While Leslie Nease did not win Survivor: China, she was undoubtedly the people’s champion as she finally was cast on the show after trying out 11 times. The Christian radio talk show host appeared to be in control of the game when Jaime Dugan picked her to give the hidden immunity idol clue to last week but when Fei Long visited tribal council for the first time, the tribe decided to send their island mother home because they feared that she had spilled too much information to the other tribe. While I knew that Leslie was a fan of the show before interviewing her, I had no idea how many strategic moves she made that weren’t shown on television. This included her clandestine plan to keep the hidden immunity idol information between only her and Todd and Jaime and Erik on the other tribe. I tremendously enjoyed speaking with her.
: Hey Leslie, how are you?
Leslie Nease: I am good, how are you doing?
MJ: Good, good. Are you ready to jump right into it?
LN: Yes, you bet I am!
MJ: I want to start by asking you about applying for the show 11 times. How did you become such a big Survivor fan and what about the show drew you in?
LN: You know, it’s interesting. I don’t know exactly what it was but I was watching Season 3 (where they were in Africa) and it was a terrible season. Like they were miserable. They didn’t have any food. They were out in the middle of nowhere. They had lions creeping around. But then during the finale, every single person said they would do it again in a heartbeat.
MJ: Right, right.
LN: And I went ‘I gotta do this! This is something that I just really want to experience!’ I never really thought much about the money. I was really just thinking about what an adventure and what a challenge that would be to step out of your comfort zone and go do something like totally nuts. You know? So I just kept trying. I really wanted to do it and I am just so so excited that I finally got to try it and do it for myself! (Laughs).
MJ: Getting to Survivor: China, it seemed like you were in no danger on the last episode and that it would either be Jean-Robert or Courtney who would be voted off. What changed and why do you think you were voted off?
LN: Well, you know, I was really shocked too. I didn’t expect to go home so early. I thought it was going to be Jean-Robert. Right before we left, I asked everybody and everybody said ‘oh yeah, it’s Jean-Robert’ but they weren’t looking at me in the eye.
MJ: Right, right.
LN: And so I kind of went ‘oh no.’ But then I thought, they just don’t want me to know they’re voting for Courtney. You know because it would make sense to vote either one of them out.
MJ: And you were close to Courtney too right?
LN: I was close to Courtney and so I thought that they were just protecting me because they knew that it would be hard for me and they knew that I would never vote for her so they were just kind of doing it behind my back is what my thought was. So when we got there and Jeff read ‘Leslie’ the first time, I was like ‘oh noooo, I have been totally outwitted already!’ Kind of a bummer, but it’s all good.
MJ: Was it just because your tribe felt that you gave too much information away to Zhan Hu when you were kidnapped?
LN: I really didn’t give away a lot of information. That’s the funny thing. And if I had, do you really think I would have gone back to my tribe and told them that I gave away a bunch of information?
LN: No! I mean Jaime told them everything. The truth is that they didn’t show the part where Jaime was the one saying ‘yeah, Aaron’s their leader.’ She was saying all this and so when I talked, you were hearing me repeat what she had already said but I was trying to soften it a little bit. I made it sound like ‘he just sort of took over, so we were like you be the leader… we elected him leader.’ I was trying to make it… give people an idea of who the people were in their real-day jobs. I didn’t give away any tribe dynamics at all. I mean seriously. I was really shocked that they thought that I would because I am not stupid.
MJ: And you have seen the show before!
LN: I have seen the show! I know what you’re supposed to do and what you’re not supposed to do. The problem is that while I was gone, James planted seeds in their heads that I am not really a Christian. That I am just playing this role and ‘we need to watch out for her.’ The truth is that I really was for real and I really am a Christian and I really wasn’t going to turn on them. But you know, once the seed of doubt is planted… I think I just got doomed from that.
MJ: I have heard you say that when Jaime initially gave you the clue about the hidden immunity idol, you told her that you were going to tell Todd and that she could tell Erik and that you would keep it between the four of you. Was that your plan because it is pretty genius?
LN: Yes, it was my plan and I thought it was a good one because that way there was a male and a female so we could convince our tribe… you know, if they wanted to go with a female we could always say Jaime. If they wanted to go with a male, we could say Erik. And vice-versa for them. Leslie and Todd. So when they chose me to go over there, the reason they chose me is because Jaime told them ‘oh man, Leslie’s great… you’ll really enjoy her.’
MJ: Right, right.
