The only person to ever win Survivor two times has now experienced how it feels to be voted out of the game. Sandra Diaz-Twine, the self-proclaimed queen who won Seasons 7 and 20, was booted when an unfortunate tribal swap put her in the minority. In our one-on-one conversation, Sandra declared that she is still the best castaway in Survivor history before expressing her confidence that she was a likely contender to win again. Plus, she responded to all her haters on social media — including reacting to the nastiness she’s received from notorious Survivor villain Russell Hantz.
SheKnows: As you were sitting there at Tribal Council, did you know you going to be voted off?
Sandra Diaz-Twine: I had a feeling it was gonna be me. I was optimistic that Ozzy seriously wanted to have an alliance with me, but Sarah told me to my face that she couldn’t believe I had gone to so many Tribal Councils and was still in the game. Right there, I just realized they wouldn’t even let me get my foot in the door. Not on that tribe. I had a feeling, if it’s not Tai, that it’s gonna be me. Why not take me out? This was their chance.
SK: What did it feel like to have your torch snuffed out for the first time ever?
SDT: I was joking about it because I said, “Jeff, you’ve been dying to snuff my torch for years.” I always felt like Jeff couldn’t wait for the day he can snuff my torch. I always said he didn’t love me as a player, so I asked him one time. He said, “No, Sandra, you’re mistaken. I adore you as a player. You’re one of the best winners ever.” When it happened, I was like, “Jeff, you’ve been dying to snuff my torch. No! Don’t do it! Don’t do it, Jeff!” It has to happen. I was OK then. I’m OK now. I have zero regrets.
SK: It did seem like there was a real possibility the tribe was actually going to change their votes at the last minute to get Tai out of the game instead of you. Is it something you believed was going to happen as the scrambling unfolded?
SDT: Yeah. In my conversation with Ozzy, I told him I wanted to offer him the same alliance I offered to Malcolm. “You protect me now, and I’ll take care of you later when we make the merge and it’s every man for himself. These people love you now, and they smile at you and they’re happy you’re in their tribe, but once we merge they’re gonna come after you. This is your fourth time playing. This is the time to get it right. I can help you get there. Use me. Keep me around.” I thought it was solid and that we had made an agreement. Everyone was telling me, “Don’t worry, Sandra. It’s not you. It’s Tai. We’re ready to get rid of him.” But Tai at Tribal Council is grabbing onto his pocket like he had an Immunity Idol. I think that’s when Ozzy got scared with the fact that Tai was so blatant in saying Ozzy had to go because he’s a strategic player and a physical threat. That was real. I think Ozzy panicked, because if Tai did have something and played it, there was potential for Ozzy to go home. I think it all backfired. I ended up being the victim, but it was either they’re going for Tai or they’re coming for me.
SK: You went into this season as the only two-time winner. You’re an undefeated force in Survivor history. Was there any hesitation about going back and putting your winning streak at risk?
SDT: No. Not at all. Although I did get voted off, which I totally expected to happen eventually, I still feel very successful. No one is a two-time winner like me. It’s not even just winning. It’s winning the first season you go on. Not winning later on down the road, after you play a second, third or fourth time. You can’t take this away from me. I won both the two seasons that I went on, back to back. I didn’t think it would hurt my chances any. It actually showed more of my game. I couldn’t hide behind no one. No one was a bigger threat than me with the exception of Tony being crazy as a winner. I really was always in the forefront, but I always had the right people with me until this tribe swap.
SDT: I am. If I’m not, who is? You tell me.
SK: We did see a much more aggressive game from you this time around. There were many times you were very vocal and snarky toward your fellow castaways. Were you concerned that your outspoken nature was going to make you a bigger target than you already were?
SDT: No. Not at all. Maybe in future games, but at that time, I was always with the right people. I was only boisterous when something goes wrong and someone upsets me. It’s not like every time I open my mouth, I’m upset about something. For the most part, I’m very calm. I get along with everyone. I love them all to pieces. If I do play again and they’re coming after me, they better come guns blazing because they’re gonna get an even bigger Sandra!
SK: In all the pre-game interviews, nearly every single castaway said they wanted to vote you off first. That didn’t happen, and you made it much longer than most of the competitors had initially intended. That being said, what was your strategy to overcome being such a huge target?
SDT: As long as I had the right people on my side, I was good. The only reason me and you are having this interview is because I picked the wrong buff last night at that tribe swap. Had I gone to Exile Island, or had I gone back to the Mana tribe with Troyzan, Hali, Michaela and Aubry, I would’ve been OK for a couple more days. Had I made the merge, I would’ve went all the way to the final three because I had all my ducks in a row. I would’ve made it to day 39, but grabbing that buff was something I couldn’t control. It was the only thing that did me in. You can do everything in your power to control the game, but something like a tribe swap or an Idol can set you back. That’s what happened to me.
