Home Blog Which Iowans have starred in 'Dancing With the Stars,' 'Survivor'? – Des Moines Register

Which Iowans have starred in 'Dancing With the Stars,' 'Survivor'? – Des Moines Register


Iowans love reality TV and Iowans love to star on reality TV. From Olympians such as Shawn Johnson East and Lolo Jones to Bachelor Nation stars Kelsey Weier and Chris Soules, the Hawkeye state has churned out its share of reality TV stars.
These days, some past Iowa natives continue to make their mark on national television. Others have made moves to Nashville, returned to the Iowa farm, took up space on the red carpet or started careers as influencers.
Five people on this list stood outside the Bachelor Mansion and received roses from leads. Two are leading “Bachelor” men. Three members of the list have waltzed their way past Carrie Ann Inaba on “Dancing with the Stars.” A pair of Iowa natives even spent time in the “Big Brother” house before being put up on the block.
Here is the Des Moines Register’s guide to 10 recognizable Iowans who have appeared on reality TV.
Iowa’s golden girl first gained fame as a gymnast during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. She later appeared on a slew of reality TV shows including “The Celebrity Apprentice,” “The Challenge” and “Adventure Capitalists.”
The West Des Moines native also starred on two seasons of “Dancing with the Stars,” when she won the show’s eighth season in 2009 and was the runner-up in 2012’s all-star edition with now-judge Derek Hough.
There is one more reality TV show on her bucket list: starring on “The Amazing Race” with husband Andrew East. “We have had to say no to it in the past because of babies, which has been so hard, but hopefully they come back and ask us to be on another season,” Johnson East told the Register during a catch up interview in February.
Instagram: @shawnjohnson
Before Donald J. Trump was elected president, he starred as the free-wheeling boss of the boardroom on NBC competition show “The Apprentice.” During the series, contestants took part in business-focused “tasks.”
Trump said “you’re fired” to Iowa’s own Tana Goertz on the show’s third season in 2005, but it didn’t end her pit stops on reality TV. She later teamed up with fellow “Apprentice” contestant Craig Williams to compete on the now-canceled program “Fear Factor.”
Years after her time sitting across from Trump in the boardroom, she joined his presidential campaign as a surrogate in 2015. Now, she is an inspirational speaker and life coach. Goertz is married to former KCCI meteorologist Kurtis Gertz, who retired from the region’s CBS affiliate in 2021.
Instagram: @heytana
Iowa native Lolo Jones represented the U.S. in track and field at the 2008 Summer Olympics when she represented the U.S. in track and field. Later, she became a bobsledder and represented her home country in the 2014 Winter Games where the team got 11th place.
Jones also competed in a different kind of challenge that year: “Dancing with the Stars,” when she was eliminated first out of 11 weeks of competition. Jones has also appeared as a contestant on MTV’s “The Challenge” franchise several times and the second edition of “Celebrity Big Brother” on CBS in 2019.
Instagram: @lolojones
Cedar Rapids police officer Sarah Lacina is a reality show standout who first turned heads among viewers on “Survivor” for her abilities to flesh out situations and form alliances.
Lacina appeared on 28th season of “Survivor” in 2014 before returning in 2017 for the show’s “game changers” 34th season where she was crowned the winner. She also returned for the series’ 40th season in 2020. Last year, she won “The Challenge: USA” on CBS and competed in the series “The Challenge: World Championship” earlier this year
She lives in eastern Iowa with her husband Wyatt Wardenburg and their son, Knox.
Lake Mills native Cody Nickson courted controversy as a contestant on the 19th season of CBS’ “Big Brother” in 2017. His hard-nosed approach to the game, coupled with remarks that were considered by some to be transphobic and a showmance with then-girlfriend Jessica Graf, landed him on the eviction block multiple times. Humeston native Jason Dent also appeared in the 19th season of “Big Brother.”
The next year, the pair won the 30th season of globetrotting CBS competition “The Amazing Race” and married. Nickson is now a father of four daughters.
The Marine is also an author, fitness influencer, and entrepreneur. He lives in the Dallas, Texas area with his family. He also faced criticism in 2020 for referring to the COVID-19 pandemic as a “scamdemic” while promoting his new coffee company.
