Survivor: Nicaragua - NaOnka's exit interview
With apologies to Edith Piaf, if I can paraphrase her well-known song, elle ne regrette rien. That's NaOnka's story and she's sticking to it.
Almost a week after viewers saw her quit Survivor: Nicaragua, NaOnka Mixon, 27, says she had no regrets about anything: not quitting, not how she played the game, not how she came across to the people watching her play, none of it.
But the trash-talking, sock- and flour-stealing Los Angeles physical education teacher did have one surprise up her sleeve. During an interview Tuesday afternoon, she told me that she and Fabio were friends. Who knew? Here's my Q&A with NaOnka:
Q: Let's start by talking about what everybody probably wants to talk about, which is you and Kelly deciding to quit on last week's show. Now I've heard a bunch of interviews where you've said you don't have any regrets about that. Is that still how you feel?
A: Absolutely, absolutely. I was set and content with me leaving the game. I knew why I wanted to leave the game. I knew the repercussions that I would have to deal with exiting the game, with not only the jury members, but Jeff (Probst) and the viewers and the fans and back home. I understood that and I knew that and I was okay with it.
It takes a big person to walk away from a game like Survivor because I have to deal with all of this hate and all of this animosity, and people that are gonna hate it or love it, or hate you or love you.
Q: Right, and what kind of stuff have you been dealing with?
A: All kinds of stuff, like people ... starting campaigns on the Internet about me, losing my job or beating me up. I've had people go to my job campaigning for me to be fired because of the way I played the game. People are so ignorant to the fact that my real life has absolutely nothing to do with this game and this game has nothing to do with my real life, so stay out of it because people are crossing the line and I think that's way beyond disrespectful.
Q: I can understand why that would be extremely upsetting. The one thing I think maybe gave some people pause is when you were playing, because you played pretty hard - there was the situation with Kelly Bruno, there was the stuff with Fabio, there was the thing with stealing food and everything - and I think there were people who were looking at that and saying, well, you know, if you're around kids and you're teaching kids, what kind of message are you putting out there for those kids? How do you feel about that?
A: To me that's no way to justify what I do to make my living and what I do to play a game. If you feel that way, then go ahead and tell the principal that you don't want your child to do physical education, go ahead. I'm still gonna be getting paid. I'm going to get my cheque regardless. At the same time, understand that my life has nothing to do with this game.
Q: So what we're seeing on the screen has nothing to do with who NaOnka is for real.
A: Yeah, exactly. You saw NaOnka playing a game for a million dollars. I am gonna fight and I am gonna do everything that I can to try to get to this million dollars and that's what I did. I didn't play this game making sure that I made my job look good or making my mom look good or my family look good. No, I played that game to win it. So regardless of if I quit the game or stayed in the game, I still played a good game.
Q: I see what you're saying, but it's a bit contradictory because on the one hand you're saying you're gonna do everything that you can to win, but you didn't because you quit, right?
A: No, I'm saying I didn't play this game for everybody else. I played this game for me. I don't care about me quitting or what people perceive because it was me playing the game. It was me that had to go through the whole entire auditioning and interviewing with all these people. It's a whole process and then you go through the last process, which is playing the game. And I've been playing the game ever since my very first casting and I was just at the end of my game.
Q: Okay, well, let's talk about the toughness of it because obviously somebody like me, I have no idea what you were going through, but I'm thinking that when you decided to play the game you had no idea how tough it was actually going to be, is that right?
A: Bless you, yes. When I signed up to play this game I knew it was gonna be tough. I knew it was gonna be hard, but when you're actually thrown into the TV set and you're playing the game it's a different story. You don't know how it feels to actually struggle or be hungry or not have any sleep or have bruises you can't tend to. You don't know how it feels to have clothes that you're in for 28 days, to have not washed and you smell and you're a woman, you know, you don't know how that is until you play that game. So it's easy for these housewives that don't leave their house to sit up here and watch it on the Internet or on the TV, and point fingers or judge me. How do you think you're really gonna play that game if you were thrown into your TV set playing it? You're not gonna have a strategy. People can have strategies, they go into it and it's thrown out the window. You never know if you're thrown into the elements and I was taken out of my element.
Q: By the conditions and also the mental game too?
A: The mental game is tough, because you have to psych yourself out. Like it's freezing, but you have to tell yourself, "It's warm, it's warm, it's warm." You're eating rice, but you're saying, "It's a burger, it's a burger, it's a burger." You really have to pysch yourself out. It's more than just I'm just gonna try to win every single challenge to get immunity and make it to the end. It's so much more than that, it's a social game too. Your game has to be up and even though people don't agree with the way that I played that game I got one vote ever while I was there, one vote. My social game was wack, but I made it 28 days with one vote. So it's a different kind of game and that particular game that I was playing was working for me because, like I said, I got one vote.
