CHICAGO — Former Illinois first lady Patti Blagojevich said Thursday that her time on NBC's reality show "I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!" was a much-appreciated diversion from her family's troubles that await her back home.
"It was a really welcome break that I didn't know that I needed, but it turned out to be the right thing at the right time for me," Blagojevich said during a telephone interview from Costa Rica on WLS Radio's "Don Wade and Roma Morning Show."
When Blagojevich returns to real life in Chicago, she'll resume dealing with the ongoing legal problems of her husband, ousted former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Bounced out of office by lawmakers, he faces federal corruption charges for trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat once held by President Barack Obama. Rod Blagojevich has pleaded not guilty.
Patti Blagojevich was tapped to appear on the reality show as his replacement after a judge barred him from leaving the country.
She was amazed some celebrities on the show thought living in the Costa Rican jungle was stressful.
"They needed their Xanax and they needed their Ambien to go to sleep. ... I thought to myself, 'They think this is stressful?' This is not stressful, this is a vacation," she said.
Blagojevich spent 23 days in the jungle on the show before getting voted off during Tuesday night's episode. Actor Lou Diamond Phillips went on to win.
She said making new friends on the show helped restore her faith in people. Her closest friend seemed to be former NBA pro and TV personality John Salley.
"It was a real life altering experience," she told WGN-TV in another interview.
It was image changing, too, for Blagojevich, who came off as a down-to-earth, well-liked mom. Before the show, Blagojevich was mostly known for being a foul-mouthed political spouse caught on federal wiretaps prosecutors had made of her husband.
For Blagojevich, the show had some other unexpected perks. She lost 12 pounds eating rice and beans in the jungle.
"Hey, it's another side benefit that I didn't expect that I'm not complaining about. That's for sure," she said.