Not easily bugged: Koloski savors Travel Channel Star role
Story by Laurie Merrill
GCU Today Magazine
Was it snacking on a mealworm that went “pop” in her mouth or plummeting 35 feet during a ropes-course challenge?
Janel Koloski, a 26-year-old graduate of Grand Canyon University’s College of Education, isn’t quite sure. But she definitely did something right to land a dream job hosting a five-part web series on TravelChannel.com.
“My whole thing was I was fearless — fearless of insects, fearless of heights,” said Koloski, a native of Greensburg, Pa. “I just really believe in pushing through it. I’ll just tell myself, ‘It’s OK,’ and go for it.”
Go for it she did. Her daredevil gusto in tackling freakish tasks — cuddling a live tarantula and tiptoeing across a sky bridge among them — along with her refreshing personality and wholesome good looks helped her land the role of a lifetime.
From among 1,200 online applicants, Koloski ascended through three rounds of online voting by fans, then was named by network judges the first Travel Channel Star in September. She has finished filming the series in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, N.M.
When the shows air next year, viewers will see Koloski float in a hot-air balloon, explore the Cochiti Mesa with a Santa Fe artist, learn cowboy music and sample New Mexican cuisine.
For Koloski, a love of travel and education are related. She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education from GCU in 2013, a decision based partly on her younger brother, who has autism.
“I think my favorite thing about taking classes at GCU was that the online environment, including my teachers and my classmates, was very supportive,” Koloski said.
She taught special education for one year in New York, but felt pulled in another direction.
“I really cared about the kids,” she said. “They were great. I just felt, if you are going to do it, you have to dive in.”
A former Miss Pennsylvania Teen USA contestant, Koloski is a part-time nanny and takes acting and dance lessons in New York City and models for Funny Face Today and TRUE Model Management.
She also teaches English to women who are survivors of the sex-trafficking trade through the organization Restore NYC and is involved in causes that help special-needs children.
Koloski now is educating tourists across the globe through her Travel Channel gig. For example, she didn’t just visit New Mexico, she experienced it in an exciting and in-depth fashion, going beyond typical destinations and teaching viewers about what she saw and learned.
At an insect museum, Koloski didn’t just munch on bugs, she interviewed experts in a crowd-pleasing way about various aspects of deadly spiders, edible worms, bees and other six-legged friends.
Koloski charmed judges and viewers by brazenly stroking a cockroach, letting a stick insect step gingerly across her hands, and — yuck — eating bugs, beginning with a “crispy crickets” taco.
‘‘It was “really salty, really spicy and crunchy, for sure,” she said.
Koloski’s next course was the creepy, crawly mealworm. She played with her prey, flicked it into her mouth, chewed firmly, and cocked her head as if assessing its flavor.
“Yes, I ate a live worm. It was like a cherry tomato popped in my mouth,” Koloski said. “I am fearless. I am the fearless traveler.”
Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or firstname.lastname@example.org.