Who is Dr. Diane Preston-Reilly?
She grew up as a child model doing commercials in Pittsburgh and then New York City during her college years. She says her interest in media grew from her exposure to the manipulative tactics used by the media to make money.
After getting a doctorate in education, Preston-Reilly became a teacher and witnessed how violent television shows influenced her students’ perspectives during the 1980s.
“I wrote a thesis [in graduate school] on how TV and films affect social values,” she says. “It’s scientifically proven that there is a direct correlation between watching violence and becoming desensitized towards it. We learn through repetition.”
A self-taught filmmaker, Preston-Reilly says the idea to create “The Real Winning Edge” came to her in a dream in which she saw those words as a cross approached her from a distance. She wanted the show to be a healthy alternative to violent entertainment.
“What we watch shapes our culture,” she says. “What we have created by allowing young people to watch violence constantly is young people who think violence is the way to solve their problems.”
After creating a pilot episode of the show in 1982, Preston-Reilly says she shopped it around to regional broadcast stations for nearly 30 years. Among the challenges, what she calls “boulders,” was a backlash because the show is anchored in Christianity.
An opportunity opened in 2008 when a nationally known politician got her through the door at Fox Broadcasting Company’s digital operations department. She landed a contract to produce a series and reach a secular audience.
She attributes this development and her success to her own “real winning edge”—prayer.
On the Air
“I got on Fox not just because of knowing the right person. I got on Fox because I got what the Lord showed me to do,” Preston-Reilly says, recalling a two-year search for a person in every state to pray for her show’s creation.
“The moment I had somebody in all 50 states representing ‘The Real Winning Edge’ in prayer is when I had the doors open to national television.” The show now airs on Fox-owned stations and others, often on Saturday mornings. In two- to three-minute episodes, “The Real Winning Edge” profiles a range of stories, from a one-legged girl in North Dakota who became a championship tennis player to a football player who became “the Tim Tebow of his team” after God spoke to the young man as he questioned his faith while mowing the lawn.
The show’s Facebook page describes “The Real Winning Edge” as, “A faith-inclusive national TV show featuring video profiles of student achievers in sports and the arts overcoming adversity by making wise choices, having faith, and winning in life.”
Prominent athletes and celebrities join Preston-Reilly as co-hosts, among them; former NASCAR stock car racer Jeff Gordon, pro tennis great Chris Evert, and Olympic champion gymnast Shannon Miller.
As young adults have shifted their attention from television to online, “The Real Winning Edge” followed with episodes premiering not only on Fox-owned stations but on JUCE TV and a new YouTube channel.
Preston-Reilly says she sees her show as an “in-between” or a bridge that encourages youth to seek God and attend church by showing them inspiring stories. She is working with high schools and universities throughout the country to spread the word about “The Real Winning Edge” and find more students to profile.
HISTORY OF "THE REAL WINNING EDGE"
Diane Preston-Reilly travels across the country to profile students who have overcome life’s challenges and adversity through faith.
After 10 years of producing “The Real Winning Edge”, Preston-Reilly has received fan mail from all over the country thanking her for the inspiration and guidance her videos provide. There is one particular letter that she will never forget. In response to an episode about a teenage boy who almost committed suicide, a mother from Staten Island, New York wrote to ask permission to bring a copy of the show to her local high school for students to see.
“She put two and two together,” Preston-Reilly recalls the mom writing, “and [she] said, ‘This is what all kids should see … We have just been reeling from the fact that we had a young lady who threw herself in front of a subway [and] was killed. She was miserable because the kids bullied her so much.’”
The school mom went on to explain, “This child had no one to talk to or to discuss her problems. There are many students that feel this way and have no one to look up to or be guided by. I wouldn’t want any other students feeling that the only way out is to commit suicide.”
“I cried,” Preston-Reilly says, upon hearing how the show had helped students through this difficult time. “I’ve kept that letter to show others as the suicide rate has continued to increase.”
Preston-Reilly is founder and president of Challenger Films, which produces “The Real Winning Edge.”
Reason Behind the Name of the Video Series?
“I want to see people catch on to the phrase,” Preston-Reilly says. “If you have the Lord in your life, you have The Real Winning Edge. That’s the essence of our faith—it is our real winning edge over life's challenges.”