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Retired NKY Teacher to Compete on New CBS Show "Tough as Nails"

Michelle Kiddy never shies away from a challenge.

When the 62-year old retired teacher saw a commercial for auditions for Tough As Nails, a new CBS reality TV series, she new she was up to the challenge.

Tough As Nails, created and hosted by Phil Keoghan (The Amazing Race), celebrates everyday Americans who get their hands dirty while working long, hard hours. Competitors include a welder, firefighter, farmer, roofer, Marine Corps veteran, and more. 

Kiddy, of Alexandria, who currently works as a gate agent at the Cincinnati International Airport, couldn’t wait to get to the audition. On her way to the location that morning, she downed a coffee and donut. Little did she know she’d be asked to perform burpees in a designated amount of time. A burpee, or squat thrust, is a full body exercise used in strength training and as an aerobic exercise. 

“The crazy thing is I was so concentrated on the person who was timing me and cheering me on I kept doing the burpees long after the time was up,” Kiddy said. “That’s kind of just me. I get into doing something and I’m so focused I don’t stop.”

Kiddy is a mother of four, a retired teacher (who just started teaching again), and track and cross-country coach. For the last several years she’s been the primary caregiver to her Vietnam veteran husband as he fought cancer. Since he’s been in stable shape, she was able to audition for the series.

Kiddy’s determination and stamina paid off and she was given a spot on the series which premieres at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 8 on CBS (WKRC, channel 12). 

On Tough As Nails, the twelve competitors, who get their work out on the job rather than the gym, wear work boots instead of workout shoes and consider the calluses on their hands a badge of honor, will be tested for their strength, endurance, life skills, and, most importantly, mental toughness in challenges that take place at real-world job sites. 

“I was inspired to create Tough As Nails almost a decade ago because of my working-class family of farmers, gold miners, builders and coal miners,” said host and executive producer Phil Keoghan. “I’m proud of my family and wanted to shine a light on people who are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty to do a hard day’s work. Now, more than ever, it is important for all of us to recognize this country’s ‘essential workers,’ real people in real life who are real tough.”

One competitor will be crowned the champion, but nobody will go home. Even after they “punch out” of the individual competition, they will have the opportunity to win additional prizes in the team competitions that continue throughout the season.

According to Kiddy being on the show was the “opportunity of a lifetime.” She really enjoyed “connecting to so many wonderful people.”

“This is a (rare) group of people,” she said. “I’m a work-a-holic and there’s not a lot of us around, but this group is full of those people. It was amazing to work with them.”

Her inspiration, Kiddy said, are her mom and dad.

“I was tenth of ten kids and I grew up on a farm and was expected to work,” she said. “My dad was a Marine and when he died, my mom took over the business. We worked the business as a family too. I remember walking to the laundromat after school and cleaning up, sweeping the floors. I learned then that there’s no shame in a good day’s work.”

Kiddy says she never minds the work, she finds great joy in being one who gets things done. 

“I always encourage the kids I teach to do something,” she said. “They can put down the phones, go mow the yard or help someone who needs something done and they can’t do it themselves. It’s all about being a better person.”

She’s currently teaching 8th grade science at Turkeyfoot Middle School.

Kiddy said working hard is her gift.

“I believe God likes me when I work and loves me when I sing. I can do both at the same time. I also like being able to be of help to others, it’s very rewarding to the soul.”

Kiddy is the oldest contestant in the series. She’s working on plans for a viewing party for the premiere. 

“This is still a pinch me moment,” she said. “I look at the cast photos and I’m grinning ear to year. The others are trying to look tough. I was just so happy to have this experience. I still can’t believe it.”

Written by Melissa Reinert, RCN contributor

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