The cutthroat competition’s 20th season, which brings back 20 of the most memorable — and competitive — contestants in a Heroes vs. Villains showdown, kicks off Feb. 11, and the stakes are even higher. “In the first challenge,” reports host and producer Jeff Probst, “We had a broken toe, a dislocated shoulder, a square off between a hero and a villain with a surprising result, and one woman finished the challenge and won it for her tribe topless. We all looked at each other and went, ‘We’re off to a good start.’”
“We definitely try to do our part. Being from California, I feel like we’ve been doing this forever, recycling and being conscious of all of that,” says Olympic figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi (pictured right). “We unplug things when we’re not using them and teach the kids to turn off the water when they’re not using it. They’re good about turning lights off when they leave the room. We hardly ever have the lights on until it gets dark out because luckily our house has a lot of natural light.”
Yamaguchi is one of a dozen celebs participating in the PBS four-part series Faces of America, in which author, historian and Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. explores the genealogy of 12 people of diverse ancestry, including Meryl Streep, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Stephen Colbert, Yo-Yo Ma, Mike Nichols, Mario Batali and Eva Longoria Parker. “To think you can gain so much history from your own family,” marvels Yamaguchi, who discovered interesting facts about her heritage, including that her grandfathers had been in the same Japanese internment camp during World War II but never met. Faces of America premieres Feb. 10.
Meanwhile, the 1992 Olympic gold medalist will also be seen reporting from Vancouver as a Today Show and Universal Sports correspondent on figure skating at the Winter Games, which open Feb. 12. Her gold medal is on display at the U.S. Figure Skating Museum in Colorado Springs, but she has the mirror ball trophy she won on Dancing With the Stars at home, on a shelf below her pro hockey player husband’s Stanley Cup replica.
“I love eco-friendly fashion,” says stylist-to-the-stars Robert Verdi (pictured left), the subject of an eponymous reality show premiering on Logo Feb. 10. “I think it’s an evolving category that hasn’t really crossed to the mass market but the millennium generation is aware of it.” His TV star clients certainly are — both Eva Longoria Parker (Desperate Housewives) and Ana Ortiz (Ugly Betty) drive Priuses and have homes that incorporate green elements and practices, he notes. Verdi does his part, too, at home and at his company. “I pick apart people’s garbage in the office and recycle when they don’t. I scream at them all day long,” he admits.
In the eight-episode series, Verdi will be seen prepping clients for red carpet events but the camera also follows him as he tries to implement some outlandish pipedream. “I try to make these outrageous things happen every week. I don’t always get what I want,” he says, “but what’s great about it is it leaves people with the idea that you can explore and try new things.”
The carpet was red, her dress was blue, but Christine Lakin (pictured right) had green on her mind at the Hollywood premiere of Valentine’s Day, in which she plays an office receptionist. “I’ve got a hybrid car, I use low-wattage lighting in the house, I always use my recyclable bags at the grocery store, we recycle at home,” she explained. “I have a garden and grow tomatoes, peppers, herbs, lemons and limes. The eggplant didn’t work out, but the citrus is doing very well,” reports Lakin, who plans to start composting, “worms and all.”
Lakin, who had fun working with Jessica Biel again — they’ve known each other since their respective series days on Step by Step and 7th Heaven — confesses she’s a “hopeless romantic” where Valentine’s Day is concerned, but rather than craving candy or flowers, she’d rather celebrate with “dinner and great conversation.” Maybe it’s because she can’t forget that in fifth grade, Patrick Fitzgerald gave her a heart-shaped box with three chocolates missing. She has better memories of a Tiffany bracelet from an ex-boyfriend, but in any case this year she’ll be spending Feb. 14 at a friend’s sister’s wedding in Atlanta.
Lakin has several movies in the can, including the September comedy You Again, which she describes as “Mean Girls meets My Best Friend’s Wedding. I’m a mean girl and I’m pregnant,” she says of her character, which she wore a pregnancy pillow to play. “I didn’t have to worry about fitting into anything and I got to rest stuff on my stomach,” she raves. “It was great.”
Additional photo credits: Kristi Yamaguchi by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images; Robert Verdi by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images; Christine Lakin by WENN.com. MNN homepage photo: Robert Voets/CBS Broadcasting.