FIVE ON THE SIDE: Our top 5 local reality show contestants

McHenry County and the surrounding area has been home to many reality show contestants over the years, including “American Idol,” “America’s Next Top Model” and “The Biggest Loser.” Here are our top five favorites.

1. Lee DeWyze
Shy, humble and local, “American Idol” winner DeWyze is the Chicago area’s current reality show darling. The 24-year-old Mount Prospect native’s smoky, soaring vocals and sweet face pushed him past the equally likable Crystal Bowersox in the TV singing contest in May. DeWyze is a self-taught musician who’s been performing for years, despite the hype he’s just a simple guy who worked in a paint store.  Looking for Lee? He’s still making the rounds on talk shows and popping up at award shows. And his debut album is expected to drop Nov. 16.
 

2. Erin Wagner
A native of Kenosha, Wis., and now living in Spring Grove, 19-year-old Wagner gained fame as a top-5 finalist in cycle 13 of “America’s Next Top Model.” Known as the season for the shorties, the cycle featured models 5-foot-7 and shorter. Erin was a strong front runner during her time on the show, being consistently called in the top six with the best photos. She also won two reward challenges toward the end of the series. The 5-foot-6 self-confessed “total nerd” has signed with Wilhelmina Models, and has done some test shots and an ad for Editor’s Closet for sunglasses.

3. Jim Verraros
A 27-year-old native of Crystal Lake, Verraros finished in the top 10 of the first season of “American Idol.” He released an independent album, “Unsaid and Understood,” in 2004, which was picked up by Koch Records and released as “Rollercoaster” in 2005. The album garnered a top 20 Billboard Dance Hit, “You Turn It On.” He also starred in 2004’s gay-themed comedy, “Eating Out,” and its 2006 sequel, “Eating Out 2: Sloppy Seconds.” In 2003, Verraros came out publicly in an article in The Advocate. In 2009, he married his boyfriend Bill Brennan.

4. Juleah Scott
She went by Leah Barrettsmith when she and her sister, Brooke, made it to Hollywood on Season 5 of “American Idol” in 2006. She was cut during the group auditions. Now 24, she goes by the stage name Juleah Scott and is working on a country album deal in Nashville, Tenn. She’s still the same “go-getter” she was growing up in Spring Grove, Brooke Barrettsmtih said. “She’s working with the likes of Dolly Parton,” Brooke said. Scott’s original songs can be found on Myspace.com, where she has a fan page and her official website.

5. Julio Gomez
An Algonquin native, Gomez took part in the eighth season of the weight-loss competition show, “The Biggest Loser,” in the fall of 2009. While on the show, the 40-year-old mortgage loan officer dropped 128 pounds going from 407 pounds to 279 pounds. Gomez is the youngest of three boys of Cuban immigrants who fled communism in the early 1960s. The black, size 6x shirt he wore on the show is now framed and hanging up on the wall at Fitness 19, the Algonquin health club at which Gomez works out.

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