Natalie Cole is one of the Survivor: David vs. Goliath contestants nobody will soon forget. Bossy. Brash. Rude. It’s how she came across on the show, and her outspoken nature seemed to clash with almost everybody she came across in the game.
How is she feeling about her portrayal on the show? Was it all accurate? How have fans reacted to her seemingly negative attitude? Those are among the questions SheKnows asked Cole during our conversation. Her answers may surprise you as she poured her heart out with her true story that she says never aired on the show, which made it tough for her to watch.
SheKnows: Did you have any idea the tribe was voting you out?
Natalie Cole: I sure did. They didn’t tell me, but I saw with body language. I knew that I did not have Mike. He was really very close and bonded with Jeremy. He was resentful that I stayed and I was the cause of Jeremy being voted out. I knew I didn’t have Mike. He was absolutely unwinnable. Angelina, I did not trust. She gave me a lot of information after the swap, but Angelina told me some truths and she told me a lot of lies. I was able to verify, and that was the problem with Angelina. I never knew what I was getting. I didn’t have any real allegiance with those two. I thought, even then, I’m the only Goliath that’s really standing on that island.
SK: What was going through your mind as Angelina pleaded for your jacket while you were leaving the game?
NC: That it would be gangster to keep walking [laughs]. It was. I had to tell myself, “Don’t say anything!” I felt like saying something ugly to her and Mike. I was like, “Natalie, don’t!”
SK: That jacket has become legendary to this season. Is it framed in your house now?
NC: I’m wearing the jacket today. I decided since I’m doing Survivor business, I’ll put on my Survivor attire.
This jacket is something because even Jeremy, as silly as he was, he asked for my jacket. I don’t even understand his thinking. Dude, you’re obviously targeting me. I’ve known it since day one. Now you come over in the sweetest voice ever and ask for me to will you my jacket? Apparently, you don’t understand who you’re working with.
SK: What did he do?
NC: People seem to think that I was arguing and confrontational with Jeremy. You will not be able to find on film me approaching Jeremy and initiating an argument, because it didn’t happen. You won’t find it, I can be sure of that. […]
[On day one] I go to Jeremy. “Jeremy, I want to talk to you about a strategy. I want you and I to partner together.” Before I could even get it out of my mouth, he interrupted me. “I’m not doing that!” I asked why not and he said, “Because you and I are the only two blacks out here. We’re gonna be the first and second targeted. I’m not gonna be the first. Going to Ponderosa would be like going to hell.”
He never even heard my strategy. He never knew that I had John and Dan. While everybody else was saying nice things about me [at Tribal Council], what did Jeremy say? “She reminds me of some lunch counter lady who gave me some free food.” That’s how he read me. Well, guess what, buddy? You really don’t know who you’re dealing with. So he treated me like the lunch counter lady the whole time I was out there. Quite frankly, I’ve been fortunate enough that I’ve never had to serve anybody lunch.
SK: Could you and Jeremy reconcile your differences, or are you done with him?
NC: The latter would be very accurate. To me, he showed a bit of evil behavior. First of all, in the first challenge, Jeremy made me fall and I got trampled. My back was hurt. He didn’t try to help me up that I can recall. But more importantly, he never apologized. I was in pain the whole time I was out there, and everybody knew it. I couldn’t sleep because of the pain and because of the shelter situation. He could care less. He showed no humanity.
SK: We didn’t get to see much of your strategy because the show primarily portrayed you as somebody who was difficult to be around. Do you feel that was accurate?
NC: What I can tell you is that when you do these shows, you’re looking at contextualized content. You’re looking at dramatic music that stirs the emotions. You have the backdrop of the scenery. You have sound bites that may or may not have occurred at that moment. That is so powerful to tell the narrative. How can my singular voice right now be strong enough to flip the script on all of that? It’s a narrative that was being told for the viewers. […] What you saw was a collection of the worst of what happened out there. You saw nothing that happened positively, and there was lots of that for me.
SK: Did you have any idea this is how you would be viewed by fans?
NC: I did suspect that’s how I would be viewed. You know when I suspected it? When I saw it in the season preview. I saw in the preview that I was the Goliath. The up-close shot of my face. The meanness that they showed at that moment. […] I had said that I have a certain power and presence that’s followed me really since I was a child that I’ve worked against for so many years. Everything about me speaks power. Considering that, I try to downplay my power to make others more comfortable. I said that, but what did you hear? In the preview: “Everything about me speaks power.” From the moment of the preview when everybody was calling me saying, “Oh my God! You were great! You got the preview!” I said it was a problem because that tells me I got an over-the-top negative edit coming. Did I think it was gonna be every episode? Nope.
SK: What has the reaction from fans been like to you?
NC: In a word, polarizing. I think I’m the most polarized Survivor character over the last few years. I’ve been compared to Russell Hantz and Phillip Sheppard on the one hand, and Cirie and Michaela on the other. I’ve got all these adjectives of “lazy,” “bossy,” “controlling,” “combative,” “confrontational.” How do you try to unwrap such a powerful narrative? How do I, from a singular, verbal perspective, unwrap or uncork all of that stuff? It’s way too impactful. So for the first time in my life, I’ve got a bunch of people that hate me and I’ve got a bunch of people that love me.