Survivor has crowned its 35th millionaire. After a surprise fire-making twist was introduced to the game, Ben Driebergen found himself in the final three and won enough jury votes to claim the top title on Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers. What are his plans for the money? Which game move does he think was the most important one he made? Ben revealed all that and more in our one-on-one red carpet interview at the finale in Hollywood.
SheKnows: Congratulations, Ben! You just won a million bucks! What is going through your mind right now?
Ben Driebergen: Thank you so much. It’s a great feeling. This is gonna help my family, my wife and my kids for the future. It’s gonna be awesome.
SK: Did you know you were going to win?
BD: You have the good feelings, but you also have feelings that you lost, too. Everybody has those feelings. I think all three of us had feelings that we won. I think all three of us had feelings that we lost. I was never confident that I won, though. When the second vote came in for Chrissy, I thought I lost. I really did.
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SK: What is it like, sitting on stage in front of millions of people with the stress of not knowing if you had won the money?
BD: I don’t know if you saw it on camera, but my neck was shaking. I was trying to hold hands. It was such a nerve-racking feeling. I’ve never had my head shake like that. I was like, “Just calm down and breathe.” It was crazy. For me to get the votes, it was amazing. Those guys are awesome.
SK: Your back was against the wall constantly. When it seemed like your time was finally over, a fire-making twist was tossed into the game and you were able to land in the final three.
BD: I didn’t know the fire-making challenge was gonna happen until Chrissy pulled her advantage out. It was one more try to get back into the game. I went into it with guns blazing. I had no other way. To battle against Devon, he’s amazing. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Head-to-head against him makes it worth it.
SK: I have attended 23 finales, and I’ve never heard such a strong positive reaction toward any contestant. The live studio audience definitely wanted you to win and cheered every time you made it one step further. Could you hear the crowd?
BD: Yeah. It was kind of a surreal moment with the cameras and microphones. It’s all new. To be up on stage and have that loud of a crowd was such a good feeling. The fans have been awesome. It’s been a trip because I’m a fan. I have fans come up to me, but I’m just one of them. It’s awesome.
SK: It did seem like if you didn’t win, the fans may have walked out of the finale early if they were allowed.
BD: That’s surprising. Going back and watching it, there are some times I wasn’t too proud of. We’re human. That’s the thing about all of this. We’re all human. We’re parents. We’re husbands. We’re mothers. We have flaws. Name one person who doesn’t have a flaw. To have that kind of support from people I don’t even know who have watched me on TV, I’m so grateful. I’m humbled. It’s amazing.
SK: Is there one move that you think solidified you winning the game?
BD: Lauren and I were one and two. We would wake up every morning, sit out on the log before everyone else and talk about our kids. We talked about life while taking turns keeping the fire stoked all night. She literally was my ride or die. Being able to see her as a bigger threat and not just my friend, taking her out when I did, it would probably be my biggest move.
SK: A big part of your Survivor story surrounded your life with PTSD. What has it been like for you to bring attention to PTSD?
BD: Vets go through a lot. PTSD is a real thing. A lot of vets are worried about how that’s perceived outside. Some think it’s a sign of weakness. But that’s in your head. It’s not. It’s a natural reaction. If I can help one vet out, it’s all worth it. We’ve been through a lot. We will be brothers for life.
SK: Have you been approached by any viewers who also deal with PTSD?
BD: A lot of fans have reached out and contacted me through social media with words of support. “Hey, we’re right there with you. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. If we can help this be more visible, it’s all worth it.”
SK: How did you get on the show?
BD: I applied. I sent in a video. Old school. My wife and I are big fans. We watch the show every Wednesday. The kids go in Mom and Dad’s room and have movie night. We drink wine and watch Survivor. She told me to make a video and put your money where your mouth is. I made a video and I got a call.
SK: What are you going to spend the $1 million on?
BD: We’re gonna save it. We’re gonna pay off our debt. No more credit card debt. We’re gonna pay off the house and put some money away for our kids and college. Education is a big deal. We’re gonna figure out how we can make the money work for us instead of spending it. We want to be smart about this.