Q&A: Meet the Boston Contestants on Survivor: Kaoh Rong
Over the years, Massachusetts-born contestants have done pretty well on CBS’ long-running reality series Survivor.
Foxborough firefighter Jeremy Collins took home the $1 million prize on last season’s Survivor: Cambodia. And who could forget “Boston Rob” Mariano, the Canton-born contestant who met his wife Amber on the show and ended up winning Survivor: Redemption Island.
Boston University student Julia Sokolowski and Cambridge resident Aubry Bracco will try to add to the Bay State’s success as they trade in snowy Boston for hot and humid Cambodia on Survivor: Kaoh Rong, which premieres this week.
Check out what Sokolowski and Bracco had to say about competing on the show, what they’d do with the $1 million prize, and more.
Julia Sokolowski, 19, Boston
You grew up in Vermont and now go to school in Boston. How did your New England background prepare you for the show?
I would say that I was just prepared to take on any extreme weather, I guess. Growing up we always had these crazy snowstorms and that’s obviously the opposite [of Cambodia], but I’m used to having weather kind of ruin your plans and ruin your day. That was something that I think helped me out there.
Speaking of snow, how did surviving in southeast Asia compare to surviving a Boston snowpocalypse?
Surviving in the snowpocalypse, you do everything to stay warm. In Cambodia you do everything to stay cool, so definitely out there the heat was very, very intense. Spending all this time in the ocean, it was very hard to hydrate because you had to make fires and get water. That was tough, while here you have everything you need at your fingertips.
What was the hardest part about competing on the show?
I think the hardest part was just leaving school. I left half way through my second semester of college. I was actually initiated into my sorority the day I left. It was kind of frustrating because I had just made this huge transition, this huge adjustment and then I had to drop everything and leave and not tell anyone where I was going. That was really hard. When I was out there, the hardest part for me was just being dirty. I’m the kind of person, I can go without food, I’m a college student so I can sleep wherever, but not showering and not having a toothbrush, just the feeling of constantly being gross was really hard for me.
Did you have any concerns about people not taking you seriously because you were placed on the “Beauty” team?
Going into this, I had no idea I was on the beauty tribe. I had no idea that was the theme for the show. When that first was announced, I was flattered, but at the same time, I was kind of intimidated by that label because I didn’t want to further enhance my stereotype. I’m going in as this young, blonde, bubbly sorority girl and to be put on the beauty tribe just further enhances that. My perception kind of changed though. I tried to not to let it intimidate me.
Millions of viewers and probably some of your classmates are going to tune in. Does that make you nervous at all?
Right now for me, Survivor is such a raw experience. It’s not a TV show. I haven’t seen it on TV yet, I don’t know what’s going to happen. To everyone else it’s a TV show, but to me it’s an experience. I still have that frame of mind and I’m going to keep it that way.
Aubry Bracco, 29, Cambridge
You’ve had a pretty successful career as a journalist and social media marketer, so why drop all of that to try out for Survivor?
I’m always fascinated about people, why they are the way they are. The same thing that drove me to journalism was: What makes people tick? What are their hopes? What are their dreams? What are their weaknesses? How do they perceive themselves? The same thing that drove me to journalism in the first place is the same thing that brought me to Survivor.
Considering all the backstabbing that goes on in the show, did knowing how to read people help you at all?
Without a doubt. I’ve always been a listener, and I don’t think that people realize that listening isn’t something that’s passive, to me it’s very active. It really helped me from day one when you hit the beach. It’s really useful just to be able to step back and see the whole picture.
Between yourself, Julia, and former Celtics player Scott Pollard, Boston has a strong showing this season. Were there any rivalries between you and your fellow New Englanders?
You’re going to have to watch to see how it fully evolves, but I will say that it’s always pretty cool just to know that your having a shared experience with someone you know who isn’t from physically very far away. But I was really happy that New England could represent.
Now for the $1 million question. If you win, what are you going to do with the prize money?
If I ever had the money I would maybe start my own community newspaper because I’m so passionate about sharing people’s stories. I love telling people’s stories. I love learning about who everyone is, where they’ve come from, and why they are the way they are.
Survivor: Kaoh Rong premieres on CBS Wednesday, February 17.
Interviews have been edited and condensed.