There's no denying that Kelly Minner looked red-hot in her sexy halter dress on last week's finale of The Biggest Loser. While the 28-year-old teacher lost the $250,000 prize to Ryan Benson, she still graduated with honors. Ms. Minner, who was the last remaining female player, lost an astonishing 79 lbs., acquiring a trimmer waistline over the show's run. Having slimmed down to 163 lbs., Minner now weighs in on her friendship with the most annoying player (Lisa Andreone), the agony of defeat and her personal picks for the $100,000 consolation prize that'll be awarded on tonight's Loser special (8 pm/ET on NBC).
TV Guide Online: Are you excited to be so close to your goal weight of 150 pounds?
Kelly Minner: That's really exciting. That is a dream come true, but to do it in such a short period of time is amazing. I never thought it would happen. The fact that it did got me over that psychological hump that I was meant to be big.
TVGO: But you'd lost a lot of weight before Loser even started.
Kelly: I had lost weight before and gained some of it back, but had kept some off. I was actually much heavier in college. It got frustrating because I hit a wall and people kept saying, "Maybe this is the size you were meant to be." This wasn't the size I was meant to be; I wasn't this size when I was really little. That is when I got frustrated.
TVGO: Were you disappointed to lose?
Kelly: Going into the finale, I kept saying that I was going to be so disappointed if I didn't win. I've worked so hard. My dad kept saying, "If five months ago, I told you that you could lose all this weight, would that have been amazing?" I said, "That would have been the greatest gift in the world." He goes, "Do you need money to justify that?" No. So I went in with that [in mind,] and it was the first time I was ever excited to get on the scale. There was a moment of, "Darn, this sucks I lost." But it passed quickly. I had not weighed myself. I decided to find out with America what I weigh. So it was such a genuine emotion. I think I even cried — I didn't think I had lost that much. I couldn't be disappointed with that number. The money never factored in until the end, when I thought, "Not only do I get my dream of losing weight, but I get money for doing it? That's phenomenal." I was so happy for Ryan, he worked so hard.
TVGO: But you disliked Ryan at first.
Kelly: When I didn't understand Ryan, I found a lot of his comments offensive. To me, this was a very emotional issue. The fact that he would come in and say, "I'm here to have fun"... I don't see it the same way. These are real people with real feelings dealing with a big issue, and to make light of it was very upsetting to me. Then, I found out that was Ryan's defense mechanism. We became good friends as the show went on.
TVGO: Who's your pick to win tonight's runner-up prize?
Kelly: I'd love to see Lisa win. I think she looks phenomenal. When I saw her, I was blown away by how she looked. I would love to see Mo, too. You've got to love him, he's such a wonderful human being. He made such enormous strides. I was so proud of him. If I had to choose who I wanted [to win], they would be the two people I'd choose.
TVGO: Lisa rubbed everyone the wrong way. How'd you get along with her?
Kelly: I seem to be one of the only ones [who did]. I get a lot of flak from people for liking her. What I say to them in defense is, "You weren't on the show. You saw clips of Lisa." Was Lisa crazy like that? Certainly. Was she emotional like that? Yes. But you can't judge her just by that. People say, "You seem so nice. Why would you like someone who is not nice?" She is so nice. What you didn't see was when Gary got homesick and wanted to leave the show, Lisa went and talked to him. When Mo was homesick, Lisa wrote him a card. When I was sick at the beginning of the show, Lisa sent me a card that said, "You know you can do this. Hang in there." No one saw that aspect of her. She is a giving person; she just also happens to be an outspoken and emotional person. We all have those moments, but she was a good friend.
TVGO: Anyone in the house you didn't like?
Kelly: There were people who got on my nerves from time to time. The person I had the least connection with was Dave. I didn't understand him. He comes from a very different background than me. He probably taught me to be more open to people. Just because I wouldn't be that way, I shouldn't judge others for being that way.
TVGO: Was it hard to readjust to life without Jillian breathing down your neck?
Kelly: It was hard because Jillian was so much more than a trainer. I call her my life teacher. She helped me with so many things, so not to be able to talk to her when I started to doubt things was hard. But I would say the hardest adjustment was time management. The greatest gift was to go away for three months and concentrate on nothing but yourself. How many people get that opportunity? Now, I'm back in a world where I have to work and pay bills and have responsibilities and juggle the holidays and still work out as hard as I did on the ranch. This was really difficult for me.
TVGO: After America saw you in that slinky red dress, you may have to include dating in your juggling act.
Kelly: I hope so. Now that I have worked on me, that is the last piece of the puzzle that is missing for me. I really want to be a mom and I'm two years away from my thirties. So I'd like to meet someone and start something together. Hopefully, I'll find someone who isn't coming out of the woodwork just because I was on The Biggest Loser and lost weight. But [maybe someone] who just liked my story or what they know about me.