Although it was clear in her voice that she was fighting off a cold, Monica Padilla didn’t hold anything back. During our one-on-one conversation, she explained why she would never want to play Survivor a third time. She also offered up a reaction to some of the harsh criticisms people have tossed her way on social media. Plus, she discussed how shocked she was to learn that Kimmi Kappenberg, her main ally, was the person who betrayed her.
SheKnows: Hi, Monica! You sound really tired.
Monica Padilla: Oh my gosh. I went into the boot episode with a fever. Even though it was against my better judgment, I figured I would try to drink it off. It made me feel great at the time, but now I feel even worse [laughs].
SK: So you watched your elimination episode not feeling so great. What was it like actually watching it unfold?
MP: It was so much fun. I was so excited to watch the episode because I was like, now they have to show me! Yes, let’s do it! You know what’s gonna happen, so you don’t feel so bad about it. You go in with the best intentions. Either you win or you don’t. I was excited. I was so excited to have all my friends watch it. Some of them knew. Some of them didn’t. It was an absolute blast to watch. It was more emotional in the moment than watching.
SK: After campaigning hard to be voted in for your second chance to be on Survivor, would you play the game a third time?
MP: No. I’m done. I’m done [laughs]. I’m just good. I didn’t have a ton of fun this time. I had more fun the first time. It’s one of those things that’s almost like a bad relationship you decide to revisit. You lost the first time. It was really good and you had this great relationship. You go in the second time trying to rekindle, and then it’s even worse than the first. That was it for me. Obviously, this time, someone is going into their second chance and will win. I think it was just so stressful. Even if I had won, even if I had gone further, I had a really hard time having fun with it. It was just constantly the pressure, the pressure, the pressure. I don’t deal well with being put in this universe where I can’t really do my own thing or make my own decisions or have my own life, and being under other people’s control. So no. Yeah, no [laughs].
SK: You mention that you were happy to finally be given some airtime. Many viewers were actually saying they couldn’t remember who you were or what previous season you came from. What’s that like, seeing those types of comments on social media?
MP: I know. It’s tough. It doesn’t help when you’re not shown, period. Sometimes the Survivor gods are not so much in your favor [laughs]. I will tell you, I was there. I assure you of that. That’s 100 percent. I did play the game. I was voted off on day 13. Sometimes that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. I know other people have fallen into that fate, like Purple Kelly, and Brenda her second time. Even Brett, who made it to the final four in my season, really didn’t get shown a lot.
SK: Does it hurt your feelings that some of the viewers were mocking your strategy? Some viewers even questioned how or why you were voted back in when they would have rather seen somebody like Teresa “T-Bird” Cooper from Survivor: Africa play again. What’s your response to that?
MP: It’s so tough. I definitely worked super hard from day one. I aligned with people. I always had strategy in mind Whether you [agreed] with my strategy or not, you didn’t really get to see a lot of it. The women’s alliance was just one factor in one spot that was in my head. That’s what was shown. Overall, it sucked, because my mentality and my rationale [were] barely even shown. That’s just the way it goes. You go in there and your game is on 24 hours a day and seven days a week. You don’t know what’s gonna be shown. Maybe I should have stripped and taken my clothes off. But honestly, screen time isn’t my goal going into the game of Survivor. My goal is to win a million dollars. I didn’t accomplish that. Would I rather go back and take my clothes off to get more screen time? No. I’m OK [laughs]. I had my experience, and it’s really unfortunate the people that voted me on didn’t get to see that.
SK: Do you think viewers have been too harsh on you on social media?
MP: I’m not really sure. I don’t pay attention all that much. I kind of read it, I’ll favorite it and laugh. A lot of times, the people that are really negative and really beat you down, honestly, they make me laugh more than anything [laughs]. Everyone is gonna have a point of view. Most of those people have not played the game, so they have no idea. They just see what is edited out in front of them on TV. That’s what they base their decision on. It would be cool to see them thrust in it to see what they do. I can’t let what other people think of me affect me. I’m not gonna change it. It’s out of my control. It doesn’t really mean that much to me. If they want to criticize me on Twitter, more power to them [laughs].
