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Originally published Sunday, December 30, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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Reality royalty: Local heroes go from who(?) to hot (!)

As 2007 winds down, so does the clock on the 15 Minutes of Fame-O-Meter. By this time next year, Sanjaya's pony-hawk will be a distant memory...

Seattle Times staff reporters

As 2007 winds down, so does the clock on the 15 Minutes of Fame-O-Meter. By this time next year, Sanjaya's pony-hawk will be a distant memory (we hope).

Washington state had a decent showing on reality TV this year, from the speedskater with all the right moves on "Dancing with the Stars" to breakout performers on "American Idol" to the guy who came thisclose to hearing The Donald say, "You're hired."

With awards season just a hop, skip and a red carpet away, we want to take a moment to recognize the achievement of our own fleeting celebrities: The Reality-TV All Stars of 2007. Cue weepy, instrumental music from the Oscars' "In Memoriam" montage:

Best Performance, Making Tween-age Girls (and Some Boys, Too) Swoon: Blake Lewis and Sanjaya Malakar on "American Idol."

You know them as: The pretty local boys who changed the landscape of "American Idol" with their beatboxing and hair-styling skillz, respectively.

Where are they now? Blake just released his first album, "Audio Day Dream," to lukewarm reviews; Sanjaya recently sang "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" at a sold-out performance of "Black Nativity" at the Intiman Theatre.

Best Performance, Gliding Around the Ballroom Floor Like It's a Short-Track: Apolo Anton Ohno on "Dancing With the Stars."

You know him as: The soul-patched, Seattle-bred short-track speedskater and Olympian who out-shimmied the ballroom competition.

Where is he now? Back on the ice training for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games, recently competed at U.S. Senior Short Track Speed Skating Championships.

Best Performance, Going Head-to-Head with The Donald in a Crazy Hair Face-Off: James Sun on "The Apprentice."

You know him as: The raspy-voiced, big-haired finalist who eventually lost to Stefanie in a live boardroom ceremony.

Where is he now? Running his Seattle-based networking site Zoodango.com, recently filmed a pilot for a travel show in Asia, does some modeling.

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Craziest fan moment: "During an autograph signing [in Seoul, South Korea], these female fans brought me gifts, lengthy notes, chocolate and books — and some of them traveled for more than five hours on bus and train to come see me. I was appreciative, but shocked."

Best Performance, Making A Dramatic Exit: Jack Mackenroth on "Project Runway."

You know him as: The designer whose staph infection led to his tearfully leaving the others to "carry on" without him.

Where is he now? Lives in a fabulous apartment in Central Harlem, New York, filmed a cameo in the "Sex and the City" movie, rumored to be dating Dale Levitski from "Top Chef."

Last words: "I get a lot of really touching e-mails from people who are struggling with their own sexual identity or HIV status. Judgment sucks!"

Best Performance, Making Other Men Feel Like Sissies: Brothers Sig and Edgar Hansen on Discovery's "Deadliest Catch."

You know them as: Capt. Sig and deck boss Edgar, the rugged brothers who battle the wild Bering Sea for cod and crab on fishing vessel Northwestern.

Where are they now?: Taking time off at home in the Seattle area; will leave Wednesday to fish for cod.

When Sig watches the show: "You'll forget half the incidents that's happened. Did I say that or do that or start barking and screaming? It's just another day at the office to me. Then I'm like, 'Am I really that vocal?' "

Edgar, on working with his brothers (Norman also works with them): "We spend a lot of time so close together that when we get home, we just want to take a break. You're not going to see us holding hands around the Christmas tree any time soon."

Best Performance, Burying the Competition With Foam: Marcel Vigneron on Season 2 of "Top Chef."

You know him as: The foam-loving molecular gastronomist and Bainbridge-bred chef who lost to Ilan Hall in the finals.

Where is he now? Cooking as a chef de partie at Company American Bistro in Las Vegas (where Sanjaya was a recent guest). Marcel traveled to Spain, was recently seen on "Top Chef Holiday Special" and has been hanging out with friend Hung Huynh, winner of Season 3.

On being a villain: "It's pretty humorous. There's certain things that you do or say that end up almost defining you after the show, and you didn't even really remember them happening."

Best Performance, Battling With Franks and Beans: Lia Bardeen on Season 3 of "Top Chef."

You know her as: The promising chef whose mushy polenta didn't pass muster.

Where is she now? Cooking in New York, soon-to-be top chef at a new Jean Georges restaurant, takes trips to Seattle to visit family.

Speaking of 15 minutes: "I think it was more like five. It was just kind of a challenge and fun random thing to do. I have not achieved worldwide notoriety, but I don't think that's what I was going for, either."

Best Performance, Losing 161 Pounds Without Going On "Survivor": Ken Coleman on "The Biggest Loser."

You know him as: The guy with the big hair and the personality to match.

Where is he now? The former Tacoma resident is now working as a personal trainer and spin instructor in Gresham, Ore.

How did it change his life? "Now I'm able to do so many things that used to hurt, like riding a bike, running and dancing. Next year, I'm going back to school to become a dietitian or nutritionist."

Best Performance, Being Wise Beyond His Years: Michael Thot on "Kid Nation."

You know him as: The pint-size statesman who could quiet a shouting mob with a speech so inspiring even grown-up viewers got a little teary.

Where is he now? Taking drivers ed and attending Sultan High School as a sophomore.

Everything I know, I learned from: "Younger kids can have a lot of insight and wisdom. I listen to kids younger than me now more than I used to."

Best Performance, Taking On Princess Leia, Marty Martin on "On the Lot," a filmmaking competition.

You know him as: The guy who called out Carrie Fisher on national television.

Where is he now? Running his film company, Imagen Films, directed videos for local hip-hop faves Blue Scholars, lives in Renton.

On being the villain: "It kind of sucks the way they represented me, but I learned a good deal about myself and the way the [film] industry works. I got to meet a lot of great people with whom I'm friends right now."

Best Performance, Praising Jesus: Crystal Aikin on "Sunday Best."

You know her as: The bubbly personality and big voice that won BET Networks' gospel singing competition.

Where is she now? Working as an emergency-room nurse at St. Joe's in Tacoma, at least until she goes to work on her recording contract.

The perks of fame: "Having cars available right when you get out of somewhere, having someone organize your life for you. I can't go anywhere without being recognized. My phone has been ringing off the hook."

Honorable mentions

Sophie Mittelstaedt on "Kid Nation"

Where is she now? Going to school, playing soccer, doing creative writing in Issaquah Highlands.

Bitten by the show-biz bug: "Compared to 'Kid Nation,' I am utterly bored, so I crave more adventures like 'Kid Nation' and would love to do more TV work. It was seriously the most amazing, outstanding, superb experience ever!" ...

Mike Klinge on "Kid Nation"

Where is he now? Attending seventh grade in Bellevue and performing as Louis in Village Theatre's production of "The King and I" in Issaquah.

Reality TV contestant he would like to meet: "Blake Lewis, my favorite 'Idol' contestant of all time." ...

Elise Vincentini, on "Adventures in Doggie Daycare" Where is she now? Opened a third branch of her Seattle business, Downtown Dog Lounge, in Capitol Hill

Everyone's a critic: "Some people think we're so ridiculous: 'How could you coddle the dog, dress it up and put polish on?' Others say the way you treat animals is amazing. Everybody looks at things so differently."

Pamela Sitt: 206-464-2376 or psitt@seattletimes.com; Nicole Tsong: 206-464-2150 or ntsong@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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