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A Dose of Reality

Hamilton, Ohio – A simple yes changed her path. Hamilton City Council member Susan Vaughn might never have run for office had she not first run The Amazing Race on CBS.

Without her son Patrick, though, she never would have done that.


Vaughn will be on the panel for the Fitton Center’s Celebrating Self luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 5 – The Local Stars of Reality TV - to discuss her time on the Race.


TvHamilton’s Jeff Archiable hosts a round-table discussion on reality programs that also features 2022 Hamilton Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year Brad Baker (Shark Tank) and five-time Jeopardy winner Rani Peffer.


Vaughn knew of the Race before appearing on it and enjoyed its travel element, but Patrick was a reality show superfan. He auditioned for CBS’s Survivor, but never won a spot on the island.


When he came home to Hamilton from Los Angeles for his sister’s wedding in 2004, Patrick convinced Susan to audition with him. With her husband/his father John manning the camera, they shot a three-minute audition video (in one take, no less) making their case for the Race.


From 24,000 entries, they became one of 250 two-person teams considered for season seven. When the field narrowed again to 50 teams, the show flew Susan to Santa Monica to meet up with Patrick and interview in person. Within weeks, they learned they were one of eleven teams - and the first mother/son team on the show – to compete for $1 million on a race around the world.


Filmed in late 2004 and aired from March to May 2005, the Vaughns made it through four legs of the Amazing Race – all in South America – before being eliminated in Buenos Aries.


“Psychologically you will never ever be prepared for what’s going to happen on the Race,” she said. “The physical end of it is very demanding, but the mental part was so much harder. What to pack. Not having any money except what they gave you. Making travel arrangements on the fly. No contact with the rest of the world while you’re gone. It was an incredible challenge.”


She later turned that Race-learned idea of rising to a challenge into her primary message as a motivational speaker.


“I did that for about two years after the show, talking to groups about taking some risks and meeting challenges head on,” she said. “It was a great opportunity. It changed me. I don’t think I ever would have considered public office without that experience.”


Vaughn has plenty of insider stories ready for her Fitton Center appearance - the ins and outs of traveling the world with camera and sound crews, what happens between legs and after elimination, relationships with other racers, how long the whole process took and more.


That people remain interested almost two decades later still surprises her.


“If you had told me two years - five years - after being on that show, people would still be talking about it, I would have said you’re crazy,” Vaughn said. “But here we are. I’ve never stopped talking about it. I still get recognized and people still enjoy it.”


Tickets to Celebrating Self are $19 for Fitton Center members, $25 for non-members, and are available here. Tickets include a buffet lunch by Fitton Center catering partner Two Women In a Kitchen.


The Fitton Center for Creative Arts is located at 101 S. Monument Avenue on the Riverfront in downtown Hamilton, Ohio.


Building Community Excellence through the Arts and Culture



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