When the casting call went out in Baltimore for “loud and proud” families to audition for a spot on Family Feud, thousands sent producers videos and passionate mails about why they should be contestants on the popular television game show hosted by Steve Harvey. One of the lucky teams, the Johnson Family, has family members who live in New Town and Windsor Mill.
Spoiler alert: Their episodes will air on Feb. 15, 16 and 19, and they won almost $21,000 in cash. On the way to victory, the family had to answer questions, like name someone who looks like cheese.
“The experience was great. It was so much fun,” said Courtney Johnson, who submitted the letter that won judges over and who organized the team. “Everyone was so nice. Steve Harvey was the nicest person you’d want to meet. He even did comedies in between filming.”
As unusual as it sounds, the Family Feud journey began with a dream, says Johnson, a state employee who works in capital construction and lives in New Town. The family members competing in the dream were the ones she chose to join her on the show: her sister Nikiya Walston, who works as a Medicaid specialist for a nursing home and lives in New Town, and her mom Fraun Bellamy, a claims examiner for State government, who lives in Windsor Mill. Also on the team were her cousin Lavonnia Iler, who moved from Randallstown to North Carolina, and uncle Albert Harrison, also a Randallstown native, who now pastors a church in Pennsylvania, both of whom are “full of life.”
“A few days later I saw that they were going to hold auditions in Baltimore. I sent in a letter and we were selected to audition in September 2016 at The Grand hotel, with 700 families that day, Johnson said, “We were the first family to go up and everyone cheered.” After a video audition to see how they looked on camera, Johnson got a card in the mail indicating they made the second round, and finally got word they would be flying out to Los Angeles to tape the show in August.
“We didn’t think we made it. It took so long to get the post card [indicating a successful audition],” Johnson recalls. “We were so excited. We had to FaceTime our cousin in North Carolina and uncle in Pennsylvania.
Johnson took charge of getting the family ready for competition, organizing practices for the Fast Money round, writing and printing out questions, and organizing games through the Family Feud app. To make sure everyone was smartly dressed with no wardrobe clashes, Johnson says, “I made everyone go shopping and found everyone’s outfit”—red and blue dresses, pantsuits and suits one day and orange attire on another day. “We made my uncle the captain.”
The Johnsons family was one of the first families to tape in the new studios in LA. They played three games, including the money round, naming the top answers from “100 people surveyed” in response to a variety of silly, curious and compelling questions, such “If cheese was a person, how would you describe them?” Johnson also recalls one instance where her sister was so nervous she froze. “She wasn’t looking or listening, and everyone was laughing.”
With their winnings, Johnson says, she will take a trip with her boyfriend to Paris, her uncle will invest in his church, and her cousin will seed her son’s auto mechanic business. “My mother is a saver, so she will probably just save her winnings,” she laughs.
The experience was memorable. “We became very close with the families we went up against,” Johnson said. One family from Kansas invited them to their daughter’s wedding and they keep in contact through Facebook with another family.
If you ever have the opportunity to apply to be on the Family Feud show, Johnson offers this advice: “Be yourselves, make sure you’re authentic, and have fun.”