Best friends set out on 'Amazing Race Canada'

Best friends set out on 'Amazing Race Canada'

July 11, 2019

Relaxing and shooting the breeze at best friend Aisha Bentham’s residence, Nekeita Lee popped the question, ‘Why don’t we try this?’

Without hesitation, the response was, ‘let’s do it’.

Making it all the way to the last round of casting last year for ‘Amazing Race Canada’, the producers asked them to try again this year.

They did and are among 10 teams of racers that will push themselves outside their comfort zones in the seventh season that started on July 2 at 9 p.m. on CTV.

Teams in the reality television series are split into a series of six legs where they receive destination clues and challenges to complete in order to move onto the next task in the gruelling event.

“I couldn’t imagine doing this without anyone else but Nicki,” said Bentham who graduated from Wexford Collegiate School for the Arts and the University of Windsor with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting. “This is a great opportunity to challenge ourselves and our friendship. We have been through a lot together those things can’t compare to this.”

A personal trainer, Lee has watched ‘Amazing Race’ for many years.

“I was doing so long before there was a Canadian version of the event,” said the Concordia University Leisure Sciences graduate who completed high school at Cedarbrae Collegiate Institute in 2005. “This is something I always wanted to do as I am always looking for ways to challenge myself. What better person to do this with than my best friend? She knows me best and we complement each other perfectly.”

Preparation, said Lee, is essential to survive the rigourous adventure.

“We are both physically fit and that helps,” she pointed out. “But I think it’s going to come down to strategy. We have talked about what we will do in certain situations and what to look for and I have watched previous episodes to see some of the things that contestants did that made it easier for them to negotiate a challenge. We know we are in tough, but we are up to it.”

Planning for U-Turns, which can result in heated arguments, low placements at the Pit Stop and even elimination, are also high on the friends’ homework list.

Before or after completing a detour in which teams choose which task they want to complete, a team may choose to use a U-Turn on another team. That other team is required to complete the other detour option that they did not originally choose. 

Lee believes that their basketball experience will help them overcome some of the hardships they will encounter in the adventure.

“Everyone on the court comes with their own strengths and weaknesses,” said the former Toronto Raptors Academy coach. “If it is a tight game with three seconds left on the clock, you know who your best defensive player is. It teaches you teamwork, discipline and stuff like that. We are hoping to execute and put all of that stuff into application in the race.”

Nekeita Lee (l) & Aisha Bentham

Nekeita Lee (l) & Aisha Bentham

A vegetarian for six years and vegan since 2017, Bentham admits she may have to veer off the herbivorous course during the race.

“It is something I am constantly debating, but I know myself and I feel the best when I don’t do any meat or dairy products,” she said. “I understand that not everyone can accommodate and that may mean I may need to engage with dairy again which I will do to make things a little easy.”

More than just attempting to win the race, Lee and Bentham are out to show that Black women can take risks and do things outside their comfort zones.

“If two Black girls from the east side of Toronto can conquer adversity, swim and get their hair wet, anyone can do anything,” said Bentham who relishes the outdoors and is the product of Guyanese immigrants.

With under-represented minority groups often finding themselves having to overcome widely-held stereotypes, Lee said their participation proves that anything is possible.

“A lot of people from certain communities don’t know that these things are possible,” the former Cabbagetown Youth Centre program co-ordinator said. “We want to show them that it is possible and that they are not counted out of these opportunities.”

The winning team receives $250,000, a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ trip for two around the world and two 2019 Chevrolet Blazers.

Lee and Bentham with other Amazing Race participants

Lee and Bentham with other Amazing Race participants

Members of the same Ontario Basketball Association side, Lee and Bentham’s friendship grew after rooming together at a tournament in Indiana nearly 15 years ago.

The sport helped Lee, who is of Jamaican heritage, overcome a rough childhood growing up in foster homes and being molested.

“Basketball saved me and give me a sense of belonging,” she said.

Bentham took a big gamble recently, giving up her full-time job as a restaurant server to start a business that motivates people to eat more plant-based foods.

“I am a go-getter who work very hard to succeed in something I believe in,” she noted. “I believe we will do very well in ‘Amazing Race’ and am ready for what lies ahead.”

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