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updated: 7/24/2012 5:47 AM

Schaumburg grad not typical reality show wanna-be star

Schaumburg grad gets second chance for love on reality show '3'

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  • Rachel Harley

      Rachel Harley

  • Schaumburg High School graduate Rachel Harley, left, joins April Francis and Libby Lopez las they look for love in the new reality series "3."

      Schaumburg High School graduate Rachel Harley, left, joins April Francis and Libby Lopez las they look for love in the new reality series "3."

 
 

One house.

Three women.

Six weeks.

One hundred guys.

Rachel Harley and her two roommates seek romance from a pool of 100 available men on the new CBS reality series "3", premiering at 9 p.m. Thursday.

The show should make the Schaumburg High School graduate an instant national TV figure. Yet, Harley has never acted onstage, worked in theater or sought media attention while growing up in the Northwest suburbs.

"I was a nervous wreck when the cameras first came around," Harley admitted. "I am absolutely no actress. It was absolutely nerve-racking. It was a whole new experience for me to go through."

In May, Harley and two other single women started a six-week project by living in a communal house while meeting about 100 available men in their quest to find romance.

"I did not go hunting down a dating show," Harley flatly stated. "They found me."

When the producers of "3" did find the 34-year-old widowed mother of two children, they pitched their show. But she didn't catch.

"I have a beautiful life," she told them, "and I don't want it dragged through the mud on a reality show."

So, the producers traveled to her Schaumburg home to assure Harley and her mother that the show would be a good thing for her.

"We talked to them for two hours, and I thought it sounded like it would be a really positive experience," Harley said. "One producer gave Mom his card and said, 'If this show isn't what I said it would be, you can hunt me down at my parents' house.' I followed my gut, and they didn't disappoint me at all."

Still, there were those pesky cameras always following Harley and her two roommates around while they were trying to talk to guys.

"There are no hidden cameras," Harley affirmed. "Oh, they're definitely in your personal and private space. There's no trickiness. The camera crew was wonderful. They were very accepting of the fact that the cameras made me nervous. In time, it became a little bit less. But they were still always there for me."

Harley said she hit it off with her TV roommates: 29-year-old entrepreneur April Francis and 24-year-old model Libby Lopez.

"It was kinda crazy," Harley said. "There's a 10-year age difference between Libby and me, and five years between April and me. We took to each other right away. It was really great. We still keep in touch. I just talked to them yesterday. I don't think there was one argument between us."

Oh, remember that beautiful life Harley said she had? It began when she was born at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights on Aug. 11, 1977. She grew up in Schaumburg and attended Campanelli Elementary School. (Full disclosure: Peggy Gire, wife of a certain Daily Herald film critic, was her music teacher for six years.)

She went to Jane Addams Junior High and after graduating Schaumburg High, she obtained a business and marketing degree from Illinois State University. She has worked in the pharmaceutical industry for eight years.

On a random Thursday night in a Chicago bar called Cans, she met a guy named Kit Harley.

They talked for hours. Then he asked her out.

"We found love, and I never left his side," she said.

They were married on June 1, 2007, and went on to have two children, Reese, now 2, and Bradyn, now 4.

Twelve weeks before their wedding, Kit was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor.

Nine weeks before their wedding, Kit underwent a 12-hour surgery to save his life.

He skipped radiation treatment on his wedding day so they could enjoy it. But the treatments ruled out a honeymoon. Kit died three years from the date of his surgery.

A charity named in Kit's honor came later.

"Nobody should have to pay for cancer," Harley said. "I searched from L.A. to New York for any clinical trials to get Kit into. You're being asked to pay $2,500 for flights because you have a one-day notice to get to the trials. There should be some way for people in this situation to get financial help."

So, Harley and her friends created Harley Helping Hands, a fund that has raised more than $200,000 to help blunt the financial hit cancer patients take when getting treatments.

So, will the TV series "3" give Harley someone new to love? She's not allowed to say.

"I went in to the show with three goals," she said. "No. 1: It would be great to start dating and find love.

"No. 2: You have guilty feelings about moving on, being a widow with two children. You worry about the perception of people who know Kit and me, and that it might be hard for them to see me move on.

"No. 3: I hope that women and men who are widows and widowers can watch this show and realize they are just as deserving as anyone else to fall in love again.

"It took a lot for me to say that out loud on the show. I couldn't have said it last year."

What can being on a CBS reality TV series benefit someone like Rachel Harley?

"Well, the first thing I learned is that you can't judge a book by its cover, because everyone has a wonderful story to tell," she said. "That was the number one thing.

"Give someone five minutes to talk and you might be shocked or utterly blown away by the story, history and background of the person you're talking to. It was amazing."

• Dann Gire and Jamie Sotonoff are always looking to feature suburban people in showbiz. If you know someone, email dgire@dailyherald.com or jsotonoff@dailyherald.com.

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