Where Are the 'Spellbound' Kids Now? The Incredible Spelling Bee Competitors Are All Grown Up
Forget football season, basketball season, or even baseball season: right now, it's spelling bee season. ESPN has been hosting the National Spelling Bee, and if you haven't been tuning in, you've been missing some seriously adorable moments.
These kids reminded us of another group of young spelling superstars: the precocious kids from the 2002 documentary Spellbound, which followed kids competing in the 1999 Scripps National Spelling Bee. Now, they're all old enough to have graduated college and be out living in the real world (doesn't that make you feel old?). And surprisingly, competing in a spelling bee doesn't automatically put you on the road to success; although all these people are highly intelligent, they ended up in many different places. So where are they now?
Neil Kadakia, whose father expressed the importance of hard work in the film and who ended up placing ninth in the spelling bee, is currently living the suburban California dream. He graduated from UC Berkley, got married, and is currently the vice president of a real estate company.
Emily Stagg ended up placing sixth in the competition, but it seems she learned a lot from her experience. She published an op-ed in the New York Times in 2006 stressing the importance of knowing the meaning of words rather than just their spelling. Stagg graduated from Yale University and currently works as a nurse practitioner.
In the documentary, Ashley White was just a middle schooler with a photographic memory. But her story is probably the most dramatic and uplifting: White became a teenage mother at 18, eventually becoming homeless. When the Washington Post got word of her story, readers reached out to help her with jobs, furniture, and her education. White ended up getting a Master's in Social Work from Howard University.
April DeGideo, the pessimistic little girl who ended up placing third, eventually graduated with a degree in Journalism from New York University. In 2009, she was working in publishing.
Harry Altman was one of the biggest personalities in the film, and the scrunched faces he made while spelling captivated viewers. Altman finished eighth, but he eventually received a PhD in mathematics from the University of Michigan. He's also joined the social media age on Twitter.
...typical spelling bee competitor.
When Angela Arenivar appeared in Spellbound, it was her second round at the spelling bee. And she's continued to hang onto her love of language, earning a Master's in Spanish from the University of New Mexico. She currently teaches Spanish in Texas, and you can keep up with her on her blog.
Nupur Lala ended up the winner of the spelling bee with the word "logorrhea." She graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Brain, Behavior, and Cognitive Science, and she's currently a doctoral student in Houston, Texas, researching bone cancer.
Ted Brigham's most memorable moment from the film was when the students from his school adorably misspelled "chapm" on a congratulations sign for him. Sadly, Brigham died in 2007 while attending medical school in Missouri. The cause of his death was unreported.