Exclusive: Gillian Larson takes us behind the scenes of the 2017 Reality Rally

Reality Rally -On April 6 through April 8 in the beautiful town of Temecula, California, the 7th annual Reality Rally event will be taking place! For those who are unfamiliar with the event, it’s a celebration of many wonderful things — reality television, fun activities, and also raising money for a great cause. The proceeds from the event go directly to Michelle’s Place, a wonderful organization that serves as a breast cancer research center for so many people in need. They help with support, detection, and making sure that you have everything that you need to be properly prepared for what lies ahead.

At the center of this event is an incredibly hard-working woman in Gillian Larson who treats the event as a labor of love — she makes zero money off of the event, but passionately devotes unspeakable amounts of time every year to making it happen. She’s also a reality TV alum herself, having appeared on “Survivor: Gabon.” We were excited to speak with her about this year’s event, including the planning process and how certain reality stars end up making it every year.

Before we dive into our interview with Gillian, we just want to remind everyone that if you are interested in anything from tickets to the event to donations to the roster of reality stars this year, be sure to visit the event’s official site. There’s also a sizzle reel at the bottom of the article to check out highlights from past rallies.

For the record, we’re also planning to be at the casino night event taking place on April 7 at the Wilson Creek Winery covering the red carpet. Be sure to say hello!

On how Gillian plans for the event every year, and if she takes any break between one Rally and the next.

“I actually don’t take a break at all. I start planning the following year throughout the event that we’re going through at the time. I notice things that maybe aren’t going as smooth as they could be, or could be done a little differently. I always joke — I call our event a ‘magnificent duck,’ because on the surface it’s happy and it’s smiling, but underneath there are a few feet that are pedaling. Nobody sees the feet except myself and the few people who are involved in the pedaling.

“Absolutely, I look at things throughout the weekend, and based on that and what money comes in from what area, [we figure out] if we do something again or if we do it differently or we don’t do it at all. For example, there was a golf tournament that we did for two years — it was a lot of work without a huge income. Anytime something’s a lot of work that doesn’t do a lot for the fundraising, we don’t do it again. There is a certain amount of the effort that goes into it that I consider my marketing, because it’s visible to the public in many, many ways. If that is a huge benefit and there is money from it [that goes to Michelle’s Place], then we continue it. That’s why the casino night continues, the race continues, the autograph line continues, and the celebrity chef showcase continues.

“The lip-sync was so successful last year that we’re doing it again [on April 6]. What you see happening is because it’s worth the time, it’s fun, it raises funds, and it promotes both Temecula and Michelle’s Place.”

On the recruitment of the reality stars that turn up for the event.

“The reality stars that we tend to get, I contact however I can. If I go to events, I go to Survivor finales, I connect with people and give them information, emails, etc. We invite people to sign up — some of them never get around it, and others just don’t like raising the money. I hate to sound that frank about it. They would love to come and hang out and have a good time, but there is some effort that needs to be put into raising the funds and it’s hard. I require myself to raise money or I can’t go to the event (laughs). But, I do! I raise over a thousand a year and I think I’ll hit two thousand this year. I know it’s hard, but in my mind it’s easier to raise money than it is dealing with cancer. That’s why we require fundraising.

“Also, we then had some more Survivors signed up, but they are on the coming season and can’t attend — you have people like Caleb, Tai, a few others, who have a contract and they can’t attend events while you’re in the season.”

On why you should attend, and the variety of the stars who turn up.

“My spiel is sort of standard to everybody — promoting who we are, why the event happens, and it’s run by an entirely volunteer force. I’m a volunteer, and I don’t make a penny out of it. I spend more than a penny helping to make it happen! We raise money for charity, we promote the town of Temecula, and people from the area come and get involved.

“There are 32 different shows represented this year — some of them have been on three or four shows, and that adds to the number of shows. The public all have a show that they’re following — someone may not care about ‘Survivor,’ but they love ‘Hell’s Kitchen,’ or they would love to know more about ‘Naked and Afraid.’ That’s why we have people from different shows, and as long as they’re good people and raise the money, then they come! It’s up to them to reach out to us.”

Her reaction to returning-player seasons like the upcoming ‘Survivor: Game Changers” — specifically, we asked if she’s disappointed that “Survivor: Gabon” doesn’t get more love. (It’s a season we personally really enjoy.)

“A lot of people are actually invited to go back, but a lot of people turn it down for multiple reasons. I don’t know — There are some times I look at the season and I go ‘wow, who is that person?’ — I just can’t remember some of them! I wish that there would be one or two people going back.

“However, I am not a huge fan of returning players. I think the space is taken up by new characters who could be in the season and who could be great to watch. Plus, also someone’s image often changes from one season to another. They may have been awesome on one season, and then they go on another season and it’s very different for them. It’s like a letdown — you lose that original image of them. I’m not a big fan of returnees.”

Thanks once more to Gillian for her time! As a reminder, the Reality Rally is from April 6-8, and you can visit the site for more information. (Photo: Reality Rally.)

Love TV? Be sure to like Matt & Jess on Facebook for more updates!