SK: Walk us through that beautiful blindside in which you were voted off.
MP: Even when the first time my name was read, I was like, well, that doesn’t mean anything. That’s just one vote. That might be Spencer or Kelly just throwing a vote out there. When the second one came through, I was like, OK, that’s Spencer and Kelly. That can’t be my alliance, can it? Then the third one came out. A million things go through your head. “Did Kimmi turn on me? No. Kimmi definitely didn’t turn on me. We’re tight. It’s the boys. The boys turned against me.” I thought it was the boys turning against me and blindsiding Kimmi and I. I was hurt by it, but if I knew in that moment that it definitely 100 percent was Kimmi, I would have been devastated. I was hurt at that point, but I think it would have been pure devastation if I knew that the one person I thought I could trust was the one who led to my downfall. I actually trusted her and I planned on being loyal to her 100 percent. I would’ve protected Kimmi to the end. If you talk to someone like Laura, who I played with on my first season, once I’m loyal, I’m loyal. There’s no turning back.
SK: So you were most loyal to Kimmi? What was it like hearing her complain about you during her confessionals with things like the clam fight?
MP: I didn’t think I annoyed her that much. I had no idea. Good for you, Kimmi, for not exposing that. I found it really funny. I don’t know why, but for some reason, when people attack me I don’t go into the defensive. I just look at it like, I don’t know what’s going on with you, but I’m glad you have that negativity. I’m not letting that come into my world because I’m much more of a positive person. When I saw that, I was like, wow, that’s intense. You’ve got issues, girl [laughs]. They’re not with me because I never gave her any reason to dislike me. I thought we were friends… I thought that [clam conflict] was just a quick little back-and-forth confrontation. I didn’t think it was a game-changer, but that’s the way it goes.
SK: When did you realize she was the person who betrayed you?
MP: I had spoken to people after the fact. I spoke to Jeremy and was like, “What happened? Was it Spencer?” He was like, “You still don’t know? It was Kimmi!” I was like, “What? Wow! Oh my God. Really? Good play, Kimmi! Good play.”
SK: Since we didn’t get to see very much of your experience on the show, what moments do you want fans to know about?
MP: You saw a little bit of me idol-hunting. I wish you would’ve seen a little bit more of that. My relationship with Kimmi and my relationship with Jeremy would have been more interesting to see where it began, how it crumbled and where it turned. That relationship didn’t turn based on clams. I think it would have been more interesting to see me form those alliances or attempt to form alliances with people you wouldn’t expect me to align with: Kimmi, Jeremy, Keith and Stephen, after the fact. I went in just wanting to be loyal to Kimmi, Jeremy and Keith. Within 10 to 15 minutes of being on the beach, people started to scatter. I go to Kimmi, “Look, we’re both New Yorkers. Let’s stick together. I’ll be loyal to you.” She’s like, “All right. Done. Who should we grab?” We analyzed the circumstances. She never trusted Ciera. She didn’t really trust Tasha. We looked at Jeremy and we joined up with him… You never see that. Even if it failed, I think it was part of my story and everybody deserves to have their story told. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to have my story told.
SK: Which Survivor experience was tougher for you? This one or Samoa?
MP: I had a harder time with this one. The elements were a lot tougher on me. In Samoa, we had a lot more rain, but I got attacked by sand fleas [this season] my third day in. You can see, I literally have hundreds of bites all over my arms and my back. They started to get infected and swell, which was uncomfortable. Going in as this preconceived smart, hot girl, which is what people were calling me, that worked against me as well. I had a hard time having fun out there. I was constantly thinking about the game. It was more down-to-business for me. The first time I kind of just went with the flow, and I did better as a result. I think it’s a lesson to just kind of be strategic, but go with it at the same time and have fun with it. I had a harder time having fun with it.