'American Idol' Season 2 champ Ruben Studdard, second right, signs up for a second helping of reality TV, this time on NBC's 'The Biggest Loser.' (Photo: Trae Patton, NBC)
Bill Keveney, USA TODAY
Ruben Studdard is hoping to move from Idol to role model.
The singer and second winner of American Idol will become the first entertainment star to compete on NBC's The Biggest Loser (returning Tuesday, 8 p.m. ET/PT), hoping to improve his health and set an example for fans and viewers.
Studdard, 35, will join 14 other contestants working with trainers Bob Harper, Jillian Michaels and Dolvett Quince. In a season sporting a "Second Chances" theme, each trainer will be able to "save" one eliminated contestant from having to go home.
Holley Mangold, 24, a 2012 Olympic weightlifter who hopes to compete for gold in the 2016 Games, is the latest Olympian to compete. (Wrestler Rulon Gardner, a 2000 gold medalist, participated in 2011.)
At 462 pounds, Studdard stands out as the heaviest contestant this season.
"I was ready to change my life," he says of his decision to take part in the series. "I couldn't wait another day to get myself in real shape. I really want to be around a long time and I want to be able to perform and do the job that I love for more than just another 10, 15 years. Being over 400 pounds, the odds were stacked against me."
Health is Studdard's biggest concern. There's a family history of high blood pressure and diabetes - he's had the former - and the singer says his weight makes him "a ticking time bomb" for such problems in the future.
"I was scared. I'm getting to the age where a lot of people in my family tend to find out that they have those issues and I don't want that to be my story," he says.
Studdard, who has experienced the weight loss/weight gain "yo-yo" effect, could have sought help privately, and acknowledges that going through the process on television is "not the most comfortable place to be in." However, he likes Loser's track record.
All the competitors have "tried this diet and that diet. And the one common thread is that it hadn't worked. They break down why it hasn't worked," he says. "I'm glad I got the opportunity to come here, because I get a chance to talk to people that have seen 15 seasons of overweight and obese people change their lives through hard work and dedication. And not just change their life here, but keep it off."
Although the contestants are competing for a $250,000 grand prize, Studdard says it is much more a competition with one's self than it is against the others. "Everybody's main goal here is not to compete with anybody here. American Idol, you want to be the winner, period. And here, everybody is trying to win their health back."
Idol has given Studdard insight into the world of reality television.
"I've been able to use my experience of being on a TV show to kind of talk them through what to expect. This is very different for the vast majority of people on this show. It's hard understanding how not to be unreal when the camera's put on," he says. "Everybody asked me a lot of questions, so I'm glad I could be of help to them, because there are a lot of things I learned from them, too."
Studdard put his musical career on hold temporarily to participate in Loser, but he plans to tour and work on an album to be produced by David Foster, who supported his decision take a break for Loser.
"To have the opportunity to do music with David Foster, one of the greatest music producers of all time, is just a blessing," he says. "He agreed with me 110% that I needed to get my health in order. I'm just really excited about the opportunity I have for my future. I want to be healthy, so I can enjoy all of it."