The ejection of Jenna Lewis, the ninth ”Survivor” to get voted off the island, provided one of the CBS’ reality series biggest shocks. Now the 22 year old single mother from Franklin, N.H., sets the record straight about the food, the fame, and the fate of her pink bikini.
It looked like Richard’s Tagi alliance was finally on the verge of crumbling — until they followed Dr. Sean’s pre-announced plan to vote for you. Were you surprised?
Actually, I knew it was coming, and I was ready to go. I sat on the stage and thought, ”I know it’s me. I’m resigned to it.” In defense of Sean, I don’t think he did see it coming. He was just concentrating on finding an arbitrary system, so he voted alphabetically. I think he thought they’d try to eliminate Gervase, because he seemed like he’d be their competition.
Okay, so you’re not mad at Sean. But if someone close to you had to see a neurologist, and he was the only one on duty, how nervous would you feel?
Oh, I would feel he’s capable to handle it. He’s a very good doctor. He’s knowledgeable. He was just not seeing the bigger picture.
The CBS website called you the most competitive, while Rudy, Greg, and some of the others called you the most annoying. Fair?
I think I can be annoying. Under some circumstances you don’t want somebody who is always happy, who talks a lot and is chipper. I tried to be as positive as I could, because I remembered that these people are probably completely different when you know them outside of the island experience. Everybody is in a really tough mode and wanting to prove how strong they are. Under pressure, under stress, everybody’s going to be displaying their worst side. Rudy said I had a big mouth. That’s okay — that’s how he felt. But I don’t think Rudy realized how much some of the things he said — about lesbians, about using the Bible for toilet paper — sounded like a big mouth sometimes.
How did you feel when you saw yourself on the cover of Time?
I was very surprised. I thought, ”They don’t have anybody better to put on the cover of Time magazine?” I mean, come on, there are world leaders, Nobel peace prize winners, and I’m on the cover of Time in a pink bathing suit.
Ah, the much admired fuchsia bikini. Are you going to sell it on eBay?
At first I said I wouldn’t, but everybody’s like, ”Sell it! You never know how much you can get.” Then I’m like, hmmm, I could put it in the bank, fund my children’s college educations. I don’t know. It’s sitting around my house somewhere, a little duller shade of pink.
When Colleen won the immunity challenge, she chose you to share the prize: a massive barbecue dinner. Did you ask if you could bring back leftovers to share with the others?
Of course! We did ask, but they wouldn’t let us take anything back. We wanted to, of course, but that wouldn’t have been the way CBS wanted the game to be played. Colleen and I ate so much. I had four different dinners that night. Ate four whole steaks, four whole burgers — hot dogs with all the fixings, three sides of potato salads, two ice cold beers. Oh, it was good.
When everyone received a video from home, host Jeff Probst waited until the last possible moment to tell you yours hadn’t arrived. Did you feel manipulated?
That [incident] was my only issue with [the show]. But it was for dramatic effect, for a television show. I sat there, and my anxiety was growing and growing, and hoping to see my little daughters’ faces fill the screen, and then to wait to the last second! I figured they were saving my video for last for dramatic effect, because I was the one with young children. But when [Probst] said, ”Jenna, we don’t have it,” I just broke down.
This next question may seem trivial, but not to the women reading this. Did the producers supply the female contestants with feminine hygiene products?
Yes! Oh, yes. Yes. That was the first question for the doctor, when we had our physicals — ”Hey, what are we going to do for that time of the month?” Actually, by then I think I had lost so much weight that I didn’t have mine for a long time. It was definitely a question on my mind, though, when I found out I was going to the island.
What was the most embarrassing moment the cameras caught?
Maybe when I was sitting in the hammock with Colleen and my bikini top… Oh, no, it was when my bikini top broke during the obstacle course. If you watch it, you can see me holding it in my mouth. My strap just snapped at the first obstacle, so my pink bikini, it’s just falling off. So I wrapped the strap around my neck and hold it in my mouth and finished the obstacles. Gretchen was very impressed with that. It would have been embarrassing if I would have flashed all of America.
Looking at the show now, do you wish you had done anything differently?
No. I am very happy with where I am. I think I got out before it became kind of nasty. Look at the Alliance — they are now turning on each other, always watching their backs. Kelly is getting yelled at for becoming friends with us. There’s the constant judging of everybody. I didn’t want to have to do that. It’s become more of a psychological game, That’s what [the producers] wanted when the tribes merged, and that’s what they’re getting.
So you’re now a college graduate, and a graduate of survival school. What will you do now?
I would really like to break into acting. I’ve been acting since I was a child, contrary to that ”48 Hours” interview, which was kind of skewed. I did not go on ”Survivor” for the fame at all. I went for the adventure of it. I went to be a strong role model for young women, and for my daughters when they grow up.