Here's How It Really Feels to Be the First Competitor Voted Off Survivor
Being voted off first is never easy. Stephanie Gonzalez has that distinction after her tribe sent her packing early on Survivor: Ghost Island. In our one-on-one interview with Gonzalez, she explained why her elimination came as no surprise despite looking like a blindside on TV. Plus, she revealed which player she believes has the best shot to win it all.
SheKnows: Were you really blindsided or did you know you were getting voted off?
Stephanie Gonzalez: I knew I was going home because of how inconsistent the names were being tossed around. I think we tossed around every single name in whatever conversation I was with. Then I realized when I went for a walk right before Tribal Council and we were getting ready to go to Tribal, I was not part of one conversation. Sure enough, eight votes my way. I was not a part of that one conversation right before Tribal Council, and that was the one conversation that all the votes got switched to me. I already knew going into Tribal, it's definitely me and I need to do whatever I can to save myself.
SK: We saw you make some last-minute whispers with several people at Tribal Council. What was being said in those whispers?
SG: I spoke to Brendan and Michael. I confirmed that it was definitely me going home. They both gave me two different names when they were supposed to be in an alliance voting together. They couldn't get their stories straight with me. So I went directly to Libby and I told her that Brendan just decided to change the vote to Donathan. Brendan ultimately kind of spoke to everybody about who should go. I said, "Hey, Libby. We're changing the vote to Donathan. Not me." She said, "OK. That sounds good." Then I tried to talk with Michael and said, "You realize who's orchestrating this vote?" He asked if we should take Brendan out. I said no because he's really physically strong and we really need him. By the time I sat down, everyone had already whispered to each other about what I had said. It doesn't matter about how many times I got up to whisper.
SK: Is there one person who turned the tide against you? How did it happen?
SG: It wasn't one person in specific. It was because everyone just didn't want it to be them. I was such a question mark. I wasn't a girly-girl they could figure out. I had a dynamic personality and they were afraid of me. They were like, "We don't really know what she's about. She's talking game. We're not really ready to play. We want to keep the camp happy. Let's get rid of her and we'll go back to camp happy." Brendan will not piss off Stephanie by voting Jenna off. Brendan couldn't get rid of Donathan because we had an emotional moment at the beach where he was saying he didn't want to go. We all got emotional. We saw a vulnerable side of him, and we didn't want to vote him out. At the last minute, it turned against me and it was a group thing.
SK: What was going through your head as you were eliminated?
SG: I was livid. I already knew I was going home, so it was baffling our tribe just didn't care to keep strong and win more challenges. They actually chose to get rid of somebody that could potentially be a good asset for future challenges. I was really upset. I made a lot of sacrifices to go out there. I know everybody else did too, but my mom was getting married. I'm missing a huge wedding as she renewed her vows with my dad, so it really hurt me. I was pissed. They didn't show the lines I said, but I actually said a lot more than just "sad." I said, "One lion and seven lambs, and everybody is listening to the damn lion until they get taken out." I was really pissed that nobody wanted to play. Everyone was more concerned with keeping camp happy.
SK: Are you over it now?
SG: I'm totally over it. I don't dwell and let things sink in. It is what it is. I just hope people watching can see and understand there was a lot more to my story. There was so much that happened that was instrumental to my edit that couldn't be shown, otherwise we'd have a six-hour premiere. That's my biggest thing. I wish more than anything people could really see much more of what I had to offer in the conversations that were instrumental that didn't make it on TV.
SK: Did you have any alliances?
SG: Yeah. I actually had a couple conversations with Steph that were really cool. We were talking about drinking wine and going out, just really cool things and we kind of bonded a lot. I also had a conversation with Donathan and Michael they didn't show. I had a couple conversations with Brendan when we got sea snails to eat. We caught a crab, and it was cool. I had a couple conversations with James, too, that were just really fun about coconuts. There were a lot of really cool connections and conversations and things you don't get to appreciate because it didn't make it on TV.
SK: You never got to experience going to Ghost Island, but what did you think was out there?
SG: I am super-bummed out that I didn't get to see it. As soon as Jeff announced Ghost Island, we were so excited. I stayed up that night thinking about it. I remember looking up at the stars and being like, "Oh, my God. I want to go to Ghost Island. Are there any ghosts? [Laughs] That's probably a stupid thought, but I need to see what the hell is there." I knew there was gonna be potentially decision games because he mentioned past Survivor decisions and mistakes. Of course, it was much cooler than what I imagined. It had the snuffers. I think that's the coolest thing. It was beyond what my expectations were of it.
SK: How did you get on the show?
SG: I sent in a tape. I got a reply back, and it was a long, grueling process. I don't know that I've ever had so much anxiety in my life. Every day I was obsessively checking my emails and checking my phone calls to see if there was any kind of light I was going to be picked. They said, "Your video is good, but maybe if you send another one we can kind of get to know you a little bit better." This is no exaggeration [laughs], I spent three days with friends literally trying to record videos doing the most absurd, obnoxious and energetic things I could do all over my town. I went downtown at a parking garage and I was jumping from the ledge toward the screen while yelling at Jeff. I was talking about how much I hate Trump and how shitty of a person he is. I just did the most outrageous things. If there was any possibility of me getting on and they took the time to see my videos, I used the opportunity and ran with it. It was grueling and long, but overall I was insanely happy with the outcome.
SK: You bring up President Trump. Did you guys talk politics during the game?
SG: We didn't talk politics, and I'm glad we didn't because I know Jenna and Libby are die-hard Trump supporters who voted for him. I'm really glad we didn't talk about that [laughs.] Even if we did talk about it, I treat people equally whatever their beliefs are.
SK: Who on your tribe do you believe is the most impressive player who stands the best shot to win the whole game?
SG: The most impressive player is Brendan. I think Laurel too just because she's quiet. Quiet gets ignored when it comes to the chopping block.
SK: What was your strategy going into the game?
SG: My strategy was just to be kind and very sweet to everyone. Naturally, that's how I am with people. I'm kind. I'm intrigued. I want to know their story. I'm a people person and a people pleaser. I wanted to bring that into the game, but not let it lure my decisions of what needs to get done.
SK: What did you take away from the experience?
SG: How bad I want to go back again. I dream about this every single night just how hungry I am to be put back out there. I feel like I have so much more to prove. First out is literally the worst vote. After three days, you're right back in Ponderosa. That's horrific to me. I feel like it's always gonna be a life dream to be put back out there. I owe it to myself to prove I can make it past three days. I feel like a kindergartner could do that.