Melody DeLong may be on the verge of stardom with her exciting new television series and down to earth personality that is making her a familiar face on several reality shows like “Drop Dead Diva” on Lifetime, “Happily Ever Faster” on TLC, “Snapped” on Oxygen and appearances on “Dr. Phil,” “The Doctors,” “The Tyra Banks Show” and Rachael Ray’s show.
She has appeared in several national commercials for Mercedes-Benz, Chex Mix, Catnapper, Fine Living Smart Tips and Life Care Centers of America, to name a few.
But it is her riveting new action-packed show, “72 Hours,” that holds promise of launching DeLong into a whole new category of celebrity status. The new reality competition series drops competing teams of strangers into a wilderness in New Zealand with only a GPS device and three days to find a hidden briefcase full of cash.
DeLong and the other contestants are put to the test as they battle the elements and hike across treacherous terrain to beat the competition and walk away with a $100,000 cash prize, to be divided between them.
“The show was filmed in the mountains ... and is only accessible by helicopter,” DeLong said. “Some of the land is still completely uninhabited. We were the first people to ever be on parts of this island. The views were breathtaking! I can’t wait to see the show.”
DeLong said she was flown to Burbank, Calif., and was chosen out of several hundred people after several interviews with the producers for the show.
“There is a Facebook page for the show, but no pictures have been released,” she said. “Three teams of three strangers compete to win $250,000. They go with little to no food or shelter and rough terrain with a GPS and very few supplies. The first team to get to the suitcase wins the money. I won’t reveal the outcome, but finishing under such extreme circumstances was amazing. It’s the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life. I didn’t know I had it in me. I almost gave up, but I prayed a lot. It was a test for me. I was hungry, tired, overwhelmed, exhausted — you name it. I was bruised after falling off a horse, but no broken bones. This show changed my life.”
DeLong, whose great-great-uncle Wyatt Earp was a trailblazing legend in his own time, promised to do her best and gave the show her all in what some insiders suggest was a scene-stealing performance by the 5-foot-6, 112-pound dynamo with an infectious personality.
“They flew us in by helicopter to a really high mountain in New Zealand, gave us a water bottle, a GPS, and that was it. That’s it! They tell you that you have to get to each coordinate. At the coordinate you might get a few supplies and find out what your next coordinate is. This is how it continues until you get to the end. You know it’s the end because the last location has the suitcase with the money in it.”
According to DeLong, there is no food in the supplies. She explained, “What happens with the food is you have to call in when you get really hungry or really cold. You call for what they call a ‘Caller Relief Drop.’ But you lose time. So you get behind. There were a lot of places that the helicopter couldn’t even get, to so you have to keep going.”
The producers had several surprises for the competitors when the helicopter landed with their food pack — surprises which are sure to startle the audience when they see the show. Even the combination of contestants was created for the dramatics, something that will not disappoint, according to DeLong.
“They paired me with Barry Betha, he’s Navy — a firefighter and motivational speaker,” DeLong said. “They also put me with a girl who had a mouth — she loved to party, named Meg Patterson from Boston. She was crazy. I’m not perfect by any means. But I’m a Christian, and I get offended when people say or do certain things. Barry was awesome. He walked circles around me. He was twice my age. It was ridiculous.”
The threesome made for some of the most exciting reality television in recent memory as DeLong, the most petite one on the show, described how she found herself in several harrowing and hilarious adventures unlike anything she could ever encounter in her cozy hometown.
“The producer pulled me aside and said, ‘You were the only team filmed in eight countries — and we filmed eight episodes — and yours here in New Zealand was the only one where everyone finished the race.’ He told me he honestly thought that I would make good television but thought I would not finish the race. That blew him away.”
DeLong, 29, said she will be appearing on several talk shows when “72 Hours” airs in May.
“I’m really excited,” she said. “The producers will be flying me to different locations for interviews. They’ll be releasing pictures and showing previews pretty soon. It’s going to be pretty big.”
DeLong credits her teammate Betha for several of their accomplishments as a team, saying, “If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have been able to finish the show. I hung from a helicopter, repelled across some of the highest cliffs in New Zealand, went through caves, swamps, ocean and rock climbed. It was raw, real and I was scared to death at times. I went extremely fast on a racehorse across the beach where they filmed [part of] the “Lord of The Rings” series. I fell off the horse at the end and Barry carried me to the finish line. It really was a life-changing experience.”
It may eventually become a location-changing experience if DeLong continues her rise to notoriety on the airwaves. The co-owner of A Creative Touch and Nails at 60 25th Street in Cleveland, said she was recently contacted by ABC for a new mystery show called “Whodunnit.”
She and her husband, Justin, are scheduled to appear on the Steve Harvey Show in May. The couple have been married for 10 years with two children, Hunter, 8, and Ashton, 6. DeLong said her family is very supportive of her career choices, adding when the time is right she would like to broaden out into doing motion pictures.
“It’s fun. I enjoy it. My heart is in it and that’s the main thing,” she said. “My kids are still little, so I am right where I’m supposed to be right now. I haven’t even tried for some of the shows where I knew I would be gone for several weeks. As my boys get a little older I will definitely be in — and I’m confident that I’ll make it. I’m standing my ground because I’ve got priorities — I’ve got my kids, my husband and the shop, which I love doing hair, and I’m free to leave and do television shows. But I would love to do movies as well.”
DeLong, who started out modeling, has an agent affiliated with the Screen Actors Guild, or SAG, at Talent Trek in Knoxville, but admits, “I found most gigs myself through contacts and castings.”
The Bradley Central High School graduate said, “I did a lot of theater in school. They did a Theater Arts III class because of me because I was so interested in doing theater. I loved it. I’m kind of dramatic and outspoken. I love the television/motion picture industry. My goal is to be a positive role model for young women.”
Melody and Justin are also head of an outreach ministry for underprivileged children through Living Word Church in Cleveland.