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Calgary cowgirl reflects on 'life changing' experience competing on 'Squid Game' reality show

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WARNING: Spoiler alert for Squid Game: The Challenge, season 1

An Alberta woman who competed on the new Netflix reality series Squid Game: The Challenge says the experience was "life changing."

Calgary cowgirl Lindsey Ranks flew to London, England in January to film the show, which is based on Netflix's most popular series of all time – South Korean drama Squid Game.

In Squid Game, fictional characters risked their lives in a series of children's games for cash prizes, facing death if they failed.

The new reality series sees contestants from around the world compete in similar games, and some new ones, in hopes of winning $4.56 million, but facing elimination from the show if they fail.

The first five episodes of 10-episode series dropped on Wednesday, with Ranks appearing as player 350.

"Like a lot of people, I think I watched (Squid Games) and thought, 'kids games? I could do that!' So when the opportunity arose, I had to put my money where my mouth was," she said.

Ranks was born in raised in the Calgary area but now calls Millarville, Alta., home.

Once a member of the Stampede Showriders, Ranks says she was thrilled to represent Alberta.

"The fact that Netflix was like, ‘little ol' Lindsey, little cowgirl from Alberta, can go stand up with these highly successful people' was the biggest confident boost I've ever had," she said.

Ranks is no stranger to the reality TV world; in the summer of 2022, her family travelled to Toronto to appear on Family Feud, a much different experience than participating on Squid Game: The Challenge.

Lindsey Ranks, from Alberta, competed on 'Squid Game: The Challenge.' (Lindsey Ranks) Ranks says the competitions on The Challenge were intense, not just physically, but mentally.

"I would even debate it was even more intense than it was perceived on the show, just because they really stuck with their ammo of keeping it like Squid Games – without the murder.

"We got very minimal amounts of sleep, the food was not great – unseasoned, minimal calories, small portions. Sometimes they made it feel like something was going to happen – like a game at 2 a.m. – so people didn't get sleep."

There have been some criticisms around the treatment of contestants during the filming of the series, with Deadline reporting some contestants have threated to sue.

Ranks admits the experience was gruelling at times, saying the 'Red Light, Green Light' game they competed in appears to last about five minutes,  but in reality took almost 10 hours to film.

Still, Ranks doesn't think the producers ever crossed any lines.

"They kept us in the dark, they kept us on our toes, they kept us on edge, because (of the) $4.5 million. They don't want you to be in a comfy bed with nice pillows and stuff. It was a challenge."

Ultimately, Ranks says filming the show was "very rewarding and fulfilling."

She says while she didn't win the game, she walked away with her head held high.

"If I won the Squid Games, I would be on my private island in the Bahamas right now, not sitting in my parents' living room," she joked.

"I like to tell people I won something a lot better: my 'squidlings,' as I like to call them. A group of 12 people I have been in contact with since the games.

"The other big thing I won was this new-found self-confidence. I rebounded my identity after many years of feeling so insecure and lost, and not knowing what I wanted to do in my life. This really enlightened something within me that I have never felt before, and I have carried with me since my time in the games –  and you can't put a price on that."

Ranks says even she doesn't know who won the game, and has to wait to watch the finale on Dec. 6 to find out.

"I personally don't know what happened after I was eliminated," she said. "I have no idea!"

So what's next for Ranks? She says she's back at school and planning on applying to compete on The Amazing Race Canada in the future.

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