Survivor: Interview with Purple Kelly and NaOnka - "I'm not going to apologize"
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It's Quitterpalooza 2010 this week as both NaOnka and Kelly S handed over their torches voluntarily to unhappy host Jeff, with only 11 days left in the game. Say what you will about that decision, but neither of them are sorry they did it. Read on in this conference call interview and learn if NaOnka's attitude is for real, why she gave her idol away, and just where was Purple Kelly for half of this season?
How do you feel about the jury members that wanted to still be in the game while you voluntarily quit?
Kelly: Um, you know, I look at Survivor, this is a game. They are sitting in the jury and got voted off for a reason, they slipped somewhere in their strategic planning and had it not been then, it probably would have been soon after. You know, Survivor is ultimately a game. Iím sorry that Alina was so upset with us and that she felt that way, but I really canít change that. At the time, I did what was best for me. I put my health first and thatís how my decision was made, so...Iím sorry for whoever I offended, but I had to do what I had to do.
NaOnka: Iím not going to apologize to any of the jury members for the decision that I made because I made the decision for myself, like Purple Kelly. I felt like the game was over for me, it was over, my body was aching too. As far as Alina crying and all of that last night, I thought it was just another part of the game of Survivor to be honest with you, and I also thought that you know, maybe she could be feeling like this because they did opt out and she was voted off. I felt bad for her in that scenario. Marty? Marty to me, is just on the jury. My main concern was Brenda because Brenda was a part of my life from jump, she was my best friend and I stabbed her in the back. And then I turned around the next day and give away my idol to Chase and I quit the game, when I could have gave it to her and saved her. So I was more concerned about what her feelings were gonna be and what her words were gonna say but once we got to Ponderosa, she was there, willing to listen even though I know she didnít like what we were saying, because she wanted to be back in the game. Purple Kelly and I had to be very mindful with the words that we used when we talked to Brenda and Marty because they still wanted to be in the game and we were like, ďwell, we quit!Ē
Do you feel like you earned your spot on the jury, regardless of quitting?
Kelly: I definitely feel like my spot was earned, I sat through miserable nights with all of those people and I was there longer than the jury members, really. Survivor is a game, you know? I was never embarrassed or never thought that I shouldnít be there after I had just gone through hell to get where I was.
NaOnka: Iím not embarrassed or ashamed or anything. I knew when I signed up for this that this was going to be on television, and I knew that there would be cameras and microphones. I was very aware of that, Iím not ashamed of anything. And I knew when I played this game of Survivor, I was playing for myself. Iím not playing this for my job, Iím not playing for anybody in my family, Iím playing it for me. Now if I was trying to be mindful and walk on eggshells and try to please everybody, then I would have been out of the game a long time ago. But thatís not who I am, thatís not my character. If I have to lie, cheat and steal to stay in this game? Then Iím gonna lie, cheat and steal. But I donít regret anything.
Kelly, how close did Holly come to convincing you to stay?
Kelly: You know, I appreciated everything she said to me, and I respected her for that. I think Holly is a great person. But my mind was already made up, it wasnít a matter of me just wanting to get out of Nicaragua, I was physically ill. I could not handle anything else there. I just put myself first, but I listened to everything she had to say. But that just wasnít enough to make me 100% better.
Do either of you regret not staying? Do you think the other should have stayed?
Kelly: You know, itís easier said than done. But I know what we were both going through so I canít really say that, and I canít say that she [NaOnka] should have stayed. I think she was feeling however she felt and she had to make that decision herself. And I was going through similar things, we were both out there in hardly any clothes and just that was like the icing on the cake, we were just miserable. I donít necessarily think she should have stayed, but she was in a really good position to get to the end with the hidden immunity idol. So I think that is crazy, but Nay will do as she pleases all the time, sheíll speak her mind and be very honest with herself, and thatís what she was doing.
NaOnka: I think - and I always tell Purple Kelly this, I often compare her to Natalie White, who won her season of Survivor - Kelly definitely could have made her way to the end, simply because she was underneath the radar, she was a silent threat. She was a part of the most powerful alliance on this season of Survivor. We were a powerful alliance and she was a part of it, and I was the cause of it breaking. So I believe that if Kelly would have went to the end, she would have won. Simply because she didnít cuss nobody out, she didnít steal nobodyís food, she didnít push over no girl with no artificial leg, she just played her game.
Kelly, during the tribal council where Brenda was voted out, you were clearly out of the loop. Did this have anything to do with you quitting the game?
Kelly: Not at all. And you know, I show how shocked I am, but before going into tribal council, I knew Brenda was going to be the one going home. I knew people were going to vote for her, but I also knew that I wasnít, no matter what. I just love Brenda. As a person, she was always there for me through all of this, and I just didnít want to do that to her, I really respected her. So we got to tribal council and there was kind of some beefs between people, Brenda and NaOnka had issues...the extent of the voting, I had no idea that everybody was going to vote for her. So thatís when I felt left out of the loop, because before tribal council, I was still being told by certain people that they werenít going to vote for Brenda. So immediately I knew people were lying to me about it.
Do either of you have any regrets about how you played the game?
Kelly: I definitely do not, I will stand by every decision I made throughout the whole game, really. And I think I played a part that reflects my character, I had integrity and I just always tried to take care of myself. So I donít regret anything.
NaOnka: I regret not one thing that I did on that show. I played that game with all of the heart, all of the emotion, I played that game with everything that was inside of me. And it sucks that I had to leave because it would have been awesome to have won with the way that I played. But I have absolutely no regrets, and if there was anybody else that was in my shoes and playing the character I played, they would have done the same thing. I was in a position to where it was ďdamned if you do, damned if you donít.Ē
NaOnka, what made you decide to give Chase the idol before you quit?
NaOnka: Post merge, I was thinking about quitting, and Chase was there to pray with me and give me some encouraging words, and he convinced me to stay. I felt like he had my back. So if Iím leaving this game, how can I have Chaseís back? So I gave him the idol, because it was only right. And I ended up getting really, really close to Chase, Chase was like my little big brother while I was out there. Chase had lost his father and his story was so...thereís something about him and his spirit that had me where I felt like I had to protect him, or at least be a part of his alliance. So I felt like it was the right thing for me to do, was to give him my position because whoever I give this idol to, Iím giving them my position in the game. And I felt like Chase deserved it, he was playing just as hard, but he was kind of all over the place. I thought ďMaybe this idol could save him.Ē
Did anyone else know you had given Chase the idol?
NaOnka: I believe that Fabio had a idea, Benry had already had a idea...the way that I was playing this game is, I was letting the people know that I wanted to know that I had the idol. If I didnít want you to know that I had the idol, you werenít gonna know that I had it. The night that Brenda had left, where she drew the picture, a few people already knew but they were playing dumb. The only two people that didnít know were Holly and Jane. So they were the only two people that were completely oblivious to the whole thing. So the day that I was leaving, Holly and I got tree mail, she asked me if I had already given my idol away. And I told her yeah, but I didnít tell her who I gave it to.
Kelly, were you surprised at how little airtime you got on the show?
Kelly: Yes, I was so shocked. After everything that I had gone through, I thought that I would get a little bit more credit than what I had, and a little bit more screentime. But really, when I was out there, youíre not thinking about that: ďWhat can I do to get on tv, how can I act, what kind of things can I stir up?Ē For me to try and stir up any drama, thatís not really who I am in real life, it doesnít come naturally. Iím sure that could have gotten me some more airtime, but that wasnít me playing with integrity, so I didnít even go there. Overall, as far as the edit goes, Iím kind of shocked. I was involved in everything, so I just donít understand.
NaOnka, do you really think you could have swayed the jury to give you the win with the way you played?
NaOnka: I definitely think that I could have won the game because I played so hard. My argument would have been, I played this game harder than anybody Iíve ever watched play. Iíve never been able to watch a Survivor episode and see somebody just go off and steal s***, and still stay in the game and not get a vote. So just because they have plenty of time to vote me off, and they never put my name in the box, made me think for sure ďI can possibly go to the final three!Ē And if I do go, I do know I could possibly win.
At tribal last night, Jeff was pretty harsh with you both. Do you think he was too hard, or was he just putting on a show for tv?
Kelly: I think that he probably didnít agree with the decision, and overall, I think that that was great for tv. I think he worked it, heís a great host for Survivor, and thatís just kinda how he is. And he was fully fed every day, he went back to a hotel or whatever and had clean clothes, he was warm, he was dry. So he really didnít understand. So...Iím just gonna say I think heís great for tv. [laughs]
NaOnka: I think that Jeff let us go nicer than I thought he was going to let us go. He was very nice. Because myself and Purple Kelly were quite shocked that we were still going to be on the jury. We had no idea that was gonna happen, and it ended up being like a bonus for us because we already wanted to go home, but the fact that we even get to go to Ponderosa is amazing! And then the fact that our torches werenít broken, they were just placed to the side, was pretty amazing too. So no, I think that he let us go pretty nice, and even the little statement that he made at the end was nice.
NaOnka, Iím curious - why all the hate for Kelly B at the beginning?
NaOnka: You know, thatís a very good question. [Purple Kelly laughs in background] They really donít get into detail with the showing why me and Kelly B were just so...opposite. Kelly B was a very boring, bland person. She had no personality, she really didnít even try to form an alliance. The alliance she was in with Shannon and Alina? She kind of just fell into it. The things that I was doing, and it seemed like it was coming off bad to Kelly B, I would often apologize to her and tell her ďIím so sorry, Iím just playing the game.Ē And she didnít want to believe me, she wanted me to be like this...she wanted my anger to be true, but it really isnít, it was just for the game. I didnít like Kelly B, but I will say that Kelly B is an awesome and amazing woman, and sheís strong as hell. This woman is Miss Iron Woman! She does marathons, she swims in the ocean, she runs bikes, and she was cast just like each and every one of us. So there was not gonna be any ďlet me treat her special or different because she has a prosthetic leg.Ē No, I wasnít looking at it like that. I was looking at her like she was cast, just like everyone else.
What about Fabio? You kind of went off on him at first, then became friends.
NaOnka: Fabio and I had like a frenemy relationship, we were like friends and enemies. We got along once the merge hit, when Fabio and I actually became friends. And I told him about his socks, yeah, I confessed to it. It was great, and it was also something great to play on because when we formed our alliance on the volcano we thought that it was great because we are always arguing, and it would be great to trick everyone into thinking that we hate each other. It kind of worked.
NaOnka, if you had made it to the final tribal council, who would you have wanted sitting next to you?
NaOnka: Fabio and Dan. I believe that Fabio and Dan and myself would have been the perfect final three because noone would see it coming. I formed an alliance with Fabio and Dan the night we came back from our volcano trip, I thought they would be just epic. I formed an alliance with Dan because Danís pissed off with me because I stole the flour, and then I couldnít find it. Fabio and I are always arguing, but weíre like frenemies, we actually get along but people donít know it. So if I can take these two people with me, I know I can get the million.
Tell me about the food stealing. Why did that happen?
NaOnka: Okay, Iíll have to say thatís the million dollar question. I stole the food because I was hungry as hell! We have not been eating meals every day, weíve just been eating rice and drinking water and boiling it, and I was starving. I was the only one at the chest and I was like ďYou know what? If Iím the only person at this chest, Iím gonna get something out of here.Ē I ate two apples, and I ate a orange, and I got Alina and we killed that mango - we didnít even let a drip drop. And it was delicious.
The ďminority allianceĒ - you pretty much instigated that, didnít you?
NaOnka: No, I did not instigate that. Sash instigated that. That was all Sashís idea to make a minority alliance. [Note: She had more to say (or course), but her connection was lost and it took a few to get her back]
Your edit wasnít a very flattering one. Were you playing it up for the tv, were the editors pushing you, or was that just you?
NaOnka: I was playing the game for a million dollars. Iím very intelligent, I have two degrees behind me and I was not thinking of how to look on television. I didnít give a damn how I looked on television, obviously, I looked homeless. But I was playing that game to win a million dollars, I didnít care what it took. I wasnít gonna sugarcoat anything, if I didnít like you I was going to tell you I didnít like you. If I loved you I was going to tell you that I love you. And thatís what youíre gonna get from me, I wasnít going to be fake, you know? I couldnít be fake because thatís not who I am, so itís pretty hard to play that role. But if I didnít like you, youíre gonna know that I donít like you and if I donít like you and that plays in my favor, then hallelujah.
So what we saw was the real you?
