The prospects of being city-raised black women on a new reality show about a ski resort concierge business in Whistler, British Columbia, wasn’t daunting to Kendra Larkin and Elise Wims at all.
Pittsburgh native Wims, a classically trained chef with reality show experience, looked forward to the challenge though she never felt accepted by the team cast on “Après Ski,” which premieres at 10 p.m. ET Monday night on Bravo.
“You don’t really see a lot of black folks walking around Whistler, much less in leadership positions,” said Wims, who served as the operations manager for the team at Gibbons Life, the upscale travel concierge business owned by Whistler mogul Joey Gibbons and featured on the show.
“This is a startup and we’ve got two months to make this work,” Gibbons told the team in a meeting during the first episode of the show.
In typical reality show fashion, “Après Ski” brings together strangers to live together – in this case Larkin and four other people who serve as VIP concierges. They work under Chief Executive Officer Tamara Moore and Wims to try to make clients’ elite vacation dreams come true, from dog-sledding adventures to dining in Peak 2 Peak Gondola, which is the longest-traveling and highest-elevation ski lift in the world. Making high-end resort dreams come true is easier said than done in some cases.
Reality TV shows often are criticized for perpetuating the worst of human behavior and interaction, especially when it comes to African-American women being depicted as uneducated, volatile, violent and/or gold diggers.
For Larkin, doing the show was an opportunity to dispute those stereotypes just by being herself, she said.
“I see it like everyday life. When you present a new perspective, you have the opportunity to battle that stereotype,” Larkin, 28, said during a phone interview while on vacation with her family in Uruguay.
A New York University graduate with a degree in communications, Larkin speaks four languages, including Spanish, French and Mandarin Chinese, has a background in fashion and used to produce runway shows for New York Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.
“I definitely bring to the table an international and cosmopolitan point of view,” she said.
Her life is about taking advantage of multi-faceted experiences, which might not include a typical 9-to-5 job, the Temecula, Calif., native said.
“I get to do everything instead of just one thing,” she said.
A graduate of the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute, Wims also has had a multifaceted career, which was springboarded in 2011 by her third-place finish on “Hell's Kitchen," Fox’s reality cooking competition TV show.
Wims is the owner of DivaChef LLC, which includes restaurant consulting and personal chef services, and is a fitness buff.
She was a fierce competitor with a strong personality that rubbed some contestants the wrong way in her previous reality show life. Today, she still stands by her guns, and insists she’s about business.
In the first episode of “Après Ski,” Wims’ personality and uniqueness is discussed by the team members, who question her wearing 5-inch heels and sparkly tops while working at a ski resort.
Wims, however, said she was unfairly judged early on in the show because she was an outsider.
“But again, I didn’t take the position to make friends. I went there to be successful and do a job,” she said.
Part of her motivation was her 8-year-old son, Christopher “CJ” Wims II.
“I have to do this to give him the things that I didn’t have. He’s the reason I’m here right now,” Wims told her aunt, when she called home to check on CJ, on the show.
Wims hopes “Après Ski” will show viewers that she is unbreakable in spirit and true to herself.
Whether Gibbons Life was a success and the TV show will return for a second season won’t be disclosed until the end of the current season’s run.
Larkin is open to returning.
“I think people will really like the show… I think there’s something for everyone,” she said.
Despite not exactly becoming bosom buddies with the show’s team, Wims wouldn’t rule out a return, she said.
“Who knows? I’d say the sky is the limit,” she said.
“Après Ski” airs at 10 p.m. Eastern / 9 p.m. Central on Bravo