Q: So even though you were going around, you were doing things that had people calling you Nasty Nay and things like that, you still only got one vote against you.
A: Exactly and they had plenty of times to vote me off, plenty. They had, every time we went to tribal, they had a reason because I always did something. I always did something, but they chose to keep me in because I am the perfect person to take to the end. It's all a matter of who are gonna be the last two people sitting next to me because I am the perfect candidate that you think that you can win against because I've been such a villain.
Q: Now saying that, and you told Jeff at tribal council that you thought you seriously could win the game, do you really believe that you could have won?
A: Yes, definitely, because the two people that I was going to take with me were going to be Dan and Fabio. I was going to take Dan because Dan's just there, he's not doing anything, he's just there, a body ... and also Dan was upset with me because I stole the flour and he wanted my whole family murdered, so by people knowing that he's mad at me, that's perfect. I wanted to bring Fabio because we're friends. We were always arguing, but people don't know this is something that's actually working for us. So with those two people sitting next to me? Hands down, I would have won because my argument would have been I have fought my way here. Dan hasn't been here and Fabio just skated and I have literally fought my way to sit here and I deserve this million dollars.
Q: I see what you're saying. When you put it like that it starts making sense, although I mean, Fabio he's so sort of inoffensive and you really did seem like you didn't like him. Tell me about that, because now you're telling me that you guys are friends, but it sure didn't come across that way on TV.
A: Yeah, it turned into a game play. It turned into a secret game play that was actually working. Fabio, at the beginning, him and I we really didn't get along because he had burnt my socks. It first started with my bag. My bag was in the chest and then he threw my bag, he threw everybody's bags out. Then I was upset because my bag was thrown out, so then we were arguing about that. Then my socks got burnt. And I saw a free pair of socks that was just sitting there and I put them on underneath Shannon's knee-high socks, so I had just, you know, Fabio at the beginning of the game he was just a little wacko, he was just kind of just all over the place, just really excited to be there. He just turned 21. He was just really, really excited to be there and it just got on my nerves. But then it ended up being something that was so great for us, it actually worked.
Q: So you did throw people off because they would have no idea that you were aligned with him.
A: Absolutely, not even knowing that we were doing this to get to the end.
Q: That's pretty tricky because you had me fooled (at this point the CBS representative says there's time for one more question). I have to ask about Kelly Bruno. What was going on there? Did you really dislike her?
A: I really dislike her, but it wasn't because of her artificial leg. Kelly B and I, and Brenda and Purple Kelly, we didn't bond with Kelly B. Kelly B wanted us to gravitate towards her and then she did this whole little pow wow, "Look everybody, I've got to tell you I have an artificial leg," but we all knew already. I just didn't understand that. I just didn't understand. Was that your way of bonding with us or what? And I kept telling Kelly, "I think that you're awesome, man, you're amazing, you're strong." Kelly is, she probably maybe a little bit would give me a run for my money, but I would still win. I'll still win, but she'd give me a run for my money. We just didn't click and it wasn't just me that didn't click with her. I was just the one that was able to speak on everything that everybody was thinking.
When it came to that clue (to the hidden immunity idol), it was Kelly's bad game play to move the clue in front of me and I told her I saw it. We didn't touch anything after that until we got back to camp. When we got back to camp I dropped my end of the basket (of food they were carrying) and I went for the clue. She drops her end of the basket and she's trying to go in for the clue, but I cover the basket. Now she's going in to move my arm. Anybody's reaction, somebody's grabbing your arm, is to try to move them out of the way and that's what I did, so I'm not understanding where this whole tackling came from and this whole I hate Kelly B. Because the next day when I went looking for the idol, after I got the idol with Brenda, it was more like we're still opposites, we're still on the rival team, so let me just go pick on them and that's what I did. Let me go pick on them, let me let them think that they still have a shot at finding the idol even though it's already been found. And that was fun being able to toy with them.
But Kelly B and I, we just didn't like each other from jump.
So there you have it, straight from NaOnka's mouth.
Jeff told viewers last week that the knives are out among the remaining seven castaways. Find out who gets voted out next by tuning in to Global TV Wednesday at 8. I'll be watching and blogging.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on what NaOnka had to say. And don't forget, if you were following me on Twitter I have a new account: www.twitter.com/realityeo
(The photo of NaOnka is by Monty Brinton for CBS.)