Last summer, five friends from Baltimore set out to win $100,000 and prove that their friendship could withstand any challenge — and on Tuesday’s finale of Oxygen’s TV competition “Last Squad Standing,” the crew did just that.
Members of “The Empire” team, which include hip-hop artist Colby "Starrz" Hall, 28; comedian Fred "Big Fred" Watkins, 27; former pageant titleholder and aspiring actress Ciera Nicole Butts, 26; model Davrielle Grenway, 26; and model and personal trainer Ivy Carter, 26, rounded out the 10-episode TV show with a win (and bragging rights) after completing the last challenge the fastest.
The program, hosted by actress Alesha Reneé of MTV's "Girl Code," pitted three groups of friends — from Baltimore, New Jersey and Detroit — against each other in physical competitions. Each week, one player from the losing team was eliminated.
Grenway was the lone Baltimore squad member remaining in the finale. The model was often underestimated in the physical challenges because of her slender figure.
Grenway competed in the final three-part timed competition, which required her to place all contestants’ pictures in the order that they were eliminated, transfer an assortment of balls into baskets using just her knees, and complete a puzzle that formed a picture of Baltimore. In between each challenge, she had to run up and down a hill.
Grenway beat out Detroit squad member Mike by 34 seconds.
“The fact that I beat a guy that used to play football is unbelievable to me. I cannot believe I did that,” she said during the finale.
“This whole experience has made the bond between my squad and I stronger. Nothing can really break us now. And I’m here ... last one standing, last squad standing, last us standing. It’s just an amazing feeling.”
And the feeling still stands today.
“The squad is tighter than ever,” Grenway said on the phone this week, despite some friction during the show.
The crew was able to talk about their differences and move on, Grenway said — a sign of true friendship. (Splitting a $100,000 win likely also made reconciling a little easier.)
Grenway and Butts, who was the second-to-last Baltimore member eliminated, said they’ve received positive feedback and congratulations from viewers and people from the city.
“After [the finale] aired, my phone went bonkers," Grenway said, adding that people have recognized her from the show at her bartending job in Washington. "It was overwhelming."
Butts said the group has received heartfelt messages from many Baltimoreans saying they were inspired by the show. Her hope is that more people will see the show and think "‘I’m from Baltimore, and I can do this."
As for whether the crew is keeping in touch with members of the Detroit and New Jersey squads — Grenway and Butts said aside from occasional interaction on social media, The Empire is keeping its distance.
“No new friends,” Grenway said. “It was only for the show.”