‘King of the Nerds’ exit interview: Winner Kayla LaFrance talks victory and so much more

Kayla -We’ve made it to the end of the road for “King of the Nerds” season 2, which has been a heck of a fun journey. There have been many twists, turns, and great challenges, but above all else, what made this season great to us was the pool of contestants. You had a great mixture of different types of nerds, and people with passions and personalities.

This brings us today to the winner in Kayla LaFrance, who did a little bit of everything throughout the season. She was very strong in the Nerd Wars, played a good strategic game, and also had a chance to profess her love for “Star Trek” many times along the way. She was also a very fun interview, and gave pretty in-depth answers about both her experience and how she wants to use her new title to pay it forward and make the nerd world a better place.

CarterMatt – First of all, congratulations! If you invest this $100,000, how long do you think it will take you to get to Mars? :)

Kayla LaFrance – Thank you Matt, Jessa. I appreciate the support and loved following your podcast and rankings over the last few weeks.

I do not believe that there is any investment plan that could turn 100k into 100 billion in a reasonable time frame. So my best way to invest the money to get to Mars quicker would be to pay off some of my student loans.

One of our favorite moments of you all season was probably when you managed to get Brian sent in to the Nerd-Off against Chris over yourself. Is that a moment that you look back fondly of from a strategy perspective?

That was a close call! While I have received negative feedback from fans about that move, I do feel that I was playing within the rules and parameters of the game. I successfully protected myself from the nerd-off and was able to fight another day. I do not feel like I betrayed my team nor was I mean and cold-hearted. One thing that the Titans understood was that we all were playing to win a game, we never took it personally, and all agreed that what happened at Nerdvana would not follow us outside of Nerdvana.  Brian and I were friends after that throne room vote and remain great friends to this day. I did what anyone in that position would do. I challenged the vote, I played the system, and I won. Brian and I were the top two sci-fi nerds this season at Nerdvana. I had assumed that he would have a much stronger literary background than I. At the conclusion of the event, we both realized that I probably did know a few more facts than he did. So I would have been fine had I faced that nerd-off, but why take that chance?

In retrospect, the Titans did not know that Brian was considered more of a threat. We had assumed that Chris and I would be the two targets from Midas Touch Attack. Had I not persuaded Xander to vote with me, Brian and I would have been tied leaving MTA to pick. With the knowledge we know now, I am sure that Brian would have been selected by MTA. Thus he still would have been in that nerd-off.

You seemed nervous at times about doing the more creative tasks, but then you did a really good job with them (such as the science fair)! Is there anything that you learned about yourself while doing this that you didn’t previously know?

I would have to say that that is a slight misunderstanding. Yes, I am not comfortable with improv. However, acting and performance in musicals and choir, I have been that doing since I was in Jr. High. The issue with the Science Fair was that we did not have a working volcano yet! I was frustrated that I had spent hours and hours and hours building a contraption inside the volcano that would mix the different chemicals together at just a tug of a string (which you never see on the show at all). I spent so much time on the delivery system that I was worried I would let the team down on the science side of it. The rest of the team was really focusing on the performance aspect, but we still needed a working experiment. No amount of acting/improve/warm-ups would help us if our volcano failed. We did not have a very vigorous reaction and Chris and I ran out of time to amp ours up because we needed so much time to practice the skit. I was not worried about my ability to act a few lines, that’s easy…. However, standing before Mayim Bialik and Bill Nye – people that I respect in the science world – and feeling as if I had dropped the ball on the science side of this project for my team was a crushing feeling.

The Titans as a whole decided to have me sit out of the LARP competition for several reasons, one in which is never addressed in the episode, but was a large factor in our decision. Had the team decided to keep me in I would have had no problems with the costuming and the skit that the team preformed. Keep in mind that I do cosplay a number of characters, and I build and create all of my own costumes.

Xander and I butt heads in the robot challenge not because I was opposed to the creativity that  we needed, but because the creative mind was coming up with ideas that the engineers could not build with the time and materials we had. Once we talked it through we scaled back the size, but not the creativity making it much more manageable for Chris and I to hammer out the engineering. It is all part of working as a team. It was about making sure that the challenges were completed and done in a way that would be creative but not be so over the top that we could not actually build them.