Instagram: @codythemarine
Mercedes Northup helped unofficially narrate Zach Shallcross’ season of “The Bachelor” earlier this year with quick-witted sound bites and quippy one-liners, but she didn’t receive his final rose. Shallcross eliminated Northup during a tear-filled episode in London, that was interrupted with a certain leading man’s COVID-19 diagnosis.
The Bloomfield native is on vacation during this season of “Bachelor in Paradise,” the ABC dating show’s beachy spinoff.
On “Paradise,” which is currently airing back-to-back with “Golden Bachelor,” she hit it off with one suitor so far and comforted best friend Kylee Russell. Northup grew up on a farm and even brought a pig to meet Zach during introductions at the Bachelor Mansion, but the reality TV now lives in Nashville.
Instagram: @mercedesnorthup
A post shared by Bryan Ollie (@bryanlollie)
The Dowling Catholic football standout later played at Iowa State and then played the fool in the “Big Brother” house. Ollie had a whirlwind showmance with fellow season 10 co-star April Dowling on the CBS competition show. He spent summer 2008 in the house but didn’t touchdown in Iowa with the $500,000 grand prize.
From Jack Trice Stadium to his exit with Julie Chen Moonves, Ollie left an impression on fans. Season 10 is also regarded as one of the most memorable seasons in “Big Brother” history. Now, Ollie lives with his wife and daughter in Arizona. On Oct. 6, Ollie will be inducted into the Dowling Catholic Athletic Hall of Fame.
Instagram: @bryanlollie
Before there was “Golden Bachelor” Gerry Turner, Chris Soules suited up in the lead role. Soules first appeared as part of Bachelor Nation in 2014 as a contestant on Andi Dorfman’s season of “The Bachelorette.” He started on ‘The Bachelor’ in 2015 and ended up with winner Whitney Bischoff, but the pair eventually went their separate ways after a whirlwind romance on the show.
After his turn as the leading man on the dating competition show, Soules ditched work boots for dancing shoes on “Dancing with the Stars” with partner Witney Carson.
In 2017, Soules was involved in a car crash that killed 66-year-old Kenneth Mosher, of Aurora. Soules called 911 from the scene of the Buchanan County crash on April 24, 2017 to report that he had hit a man on a tractor while driving his truck. Soules administered CPR, but eventually walked away from the scene and was picked up by another vehicle. Open containers of alcohol were found in Soules’ truck.
He eventually pled guilty to a charge of leaving the scene of a personal injury accident, a serious misdemeanor, and received a suspended prison sentence and two years of probation.
Soules also dated fellow Iowa native Kelsey Weier’s close friend Victoria Fuller, who was a fellow contestant with Miss Iowa USA 2017 on Peter Weber’s season of “The Bachelor.” On social media, Soules said he traded the Bachelor Mansion for the governor’s mansion when he appeared on a panel with the Conservative Energy Network at Terrace Hill. Soules has long been an advocate for agriculture throughout the state.
Instagram: @souleschris
For years, ABC has teased a golden-aged version of its hit “Bachelor” franchise. However, plans finally began to take shape when the network announced “The Golden Bachelor” would premiere this fall. The show’s first season is underway and the leading man Gerry Turner who is slated to hand out roses to a group of golden ladies considers himself an Iowan. This season, 22 women are vying for a chance to pick up a paddle with the pickleball superfan forever.
More: ‘Golden Bachelor’ recap: Iowan Gerry Turner meets 22 possible matches
“I am from Iowa, but I currently live on a beautiful lake in Indiana,” the retiree told the official franchise website BachelorNation.com in July. “The Golden Bachelor” airs on ABC at 7 p.m. every Thursday.
Instagram: @goldengerryturner
The former Miss Iowa USA popped bottles on pilot Peter Weber’s season of “The Bachelor” in 2020 and became a breakout star after a champagne-fueled controversy left a memorable impression. While Weier didn’t receive the romantic first impression rose from Weber, the Urbandale native landed in his top four. She was sent home during a hometown date filmed in the metro.
The Dowling Catholic High School grad moved to Nashville after her season of “The Bachelor” aired. She found love off-air with former Iowa State basketball star Matt Thomas.
Instagram: @kelsey_weier
Jay Stahl is an entertainment reporter at The Des Moines Register. Follow him on Instagram or reach out at jstahl@gannett.com.



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