Move over Sarah Palin, Chapman junior Ariel Tweto might be America’s favorite Alaskan.
After competing on the ABC television competition show “Wipeout” over the summer, Tweto won the titles of “fan favorite” and “most memorable moment” for her infamous “where’s the pole?” moment during the episode of her appearance.
Since her participation on “Wipeout,” Tweto has been rubbing elbows with celebrities and getting invited to Los Angeles’s most popular nightclubs. She’s come a long way from Alaska and is looking to get further into the modeling and entertainment business with her newfound connections.
“You never know what she’s going to get into next,” said Ferno Tweto, Tweto’s mother.
Tweto was born in a small village in Unalakleet, Alaska. The village has two roads and can only be traveled to by plane, she says. Known to her village as “Tweet” or “Bubba,” the nicknames the village gave her, Tweto says she wouldn’t be the person she is today if it weren’t for her upbringing in Alaska.
“It made me really open to other people and made me more relaxed. I don’t get stressed out over silly things,” she said. “I just go with the flow.”
Growing up in a village located off the coast of the Pacific Ocean, Tweto said she grew up hunting animals such as caribou, birds, whales, seals and fish. She says her life in Alaska has made her appreciate food.
“Fruits and vegetables and everything were canned because it would spoil before it got to the villages, so I really like good food now,” she said. “Milk was $11 a gallon, so we grew up with powdered milk or canned milk.”
Growing up, Tweto was an active child, according to her mother.
“Even when I was pregnant with her she was really active,” said Ferno Tweto. “[As a child] she was really competitive; everything that she joined she wanted to win including wrestling and cheerleading.”
When she was 16, Tweto moved to Anchorage, Alaska to play basketball and run cross country for East High School, a bigger, more competitive school than the one near her village. There, she lived in an apartment by herself. Her basketball coach, Dorena Bingham, took on the role of a second mother as Tweto started drawing attention to herself for her athletic abilities.
“She was a high school basketball star,” said Ferno Tweto. “In Anchorage, they loved doing stories on her just because of the comments she’d make and coming from the little village to the big school was a story in itself.”
She graduated from high school in 2006 where she was one of seven in her graduating class.
After high school, Tweto wanted to get out of Alaska and went to the East Coast, she said. She attended Emerson College on a scholarship for basketball where she also ran cross country and studied broadcast journalism. However, she soon discovered Emerson was not the place for her.
“I was tired of being cold,” she said. “A lot of people smoked and I wanted a healthier lifestyle. The sun makes me happy, and when I’m happy, I’m healthy and more productive.”
Tweto says her Internet searches all pointed to Chapman University. She said she found the school just a few weeks before she started.
While attending summer school in San Diego, Tweto made a trip to Orange County by bus. There, she ended up getting lost and walking around the Orange Plaza in Orange, Calif. Some strangers informed her that a college was located nearby, which Tweto went to go see for herself.
“I kind of fell in love,” she said.
Tweto is currently a communications major with a minor in broadcast journalism and a member of the Hawaiian Club. She ran cross country at Chapman for a year, where she was the top runner for the fall 2007 season, according to Anna Wlodarczyk, coach of the cross country team.
“She’s a free spirit and highly motivated to reach her goals,” said Wlodarczyk. “She has her own vision about how to do things in life.”
Tweto had to quit the team after her appearance on “Wipeout” because, soon after the show, her schedule became too busy to handle the team’s practices.
Tweto said she was originally informed about “Wipeout” from Deron Overpeck, a film professor at Chapman.
She said she was playing a pickup game of basketball in Venice Beach in March of this year when she was approached by a couple of the producers of “Wipeout” to audition for the show. Tweto says she figured she had nothing to lose and decided to go to the auditions.
“I’ve always loved being in front of the camera and doing random things, and they told me it was a competition show with obstacle courses,” she said. “I love doing physical things where you can get injured. I love the adrenaline rush of getting hurt.”
Tweto says she was actually late for the regular auditions, but the producers had her talk to them and asked her to be herself.
“I just danced and messed around, and I tried to smash a can on my head, but I messed up and it didn’t break so I hurt myself,” said Tweto.
The filming took place over three days in May, according to Tweto. She said she became close with her fellow competitors.
Tweto went through an obstacle course where she had to run across teetering platforms floating on water, clear large gaps by jumping between gigantic balls and balance on unstable blocks.
Tweto suffered a dislocated thumb and an injured elbow from the show, but says it was part of the fun.
“It was worth it,” she said.
Since the show, Tweto has been busy with photo shoots, commercial auditions and charity events including Reality Rumble, where other reality television stars from shows such as “Survivor,” “The Amazing Race” and “I Love New York” gathered to raise money for the Special Needs Students at Spotswood High School in Penn Laird, Va.
“I’m getting to do a lot of things I never thought I would be able to do,” she said.
She hopes that connections she has obtained from her appearance on “Wipeout” and the ones she continues to gain will help her achieve this goal.
Back in Alaska, her family is also getting attention for Tweto’s performance.
Ferno Tweto says her family enjoyed watching her daughter’s appearance on the show and enjoyed laughing at her as much as cheering her on.
A lot of people in Alaska were enthralled with Tweto’s televised adventure, according to Ferno Tweto.
“Everybody, even in Anchorage, was so excited,” she said. “It was on the radio in our local area, and people watched it on the internet.”
Tweto’s older sister, Ayla Tweto, said she receives a lot of emails and letters about her sister.
“I don’t even know how they got my personal address,” said Ayla Tweto.
Ferno Tweto said her daughter gets her bubbly personality and outspokenness from her.
“It seems to come from me. I don’t know how to filter my mouth,” she said. “My husband’s way more laid back than me and I’m really outspoken and noisy and say just what pops in my head. It kind of scares my whole family.”
While Tweto’s parents are very trusting of her and know she can make friends anywhere, they always worry.
“The only thing is that she thinks she’s kind of invincible,” said Ferno Tweto. “She’s out jogging at inconvenient times, but I guess she gets that from me. I go jogging at night in Anchorage in the dark with strangers walking around, so I guess I can’t really complain.”
Tweto continues to be the positive, energetic and compassionate person she’s always been, according to Ayla Tweto. Her family knows that she won’t be stopping any time soon.
“She’s on her way,” said Ayla Tweto. “She’s going to do whatever she wants to do.”
Tweto eventually wants to have her own television show where she can travel and help people in various parts of the world. She said she would also be interested in doing a sitcom.
In the more immediate future, she looks forward to auditioning for “The Amazing Race” sometime after January when her contract with ABC from her commitments to “Wipeout” is finished.
Whatever she chooses to do, she will always be herself, according to her mother.
“I think what you see is what you get with [Tweto]. She’s just an outgoing, compassionate person, and there’s really nothing else to say,” she said.