We ran a quick item a couple of weeks ago about one of the Check, Please! aspirants, a woman from Brazil, and noted that she was one of several about whom we knew nothing. Only one of the remainder took our veiled hint and introduced herself. If you've seen the lineup of the 17 candidates, Senem Amegashie stood out— the big, bubbly African-American woman with a bright pink flower in her hair. And after talking to her on the phone for 15 minutes... well, whether or not she proves to be the right person for Check, Please!, someone needs to get this woman a show. That is, besides the one she already created for herself, as you'll find out below.
As we're first talking with her, she's trying to shoo away one of her five kids or stepkids, laughing that they've gotten into the Check, Please! act too: "We pass a car and my kids say, don't you think you should tell them about Check, Please? There's still time to vote!" Her enthusiasm for the show is unforced: "As soon as I heard about it, I knew I had to do it. I was just like, Alpana's leaving, OMG, it's me they're looking for! I have loved Check, Please! forever. I love Chicago. I've eaten all over the world, but I always come back to, the best food is in Chicago. I really enjoy the spirit of the Check, Please! experience because it's another way to experience Chicago, to connect with a large group of people about something I'm passionate about. I don't have 20 years of restaurant experience, I'm just a regular person. But that's what Check, Please! is about. I mean, there's two teams— people who love delicious food or people who hate happiness. I don't hate happiness, so Check, Please! is a good fit for me."
We're struck by the claim of having eaten all over the world, so we asked her about that. It turns out that while she was born in the U.S., the rest of her family was born in Ghana. "And like African families, we went all over. So I've visited relatives in Paris, London, Amsterdam, Germany. When I was about 12 I spent 9 months with my mother in Ghana, and visited Togo." Today she says her family is like "The United Colors of Benetton— my husband is Jewish, my two stepkids are half Mexican, and my kids are biracial. People look at us as we walk in and they're not sure what we're about, but they see we're a family soon enough."
We ask if she has any broadcast experience. "I studied broadcasting at the University of Missouri, but I didn't graduate," she says. "I knew I couldn't be one of those people who's detached from everything— four firefighters died and then you move on the next thing." But as the ability to be your own media star online has developed, she's taken advantage of it with a series of webcasts on YouTube called "52 Weeks to Fabulous," which she notes proudly, turned up in a Google ad— a brief clip of her screaming from one of the episodes. She's also launched her own live, interactive talk show called "SistaTV Live." She talks about topics chosen by her audience, to which we can't help asking— you have a live audience? "I usually get about 100 to 125 people. It's all me pushing it, finding people and telling them to come. The next one's going to be May 23, at Chicago Party Animals, 1133 W. Fulton Market. It's been an amazing experience that's really said, this is what you're supposed to be doing, girl."
We ask about the audition process. "Well, first I sent them this video of me walking around town like Mary Tyler Moore, that was from one of my shows. They called me in for the second round, I just dropped off the kids and ran there. We did the show, and they had people who were playing the guests, who were given things to say to kind of throw us off. But I handled it smooth as Ali! I think I did a good job. It was fun. When I walked onto the set, it didn't feel like Check, Please!. It felt like home."
Senam's audition video: