Within minutes of popping up onscreen, Tai Trang became a beloved reality TV star. But his time on Survivor was never actually part of his plan. Instead, Tai and his boyfriend, Mark, nearly landed a spot on The Amazing Race in 2014 when CBS decided he might be a better fit for Survivor.
"I was lucky and terrified to get on the game," Tai told us on the finale red carpet. "I just said I was going to be myself. That's the only thing you can do when you're stripped down of all your basic necessities, and you're not eating, you can't pretend to be something else."
We agree. Tai was the perfect personality to mix in with these Season 32 castaways. Although he did make it all the way to the final Tribal Council, he didn't receive a single vote from the jury to win.
"I was hoping to get one vote, but I made it to the end. I had Sia come to me to give me a Fan Favorite [Award]. That's fantastic, amazing. Such a shock and surprise."
Speaking of Sia, it was one of those moments at the live reunion show that left fans awkwardly scratching their heads. Yes, the pop superstar was more than generous to donate $50,000 to Tai and another $50,000 to the charity of his choice, but it was one of the most bizarre finale moments in history. Couldn't she have made the donation privately instead of unexpectedly interrupting the flow of the reunion show and stealing the spotlight from the cast who deserved more time to talk about their experience?
Tai was happy about it, though.
"She just showed up. It was such a surprise. I can't believe that. It was such a shock moment."
While Sia's surprise left a lasting impression on him, Tai's deeper connection on Survivor was made with Mark the chicken. Although he wished Mark could have come home from the island, Tai said there was no feasible way to make it happen.
"The next day we had to fly back [after the final Tribal Council]. There's no way I can arrange something. He's a rooster. The chicken is crowing at camp driving Michele and Cydney crazy. I could not have that in the middle of San Francisco. Mark became family. Jeff promised me he would bring it to some Cambodian family and they'll take care of him. That's an Asian tradition."
And, in case you're wondering, Tai never had any consideration to eat Mark, no matter how starving he became.
"We did eat a chicken at the Beauty tribe. After a couple weeks, especially Mark started walking without a leash and eat with us, he became part of the family. You don't eat your family."
From his love of all living creatures to his infectious smile, Tai is one of those people who stands out in the crowd. Make no mistake about it, Tai will be back to play the game again.
"I love it. Everywhere I go, people just come up to me. I'm very recognizable, I realize. Not just my face, I think my voice is recognizable. That's crazy, right? I'm so fortunate. I feel the fans were just generous. ... I feel I'm a celebrity now. It's great."
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