Her journey to land a spot on Survivor stretches back a whole decade. After applying for years to be on her favorite show, Ciandre Taylor — better known as CeCe — was considered by casting for numerous seasons before ultimately picking her to be on Millennials vs. Gen-X. In our one-on-one chat with Ciandre, she explained how the casting process triggered a major disadvantage when compared with the other castaways. Plus, she revealed who she thinks is most deserving to win the game.
SheKnows: What was going through your mind as you were voted off?
Ciandre Taylor: When my name was written down the second time that night, I was like, “Oh my goodness. Here it is. Back to this again.” I hate to say I got used to see my name at Council, but I got used to seeing name. The first time I seen my name I was like, “OK, well, I’ve seen that before.” After the second time, I couldn’t believe it was happening. We were going to vote out Michelle. Blindside. My fellow Gen-X-ers backstabbed me. It was definitely disappointing and angered me.
SK: Did you have any idea it was coming?
CT: I felt it, I’m not gonna lie. There was a couple moments after the challenge happened where I was at the beach with Chris, David and Zeke. Chris was so eager to say, “We’ve got Zeke. He’s gonna vote out Michelle with us.” We had just discussed it, so I thought that was kind of odd because Chris never discussed strategy with me or [was] eager to discuss a plan with me.
SK: You were getting votes each time you went to Tribal Council. Why were you such a target?
CT: It’s so odd and crazy that it happened that way. I was pulling my weight at camp. I did the best I could at the challenges. I’m not the weakest swimmer. Dave had just learned how to swim along with me. I literally learned to swim in the 30 days I had to prepare for the show compared to everyone else who had six months. I got cast, like, 30 days before, and that was the first time I was ever in the ocean. Socially, you tend to gravitate to people who you’re more familiar with and have things in common with. Me and Rachel had a little bit more things in common, so I was with her a little bit more than I was with the other ladies. Maybe they thought we were scheming to do something, but that really wasn’t the case at all. We were just getting to know each other, getting water for the rest of the tribe and team-building. I think they just looked at it as putting my name down just because. I wasn’t even bad in the challenge. Then the second time, I was like, “Y’all just picking. Y’all just want me out. Y’all just think I’m the weak person.” It makes you wonder who’s really in your corner. I thought Ken and Dave did have my back, but it’s still disheartening when every single week everyone seems to be gunning for you.
SK: Did you find yourself going on a witch-hunt to determine who was voting against you?
CT: No. I didn’t do that. In the first episode, the girls were honest about who voted for me. They didn’t show that part on camera. I really pinned them down and asked why they put my name down. They said it was because they thought Rachel had the Idol. What does that have to do with me? If you think she has the Idol, why are you putting my name down? I don’t have the Idol! It just didn’t make sense. They thought I was in cahoots with her, but it didn’t make sense. After that I didn’t want to put a bigger target on my back, I just wanted to get to know everyone and play the game as I see fit from moment to moment. I did get to know the rest of the tribe, but they didn’t show a lot of my bonding. They were very nice people and we did get along, so there wasn’t anything that stood out that anyone did.
SK: You said you were selected for the show just 30 days before the season. How did you get on?
CT: I’ve been applying for the past 10 years. I’m a superfan, so I’ve been applying since I was 23 years old. There was always some interest from the casting directors every single time I applied. They’d give me a phone call and say they were interested, but it wasn’t the right time. There was always some feedback from them that they were interested, which kept me motivated to keep applying. This particular time, I sent the tape in and didn’t hear anything back from them. I just went along with my life as I usually do. Then all of a sudden I got a phone call on a Sunday, which happened to be the week of finals for casting. They called me in to be interviewed by the producers and head casting director. I was like, “Wow, how does that just happen? I got cast at the last minute in the week of finals.” It was pretty crazy, especially to get your life together within 30 days to go away for seven weeks on an island and not being able to tell anyone. That’s stressful in itself, whereas everyone else had six months to prepare and get familiar with the process. It was exciting, but it was a stressful time to prepare for that, especially when I really couldn’t swim.
SK: Do you feel that your last-minute casting put you at a disadvantage going into the season compared to the other castaways?
CT: Oh, absolutely! If only I had six months to prepare. Normally you send in a tape, they give you a phone call and you go in for a first interview. Then you come in for a pre-final before the finals. That process happens within about a six-month period. Throughout that you’re kind of getting your life together with the possibility of being picked. If I had six months, I probably would’ve been a superswimmer, a fish in the water. There’s so much I would’ve done differently just to prepare, and swimming would’ve been the biggest thing. Physically, I would’ve been in way more shape than that too, but it’s hard to physically prepare when I had to worry about learning to swim as well. I had to focus on the swimming versus me getting my running and endurance up. The Millennials, they don’t have to worry about that. They’re young, so they’re endurance is what it is. They’ve got energy to bounce off the walls. But for me, I’m 40. I need a little bit more energy and needed to build up my endurance. I think I had a disadvantage compared to the 19 other castmates.
SK: We didn’t get to see too much of your strategic moves. What was your master plan?
CT: The biggest thing I had was to the girls the day that Paul was voted out. I said, “Let’s come to a consensus here and do an all-girl alliance. We can bring Ken into our alliance and have him as an extra number.” We would’ve had a good handle on the numbers, but I always felt like when in the game, some women always kind of leave it up to the guys or go the direction the guys go. We could turn this game around. We don’t have to let the guys dictate the direction of votes in the game. It was something I did propose to the ladies. They considered it, but it never became a solid plan. I also had a plan if the merge did happen that I was actually gonna flip. I was going to be with the Millennials and get in with them. I felt that they were playing the game a lot better than the Gen-X-ers were. I identify with them as well because I have teenagers, and I understand them.
SK: If you could vote for a winner right now, who would you pick?
CT: Ken. I think he’s played a well-rounded, better game. He’s more social than some of the others. He was able to speak with everyone, even when you saw him bringing in Adam. He’s a physical contender in the game. He’s loyal and he has a good heart. He’s not a backstabber or manipulator. He’s a well-rounded guy. So a winner today, I would definitely give it to Ken.
SK: So who do you hope doesn’t win?
CT: I’m gonna say Chris. I’m just not feeling Chris at all. No, I don’t want Chris to win. He stabbed me in the back, so no. No. No. I don’t want Chris to win.
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