‘Survivor: Samoa’ Sole Survivor Interview: Natalie White

Some call Natalie White’s “Survivor” strategy “Flying Under the Radar,” others call it “Riding Russell’s Coattails.” She doesn’t care what you call it, because it landed her a check for one million dollars. I had a chance to chat with “Survivor’s” newest millionaire to get her take on the popular belief that Russell was robbed, how she maintained her religious faith while being involved in such a cutthroat game, and how her hair stayed so nice in the Samoan wilderness…

Gordon Holmes: Now that you’re a millionaire…what are you going to buy me for Christmas?
Natalie White:
(Laughs) What do you want?
Gordon: I’ve been very good this year.
Natalie: What do you like? Do you want electronics? Do you have a favorite restaurant?
Gordon: I like “Survivor” buffs.
Natalie: I think we can get you one of those.

Gordon: What’s it like for Jeff Probst to pull out that final parchment and it has your name on it?
It is the absolute craziest, most amazing feeling. I’ve watched so many seasons and it’s so different watching it than actually being there. But with your name on it? It’s surreal. I didn’t want to count any of my eggs before they hatched, I had a one-in-three shot. And we’re not supposed to talk about the vote, but I’d heard a few little things here or there. And I thought “You know, they could still be lying me.” Or, they still wanted to blindside someone. But I was thrilled.

Gordon: Something you’re going to hear a lot is “Flying Under the Radar,” and that’s something you’ve owned up to. You said aggressive people were being voted out so you took a different approach. How do you respond to people who say that  that’s a less-admirable approach to “Survivor?”
That’s fine, everybody has their own opinions. Here’s the thing, there’s been so many winners in the past who have done the exact same thing. I had to play with what I’m equipped with. I’m just not equipped to play the game how Russell did. At the end of the day I get to go to the bank and put my million dollar check in it.

Gordon: Russell seemed to be visibly shaken last night. His eyes seemed to be a little glassy. Did you expect him to be that emotional?
I really didn’t know what to expect from him. He really feels that he played the best game and that he deserves it. Clearly, he asked me to give him the title. I guess when you really want something and it doesn’t work out, you’re expected to be emotional.
Gordon: Did you and Russell patch things up?
Natalie: I didn’t have any hard feelings either way. Russell is a great person, we have this weird friendship. I never had any hard feelings. I felt like I got to know who he was other than the character he was playing.

Gordon: Last night Erik gave Mick some grief over not being much of a player and not taking a dominant stance. Then, he kind of backhandedly praised you for similar gameplay. Do you know why Mick was viewed differently than you were?
Probably the primary reason is that Mick was elected the leader. And as a leader, I think that he (Erik) probably felt that he (Mick) should have taken a stronger stance. Now, I don’t know if this is what he thought, but I’m just thinking that maybe he thought that Mick should have stepped up more to help us win more challenges.

Gordon: OK, let’s talk about the rat homicide that took place. Did you ever think that your hunger would get you to that point?
(Laughs) Oh gosh…no, I have a huge love for animals. And I thought never in a million years could I kill anything. I don’t do the hunting thing. But really, you are so hungry, and you could see how skinny I was, but you’ll do what it takes to survive.
Gordon: What was your family’s reaction to that?
Natalie: My parents are outdoors people, so they were really proud of me. They were really excited that I was willing to do what it took to feed myself.

Gordon: You mentioned how much weight you lost, do you have an exact number?
Since I was in the end, I ate that huge breakfast before I weighed in. So when I weighed in it was somewhere around 17 pounds. I wanted to say I weighed in around 90-91 pounds. But, the medical team decided that I got as low as 85 pounds.
Gordon: There was a point last night during a testimonial where you were kind of turned to the side, and your waist looked about five-to-six inches wide.
Natalie: Shambo for some reason knows that from her index finger to her thumb is a certain amount of inches. She measured my waist and she said it was 18 inches. It was tiny.

Gordon: A lot of players with strong religious faiths have some problems with the more deceitful parts of “Survivor.” Others just view it as a game. What approach did you take?
I knew that it was going to be a struggle for me. In the pregame interviews I said I wasn’t sure about all the lying, but I’ll never say never. It’s not anywhere in the rulebook that you can’t lie, cheat, and steal. It’ll come down to the situation. I just tried really hard not to solidify things with people. I’d try to avoid people if they were going home. But, my faith was so important to me because it is so brutal out there.

Gordon: During the first tribal council last night, my girlfriend asked me, “How does her hair still look so nice?”
That is so kind. That’s refreshing to hear because I’m thinking, “Ugh…look at my roots.” But that is so nice of her. I have no idea. I put it up in a bun a lot of times. I did have the shower at the auction.

Gordon: When you watched the episode where Russell referred to the “Dumb A— Girl” alliance, what was your reaction to that?
Initially, I was like, “Wow, that was really mean.” But I feel like it’s more of a character thing. We had talked about it, he said, “Don’t listen to things I say, you’re probably going to hate me forever.” And I said, “No, I won’t.” We have a great relationship. We really do.

Gordon: Aside from a big, fat, million-dollar check, what was the best part about your time in Samoa?
Wow, so many things. It was a humbling experience. It’s the most amazing experience you can have in your entire life. You realize what’s important to you. Your health, cause I was in bad shape when I came home. Your family and friends, I missed my boyfriend dearly. It helped take our relationship to the next level. I will be forever thankful, and so blessed. And the basic hygiene items? Coming out of the game and being able to brush my teeth? The most amazing feeling.
Gordon: (Laughs)
Natalie: And I had four cavities when I got home. I ate so much candy on the flight home.
Gordon: A million dollars will pay for a lot of dental work.
Natalie: My boyfriend’s uncle is a dentist, so that kinda helps too.

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