NaOnka: You saw the real me playing the game. But thatís not how I am in real life. If you put a million dollars in front of me in real life, thatís the NaOnka youíre going to get.
You said something last night about coming from a long line of strong black women, and then you quit the game. How do you deal with the irony of that?
NaOnka: To me? Thatís just what I said. I am a strong black woman, I endured a lot of pressures, a lot of blows. I endured a whole lot. I endured a hell of a lot and I made it to day 28, and Iím proud of that. So damn whoever has something negative to say about me, and talking about the women in my family. No matter what, weíre still strong, and I still did it, and I know the women in my family probably wouldnít have been able to do it because thatís a very hard game to play.
When you got home, were your family and friends proud of you?
NaOnka: Yeah, of course! My family and friends were like ďWhere the hell did your ass go?Ē I got so skinny. That was the number one question. And I was black as hell. So they were just like ďOh, you must have lasted a pretty long time,Ē of course they wanted to know if I had won. I couldnít answer that question. It was burning for them to know the answer of what happened, but I couldnít say anything. But ultimately, they were like ďWhatever happened there, weíre proud of you.Ē I couldnít do it, you know, but there was no disappointment at all. And last night the family was just shocked. And they just wanted to know why, and when I explained it to them they understood.
NaOnka, do you still have your job as a PE teacher?
NaOnka: Yes I do, thank you very much for asking.
How was your portrayal on the show received at school? Did you get called into the principalís office?
NaOnka: [irritated] Thatís very funny. No, I didnít get called into the principalís office, the damn game has absolutely nothing to do with how I make my money. And I will be very happy when people start understanding that you can decipher the two and figure out that there is real life and there is a game. And that has absolutely nothing to do with anything. I will be happy when people start butting out of my s*** because yes, I still have my job, Iíve been there for four years and running. Everyone there is very supportive for me and the way I played my game.
What was one positive thing about this experience that youíll take with you?
Kelly: Oh, gosh. You know, the experience itself is something that Iíll always keep with me. It was not always beautiful and great, I spent some of the worst days of my life in Nicaragua. But I learned from those. And I became a better person because of those, and just my appreciation for life in general and for my family is so much greater because of this. So regardless of the outcome for anybody, I would think itís definitely fair to say that this is the experience of a lifetime.
NaOnka: Yes, this was definitely a blessing for me because I never would have thought in a million years that I would even have the opportunity to work towards a million dollars, let alone play a game where thereís only nineteen people standing in the way of me and a million dollars. It was truly a blessing. I never thought that I would get a passport to even go anywhere like Nicaragua. So just to be able to say that I did a television show and it was the first reality tv show and Iím a part of the 21st season, itís amazing. Itís something that I can take with me for the rest of my life and Iím glad that this part of my life was documented for me to look at forever.
What was the biggest surprise you had from watching it on tv?
Kelly: Oh my gosh. You know, it has to be how conniving everyone is. You know that people are going to stab each other in the back, but itís just insane to me how people can be...itís not even like two-faced, itís like ten-faced. Thereís a different face depending on who youíre talking to out there. I had no idea. I thought Chase was so loyal to our alliance, yet I watch him and heís all over the place, really. And Benry, sometimes heíll support one idea and then he turns around and does something else. I had no idea how conniving it was. Which sounds really stupid, but itís not just that they were conniving, it was the extent of it. I have to say, this is my first season of Survivor that Iíve actually watched. I had not watched Survivor previously to this, which might be kind of crazy, but I wasnít exactly sure the extent of how things would go.
Kelly, whatís the story behind the purple highlights in your hair?
Kelly: [laughs] Oh, my gosh. You know, Iíve always had color in my hair, all through high school, and I kind of gave it a break a little at the beginning of college, then I was like ďYou know what? Color, I just love it. I have to have it.Ē I used to have pink hair, now itís purple, I feel like itís just been all over the place. Hair is something you can always change, so I am open to anything. I think itís just so much fun! And it kind of shows an insight into my personality, I think.
Did you both apply to the show, or were you recruited?
Kelly: Iím not sure that I can really discuss that, but I can say I went through the try out process, you know? Being able to talk to the right person is what I think it came down to.
NaOnka: I went through the same process as everyone else.
*Thanks to Mariner for sitting in on the interview!