America’s Favorite. That was the title bestowed upon James Huling by viewers of the reality television show, Big Brother 17. This honor not only landed Huling a nice little bonus check, but also helped secure him a spot in the following season as a return guest to the Big Brother 18 house where he made it all the way to the final three.
James was born in Seoul, Korea, but was adopted by an American couple that raised him in Sumpter, North Carolina. It was this southern style raising that helped develop the country boy personality that is uncommon in Asian Americans and primed him to be a reality TV star.
Growing up in the south, James grew to love hunting and fishing. This is where he developed his knack for donning camouflage attire. In stride with the wardrobe preference, James joined the US Army and served his country for six years as a combat engineer. In typical James humor, he jokes that he ended his military career because he got sick of shaving. However, he didn’t betray his love for camouflage. Camo shirts and hats have become an identifying accessory to Huling’s character. He has even wrapped his pickup in camouflage vinyl.
James landed in Wichita Falls after his military years due the invitation of a friend. Falls native, Jason Hester, was a friend of James and had recently exited the military himself. The Air Force veteran had a spare room and offered it to James if he wanted to relocate to Texas, and James accepted. James found himself bored after the military, which is how he found himself applying for reality television. In fact, when he received the call from CBS he thought it was a telemarketer. “It was a California area code, so I answered rudely because I thought it was a telemarketer. I forgot that I had applied for Big Brother”, James recalls.
Following that phone call, the pieces began falling into place. It didn’t come natural for James. “When the camera crew showed up to interview me, I just froze,” James said. They had to coach him at first, but then he got warmed up and was ready for “the house”. Big Brother 17 premiered in June of 2015 and James Huling found himself in the spotlight.
Huling admits that the hardest part of living in the Big Brother house was getting used to the cameras in the bathroom, cameras everywhere. That, and with half a million dollars up for grabs, the tension can run high and there is no place to hide from the drama. James says there is a lot of back stabbing and drama that goes on which the house guests aren’t even aware of until they are out of the house.
James had a strategy. He knew that when house guests were voted out of the house they were still influencers in the competition and he wanted them to leave the house on good terms. Whenever a guest was on their way out, he would pull them aside and let them in on how it went down and who was involved. He would shed light on the blind side. This approach was taken in the hopes that the departing competitor wouldn’t hold a grudge against him once they left the house. The strategy served him well because, although he didn’t win either of the seasons he was on the program, he was able to make it quite far and win several challenges for financial gain and social status online. In addition to being a returning house guest for season 18, James was also selected for the most recent season of The Amazing Race. However, a last minute decision was made to cut a few teams and among those was
As you can just imagine, coming back to “normal life” after spending three months in a house where everything was done for you, takes some adjusting. “We couldn’t wait to get out and be on our own, but it was weird because we were so babied and taken care of,” James explained, “now we have to go get our own groceries.”
James got to return to the house a second time. He got paid weekly, plus prize money for various reasons. Returning house guests get a package. Final 3 in the second go round.
Today James works at KAUZ News Channel 6 here in Wichita Falls. When asked why he chooses to remain in The Falls he says “I’ve grown to love this town. I love downtown. It’s a great community.” Although he claims to have really enjoyed his time on Big Brother, he says that being a player in reality TV provides little stability. “When they call, you have to go. But, it’s risky. You might quit your job to go be on a show and then get voted out the first week and you’re done.” He hasn’t closed the door on the idea of returning to television, but for now he’s just enjoying a little slice of normal.
You can catch James at The Deep End on December 1st at 9:30pm for “The Roast of James Huling”, where nine comedians will take turns making fun of him. Admission will be $10.