If you enjoyed Blown Away, the Netflix reality show about ten gentle artisans absolutely blowing the hell out of glass, I am certain you will also enjoy Fox’s Lego Masters, which challenges ten adorably nerdy duos to create elaborate Lego projects. The contestants pick their pieces from a wonderland of bins filled with every brick type imaginable. The challenges are complex and require a range of skills, from sculpting (one week, they had to complete the missing half of an everyday object like a bicycle or laptop), to physics (another week, they had to construct a model that will be exploded), to engineering (I won’t spoil how much weight some of the bridges they constructed held, but it was shockingly high!). The host, Will Arnett, is hilarious in his winking-to-the-camera jokes about reality-competition tropes, and each week it is obvious that he is increasingly emotionally invested in the teams’ success. Finally, the contestants themselves are each lovable dorks in their own quirky way.
From the start, one contestant in particular, Kara, drew me in with her big blonde hairdo and even bigger facial expressions. Even though she and her partner, Jessie, only survived for two episodes, Kara’s short ride on the Lego train was enough to last me a lifetime. So much so that I made a supercut of her many different facial expressions, because that is where I am emotionally right now.
I recently had the privilege of speaking to Kara on the phone about Lego Masters, why she loves Lego so much, her amazing reaction shots, and the tattoo she got to commemorate her time on the show.
You’re one of my favorite reality-show contestants of all time. When I posted the video of all of your facial expressions on Twitter, people were like, “Who is this perfect angel?”
Aw, well, thank you! All the kids in my area, they refer to me as “the Lego Lady.” But it’s nice to have some adult recognition. It’s surprising the people who have reached out, especially the fact that we were only on two episodes.
I was so mad that you were kicked off so quickly.
Oh my gosh, I told them, “Let me stay, and let me sort bricks or something!”
Tell me a little bit about how you first got into Lego.
Obviously, I’m kind of high-strung. Back [when I was a kid], my parents always kept a box of Lego bricks under the bed in a big box, and if I couldn’t be outside or I couldn’t be doin’ something, I always just went to that. It was such a way to calm me down and to help me focus and direct. I still feel that way now.
When I was a kid, I sucked my thumb for way longer than you were supposed to. My parents would give me Lego sets as a reward if I stopped. So I would stop for like two weeks just to get the Lego set.
[Laughs] And then you’d start suckin’ again!
This past year, I went through a divorce and everything in my life was just chaotic. But Lego was the one constant. I don’t know what it is about the sorting. I like order in my life. During that time when there was such chaos, that was one thing I had control of.
You work with kids, but is that your job?
I am the retail manager at a landscape and yard outdoor-living center. I stayed home with my kids for 25 years. Once they got a little older, I thought, I still want to stay on the floor and play with kids. Every child should have that opportunity, and I thought my kids should have a chance to give back, so eight years ago, we started a Lego club. So on my time off, I feel led to work with kids. Who needs to get paid for that? That’s just a passion.
I love it!
Any time you can put a pile of bricks in front of kids, it just levels the playing field. It doesn’t matter how rich you are, what color you are, any of those things, it’s just a blank canvas and it’s fair to everyone. Through my Lego club, I’ve seen so many kids gain confidence and feel proud about what they’re doing. When they can sit in front of a group of people and express a build they did, and have all eyes on them, you know it just makes such a difference. I’ve always got Lego in my purse.
I think people are drawn to you, and to the show, because there is so much stress in the world right now. We’re looking for entertainment that brings us together, something that is soothing.
And appreciating people’s diversity. When you’re in a room full of people who have that same passion for that one small little plastic piece, you feel so normal.
But the show also gets surprisingly intense! You have to move these huge elaborate builds that can fall apart at the last second. And that is what ended up causing your departure from the show.
Right. Here you are, you’re dying inside, all the cameras come over to you, and I’m like, Oh God, please don’t let me say a bad word. Please let me look like this is such a fun experience! And after [getting eliminated], you meet with a psychiatrist, and I’m crying hysterically, and she’s like, “You know, you realize there’s life after this.” I’m like, “I don’t know about that!”
You met with a psychiatrist? They have them on the set?
Right afterward, you have to go in and you talk to them. Jessie was like, “Oh, it was a great experience. It was fun,” and I’m like [heaving sob noises], “I’m gonna be okay!”
Watching you on the show, it’s so clear that this is who you are. Those facial expressions are who you are.
[Laughs] It’s just really difficult to hide the way I feel. I mean, I’m not a good card player either. I just love life. I don’t want to look back on my life and think, What if? What if I wouldn’t have done that? Had I stayed in my marriage, I never would have taken that leap and applied to do something like this. It’s given me a real sense of confidence.
I’m so glad you took a risk. It’s not easy to put yourself out there and potentially fail on-camera. Which you did!
[Laughs] Exactly! When I was trying to talk Jessie into it, I was like, “You gotta take this ride with me.” She’s got tattoos, several discreet nice ones. I told her if we do this, I’ll get a tattoo. She was like, “Seriously, you would?” I said, “Lego’s in my blood. It might as well be on my skin. Both my kids left their scars; I might as well.” So the last night we were there, we went down to some place in Hollywood, and I got a minifig on my ankle.
Oh my God, yes!
I absolutely love it, and I always swore I never would. And my husband always told me he would leave me if I ever got one. So, I left him and got one [Laughs].
I love you. Now, I know that on a lot of these reality-competition shows, the contestants who get eliminated sometimes come back and help on a challenge. Will we see you again on the show?
I’m just going to say you haven’t seen the last of me.
You just never know where I may surface.
Last question: Do you have a favorite Lego piece?
If I had to choose a favorite, it would be a SNOT piece — that’s “Studs Not on Top.” Because you can build on every side. That is the most universal piece. It’s endless possibilities. That’s just what Lego is. You’re never finished. A puzzle, you finish. A movie, you finish. A crossword, you finish. But with Lego, you can always change it.