How close was that Tron racing Nerd War? It seemed like you probably won by way more than the edit tried to suggest.

Oh My! Nerdio-Kart was my FAVORITE challenge by far. Xander crossed the line 7 seconds after I did. Xander was much closer behind me than I had thought at the time; I remember lapping Brian, Zack and Jack at least once but I was not really sure where Xander once. Seven seconds is not a GIGANTIC lead, but it is not considered close either. I was able to get the best time, cross the line first, and collect the most amount of stars. I had an insane amount of fun in that challenge. I was cat calling the boys, laughing as I went around, and utterly beaming with pure joy under the glowing Tron lights! And it really hit close to home because of the relationship I had with my grandfather. The best moment at Nerdvana.

And for the record – I only hit one person in that race and it was Brian. I did not hit Zack at all, but yes, I was laughing maniacally as I lapped him.

Are you ever going to look at Pac-Man the same way? Is he now your mortal enemy and you will give dirty looks to every arcade machine you see?

I did not like pac-man BEFORE I even knew what Nerdvana was! SO yes, I still don’t like it! I am far from a gamer. Most video games kick my butt and so I just do not play a lot of video games. I have a PS3 and have a handful of games that I play obsessively such as the Batman Arkahm games and DC Universe Online. I also love to play Gran Turismo! Really I play any video game that follows one of my fandoms, other than that I am not a gamer and you will find me at the air hockey table in the arcade instead of Mrs Pac-man.

I have received some negative feedback on this as well, and well honestly, no human being can be good at every aspect of Nerd. I pick and choose (as do we all) the ones that I like best and that fit my personality best. Gaming is just not one of them.

In all seriousness, what does it mean for you to win this competition? (Outside of the awesome prize, of course!)

I went into King of the Nerds because I knew it would be a fantastic adventure, one in which I could learn from. I have had a few low points in life over the last few years, and I really wanted to have fun and prove to myself that I still had it in me to work hard and achieve a goal; no matter what the circumstances may be. I achieved all of my personal goals, all of the goals I had for the game, and was also able to walk away from that experience with new friendships. That means everything to me. I am ready to tackle the next great adventure in life, and I cannot wait to see if KOTN will open any new opportunities for me.

I also took a lot away from the concept of the show. I grew up feeling the peer pressure and dealing with the typical school related hardships of a nerd in public school. I love my hobbies and I love my fandoms, regardless of how cool or uncool they maybe. I love how accepting the nerd culture can be (provided you like that person’s fandom), and I feel honored to be able to represent that culture through the show.

If I can inspire just one young girl out there to follow her dreams with passion and to be proud of who she is and to never change. Then I will consider my time as King of the Nerds a complete success.

Finally (and we like to close with something silly), how does being being the supreme ruler of Nerdvana work? Do you get to issue decrees, have royal duties, or wear a crown everywhere you go? You should totally do that.

Sadly I was not allowed to keep the crown. However, I did have a custom baseball hat made up that has a purple crown sitting atop the word NERD, this way I can wear a crown everyday!

There is no real political power that comes with the title. I will not be making any decrees or banishing Star Wars from the Nerd kingdom. (no really, I do know that Lucas films was a driving force in special affects and that Star Wars is a large part of pop culture… But I still do not like Star Wars… again, you do not have to LOVE everything and be an expert in everything nerdy to be a nerd).

Instead, I actually hope to use the title to open up opportunities, in which I can sever to promote nerd culture, STEM education in schools and also try to offer a positive outlook for younger students in school. Being a nerd can make younger students a prime target for bullying, and I would love to use King of the Nerds as an opportunity to encourage students to persevere and follow their love and passion no matter what the other kids might say.

Thanks again to Kayla, and for all of the nerds who gave their time  to type away these answers to us. And, of course, thanks to all of you for reading! We’ve already made our hopes or a season 3 clear, but there isn’t any word one way or another just yet. Let’s just put our collective nerd energy into sending good vibes to TBS, and hope that we’re back doing this all over again in the future.

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Photo: TBS

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