SK: The first time you won on Survivor: Pearl Islands, Facebook didn’t even exist. Now, with this season, you’ve been getting quite a bit of haters lashing out on social media. What has it been like for you to read some of the nasty comments?
SDT: The thing is, they don’t really know me. I only got on Twitter because Courtney Yates [Survivor: China, Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains] was like, “Sandra, you gotta go on Twitter.” I’m like, “Courtney, I don’t like that stuff. That’s not how I am. I work every day. I don’t just sit here every minute of every day on social media. That’s not me.” She was like, “So many people love you, but some people are gonna hate you. You just have to put your big girl panties on.” So I was like, “OK. I’m gonna put my big girl panties on and see what happens.” So, for the most part, if they don’t like me I just block them. If they want to go hate and talk nasty, go somewhere else. If I really impact someone that much, then forget it. I’ll probably even lose more fans because I won’t stop.
SK: Some of the anger toward you from fans came when you pushed so hard to eat the baby goat. In reality, you’ve gone on the record to say your tribe actually ate some goat when you were away with producers filming a confessional.
SDT: Exactly. The next day we had goat. When you go back and watch the footage, you’re gonna see Malcolm eating a big piece of meat, me eating a big piece of meat and Aubry eating a big piece of meat. That’s not fish and that’s not chicken.
SK: Which goat did you guys eat?
SDT: It wasn’t one of those two you saw on TV. Those two were let go.
SK: Speaking of haters, Russell Hantz has been blasting you on Twitter since you were voted off. He even made a comment saying his heart breaks for your husband because he has to sleep with you. What’s your take on Russell today?
SDT: I was hoping not to have to talk about him during my interviews until now. I saw Russell a couple of years ago. I asked him how he was doing, and he had a TV show. I was really, really happy for him. The thing is, I’ve already moved on. It’s been six or seven years. I actually told him last night that I felt bad for him. I feel he needs some sort of therapy, because I don’t wake up every day thinking of Russell Hantz or how he played Survivor or that he played three times and lost all three times. He swears he’s the best player ever, yet he has nothing to show for it. It’s kind of sad that he wakes up, yawns, brushes his teeth, pees and then thinks about me and my millions and my wins on Survivor. It’s one-sided because I don’t think much about Russell. Period. Yet, it seems that not a day can go by where he’s not thinking about me.
SK: Is there anybody on this cast who doesn’t deserve the title of being a game changer?
SDT: When I saw Hali in California for the very first time, I didn’t recognize her face. I was like, “Who is this girl?” I didn’t know who she was. But now, knowing Hali and playing with her, I know exactly why she’s out there. I know exactly why every single person on this cast is out there. They are game changers because of the moves they make. They’re awesome players. There’s no telling what’s gonna happen. This season has to be No. 1. Pearl Islands was No. 1 forever until Heroes vs. Villains came along. I honestly believe Game Changers is gonna be No. 1 followed by Heroes vs. Villains and Pearl Islands. Wait until you see the rest of what’s going on this season. It’s gonna be awesome. It’s gonna be a good season.
SK: Are you promising fireworks?
SDT: Oh yeah! Oh my God. Every Tribal Council since Tony went home, is it not another better Tribal Council following? Tony goes home. Caleb goes home. Malcolm goes home. JT goes home. I go home. Every Tribal Council is just better than the previous one. It’s only gonna get better.
SK: Of the three times you’ve played Survivor, do you have a favorite moment?
SDT: Getting rid of JT far exceeds everything else. I didn’t know JT was after me, so it was awesome.
SK: What parts of your strategy did we not see on TV?
SDT: Malcolm was my No. 1, although in Malcolm’s interviews, he kept saying that Aubry was his No. 1 and he told her everything. Well, I told Malcolm everything. I think that’s another reason why me and Aubry couldn’t play together. Not that we were fighting for Malcolm, but I was trusting him with everything and he would turn it around and confide in Aubry about everything.
SK: Is this the first time since Heroes vs. Villains that you’ve been asked to play again?
SDT: No. In Blood vs. Water, my daughter tried out and she stayed in California for the whole week of casting. In the end, we didn’t make the final cut. That was the only other time there was consideration for me to come back and play.
SK: Would you play for a fourth time?
SDT: I would.
SK: What would you do differently?
SDT: Nothing. There’s nothing I can do differently. All I know how to do is play my game. I just have to make it as far as I can, being that I’d probably again be the biggest target out there.