After 27 seasons, this week The Amazing Race returns with a new twist: All the contestants are social media personalities of varying degrees, from Viner brothers to YouTube creators to Instagram models. For a group accustomed to controlling their own narrative through social media, they each gave up all control—and social media—for a month to compete on the show, which premieres Feb. 12 on CBS. Now they’re keeping the secret of who won from their millions of fans as old media merges with new on a global stage.
As a dedicated Amazing Race fan who’s seen every episode of every season and ranked some of the best teams of all time, and as someone whose job it is to cover the digital entertainer world, I happen to be uniquely qualified to judge this season. I took a close look at the contestants, their pre-Race questionnaires, and their known personalities to place odds on their chances of winning the $1 million prize.
Tyler Oakley is one of the public faces of YouTube, a best-selling author, and even Daily Dot’s most influential YouTuber of 2015, but his Amazing Race partner Korey Kuhl is less well known. The pair have been best friends since college, before Oakley climbed to the top of the YouTube elite with 7.9 million subscribers. Kuhl now works as Oakley’s right-hand man, and the pair co-host Pyschobabble, a pop culture podcast.
Odds: 9 to 1. No matter how far they go, the pair will be entertaining since that’s very much their brand as podcast hosts and vloggers. They’ve also traveled together before as part of Oakley’s world tours, so they’re used to navigating new cities. Gay contestants have also done historically well on the race, so they have that going for them.
Burnie Burns is one of the minds behind Rooster Teeth, one YouTube’s most longstanding content studios, and Ashley Jenkins is the producer behind RT show The Know. The pair are also dating in addition to being co-workers, so they have definitely had to learn to communication on a lot of levels, a key element of the race.
Odds: 7 to 1. Couples do well on the race historically, and Burns and Jenkins have the advantage of working together as well as dating.
Erin White Robinson and Joslyn Davis describe themselves as “work wives.” They’re both hosts for Defy Media’s ClevverTV. Strong and driven all-female teams have placed higher and higher—and even won—in past seasons of the race, although it’s been a mixed bag for media professional women. Apparently Joslyn is extremely positive, while Erin is described as a crier, so it’s a toss-up on if they’ll make it far.
Odds: 10 to 1. We’re all about girl power, but there are several sportier teams in the race that could make for tough competition.
Cole LaBrant is the season’s youngest contestant, at just 19, but he’s got 7.5 million fans on Vine cheering him on. Even his partner, and mother, Sheri, has 27,000 fans of her own. In their pre-race survey, they gave some of the most blunt and perhaps unintentionally funny answers, which indicates they’ll make good TV at the very least.
What scares you most about traveling?
Sheri: “My plane crashing.”
Odds: 20 to 1. Mother/son teams are not usually the big winners, although they can often have a strong showing. In this case, Cole’s age will probably work against them.
If you’ve seen a mind-blowing Vine that seems like magic, it was probably made by Zach King, also known as FinalCutKing. He now runs a production company with his Race partner and life partner, Rachel. The duo have already expressed nerves about getting lost on the race and language barriers, two very common pitfalls for racers, so hopefully their fears go unfounded.
Odds: 6 to 1. Couples are strong, and married status gives them a slight edge over the just-dating crowd, although they’re still defined as newlyweds.
Dance is one of YouTube’s biggest categories, so it’s no surprise a pair of YouTube dancers are joining the race. Engaged couple Dana Borriello and Matt Steffanina command 8.4 million fans collectively, but they’ve got some red flags in their questionnaire, including Matt’s description of Dana as having a temper, and Dana calling the duo stubborn.
Odds: 18 to 1. Couples are great, but couples with tempers often flare up and flame out too early. That said, dance skills are often a great weapon on the race, with at least one choreography-related challenge around the world. The trick will be to make it far enough to put their skills into use.
Best friends and Instagram models Jessica Versteeg and Brittany Oldehoff are this season’s resident “ditz” stereotypes. They’re a pair of pageant queens, their social media presence isn’t as robust as most of the other contestants, and their pre-race worries include “getting ‘Taken’” and “losing my passport,” the actual kiss of death on Amazing Race. (No passport equals disqualification when you have to cross a border.)
Odds: 30 to 1. They just feel like fodder. Ditzy contestants have surprised in the past and made it far, but never to the end.
Marty Cobb is both one of the least-known contestants and possibly the most-viewed. A video of the Southwest flight attendant giving a humorous safety speech went hyper-viral, landing her the coveted visit to Ellen DeGeneres’ couch. She’s been featured in a Southwest advertisement, but her social media presence hasn’t blossomed much. Her daughter is an Instagram model of about equal social footprint.
Odds: 30 to 1. Mother/daughter pairs taking the title are less likely than a mother/son pairing; in fact it’s rarely been done across the race. Maybe that’s the secret sauce, but these two are too unknown to bank on for the big win.
Blair Fowler built her presence as a beauty vlogger along with her sister Elle, and she’s keeping it in the family for her Amazing Race run, partnering with her father, Scott. Beauty vlogger skills might not come in handy, but Scott is a CEO, so making pacts and alliances with the other teams might be on his side.
Odds: 15 to 1. Father/daughter duos are generally likeable on the race, but not the usual big winners. Scott is one of the older contestants on this go-around, and often those teams end up with injuries that cripple their chances.
Brodie Smith is a professional Ultimate Frisbee player and trickshot master, a definition of celebrity that is clearly an Internet invention. He’s brought along friend and Ultimate Frisbee teammate Kurt Gibson (who only has 463 Twitter followers and adorably pleads for more in his questionnaire). They’re already teammates off the race, making them both strong competitors and hopefully good communicators.
Odds: 7 to 1. Sporty all-male teams often dominate on the race. However, they can also fall into the trap of overconfidence, giving them a bit of a handicap. On non-physical challenges, they can often deflate and lose it all.
Siblings are often great on the race, and a pair of brothers also checks off the all-male team box that can spell victory. Vine stars Cameron and Darius Benson made a name for themselves shooting six-second Vines and humorous YouTube videos.
Odds: 13 to 1. A pair of brothers is a great race team, but often the comedians fall at the middle of the pack to stronger competitors. There’s a chance they’ll rise above, if they don’t get stuck on being the funny guys and instead focus on winning.