horton State Park for a woman who lives north of town and has returned from California where she's been a contestant on NBC's show called the Biggest Loser.

Elizabeth "Liz" Young, 49, is the oldest contestant on the reality TV show that focuses on weight loss. The series with Young is scheduled to start Sept. 15, according to her friends, family and an NBC Web site that's included Young's photos and profile.

"This is the craziest thing I've done in my life," Young said this week in a telephone interview that included repeated questions about whether she could speak about her experience.

"General information is all I can give out," she said. "I know they've released the names and pictures of the contestants for the first episode. It's in TV Guide, the magazine.

"I just can't tell you information about the show because it hasn't aired yet," Young said refraining to describe what the TV viewing audience will be able to see when the show airs.

Young did, however, discuss the experience of being a contestant.

"You are sequestered," she said. "No phones, no computers, no TV, no nothing. We didn't know that Michael Jackson died until he helicopters were flying around the ranch. We asked, 'What happened?' and they said, 'Michael Jackson died,' and we said 'Oh really.'"

Jimmy Young, 52, is Elizabeth's husband. He spoke at one of the picnic pavilions at Henry Horton State Park on the afternoon of Thursday, Aug. 20, when friends and relatives were placing candles and other decorations on tablecloths covering picnic tables. They had helium-filled balloons for the homecoming that was filmed by an NBC crew.

"She's been away 3-1/2 months," Jimmy Young said. "This is her homecoming."

His wife is to maintain her exercise and dieting regime during the time that she's back in Marshall County.

Asked how much his wife weighed before she went to California, Jimmy Young said, "I can't say. I had to sign a confidentiality statement."

Others hadn't.

"She was at 270 (pounds) when she went," said Kay Godwin of Jay, Fla., the contestant's sister.

Liz and Jimmy Young's children are grown. They have eight grandchildren. He works for a fire protection and sprinkler service in Hendersonville. She runs her own interior design business. She describes her work as "comfort consultant."

"I represent a company called Private Quarters," she said. "They sell luxury linens and I teach how to layer a bed for ultimate comfort. In California, man, I missed my bed. I missed Tennessee more than I can express."

California didn't appeal to her. The Biggest Loser is recorded at the City of Calabasas near Los Angeles.

Her mother is Nell Allen of Henderson, a town near Jackson, Tenn.

"I think it's great" that she's on TV, Allen said of her daughter. "I'm glad she's lost all that weight."

As for the homecoming party in the public park, Allen said, "Thy told us to invite her friends and family."

Estella Petkovich, Elizabeth's self-described "best friend for 35 years" said her friend moved to Marshall County from Marks, Miss., when she was 14 years old.

Given that close and long-time friendship, Petkovich said, "So, she gave me orders before she left - orders on what to do for her homecoming."

People came from beyond the county line and out of state, and others there were practically neighbors to the Young's farm.

The Forrest High School Band of Blue played music for the event and Chapel Hill Mayor Carl Cooper welcomed Young back to the county, explaining later that Young's return is a good news story.

He was like others who were uncertain about how much could be said.

"I think they want people to watch the show and not give it away," said Yvonne Nolte, one of Liz's close friends at the homecoming, attended by about 100 people.

"She looks good and the town is behind her," Nolte said. "There was a lot of support."

Meanwhile, Liz is confident that she's going to win the contest, although she confirmed that's only her belief since she would be completing some later episodes in the coming weeks.

She apologized for friends and family who persuaded a reporter to leave the park on the evening of Aug. 20, reconfirming that she knows what she can say, and what's off limits.

"I am under contract," she said. "I can be sued for $1 million" for breach of contract if she tells what a TV audience would learn from watching the show.

"Sept. 15 is when the first episode airs," she said.

Subsequently, the secrets will emerge and as they do, photos might be available.

"We took pictures of each other every week," she said.

Secrecy around the show, however, has apparently had an effect toward building an audience - at least in this town of some 1,000 people where a tipster called on the morning of Aug. 20 saying the town should have some good publicity.

"How could they expect it not to come out?" Petkovich asked, noting during the decorating stages for the homecoming that the high school band would be at the park.

Liz's mother said, "You would think they'd want as much publicity as they can get."