LN: And when I went over there, and when I told my tribe… you know that part where I said ‘yeah, there’s three Christians and I think that’s why they chose me,’ the reason I told them that is because they kept prodding me. ‘Why would they choose you?’ I think they were a little mad. ‘Why didn’t they choose me? Why did they choose you?’ I said ‘you know, well maybe it’s because there’s three Christians over there and we had that connection.’ They knew from the first episode that I was a Christian. So I think I was trying to help but I think I made it worse ’cause then they were like ‘oh, she’s going to be in an alliance with all the Christians.’ (Laughs).
MJ: (Laughs). Were there any romances out there? Like with Jaime and Erik or Aaron and Amanda?
LN: I thought Aaron and Amanda seemed pretty close. I really did. I don’t know if they were or not but they always seemed to snuggle together and they seemed to sort of do a lot together so I was pretty sure that something was going on there. When I went over to Zhang Hu, I totally called out Jaime and Erik because we went to the well together to get water and talked about our whole brilliant little sub-alliance thing and I looked at them and they just were looking at each other really cute and I said, ‘you know what? You guys have something going on, don’t you?’ And they were like ‘no! Why would you think that?’
MJ: (Laughs). That’s too funny!
LN: It’s so funny but I could see it and they both kind of smiled and blushed and I was like ‘oh my goodness, you guys are too cute! You’re going to end up together, I just know it!’ So I am pulling for that. I hope that happens.
MJ: Hilarious! Did you look for the hidden immunity idol and would you have spent more time looking for it, knowing that you were in danger?
LN: I definitely would have. If I knew I was in danger, most definitely but the very first guess that I had was that thing above the pagoda. But the problem is that there were four of them. There was one on each side of the pagodas and there was two of them. So I didn’t know which one it was! So I told Todd, you know what? Let’s wait for the next clue and we’ll figure out which one it is and between the two of us, you know, one of us can divert and the other one can try to figure out how to get it down from there. So I am interested to see if he gets it.
MJ: And what’s a pagoda? Is that like a wall?
LN: No, no, no. The pagoda was like that archway thing. That was my first guess. I am assuming (because they keep showing it to us) that that is what it is, but to be honest with you? I am not even sure. I just assume that is what it was.
MJ: Obviously religion is a big part of your life. Can you tell me about that initial ceremony at the Temple and why you decided to leave? I am sure you have been asked that question like a million times!
LN: You know I am really glad to be able to explain it though because I think a lot of people are misunderstanding what happened. I was in that ceremony for over an hour. I mean we were doing a bunch of different things and I went through everything and I was very respectful. The only time that I got up and walked out was when we got on our knees and really were face down in a worship pose right in front of a statue. Was it worship? I don’t know. But in my heart, I couldn’t do it. I mean I really could not physically do it. I felt like the Lord was telling me ‘you know, you’re crossing a line now’ and so I respectfully walked out and I just prayed the whole time. I am like ‘you know, I have wanted this for five years and I just blew it.’ I knew that I lost the game at that point because #1, it put a target on my back as somebody of faith which I knew that they were going to misunderstand. And #2, I didn’t know if they were going to pull in an alternate, but the funny thing is that it didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered is that I was true to myself and I was true to my faith and I felt that I did what was right for me. And I didn’t impose it on anybody else and nobody seemed offended so…
MJ: My final question is that you seemed to click with James early on sort of showing him how to play the game and the social aspects of the game but he still voted for you. Did something change in your relationship with him?
LN: Oh yeah. I don’t know what happened to James. The first three days, we were really close and then he got hungry and he just got really cranky. Like he was so hard to be around. He was always complaining and he was mad. He said that we were all on a learning curve and he kept saying ‘I want a hotdog… I want a sandwich.’ And he was just really mad and I heard him once telling Aaron (and then you heard him the other night telling Jean-Robert) ‘this is just an act. She’s not really a Christian. She’s just playing a game. Don’t buy into her stuff.’
MJ: Right, right.
LN: But I really was. And I would have been honest and I think he just misjudged me and it’s a shame because he’s a nice guy but I think the game got the best of him.
MJ: I am sure that Survivor was a great experience for you. What’s next for you and I also wanted to ask you who some of your favorite players were in the past?
LN: Okay. Next for me, I am back in my life. I have four children. I have a radio show in Charlotte, North Carolina for a Christian radio station and I do speaking and things like that so I am just going to continue in my life as it was before Survivor. I love my life. And my favorite players… I would say Tina Wesson was one of my favorites.
MJ: I knew you were going to say that! I knew it!
LN: Yeah, I LOVE her! My husband saw her in a restaurant once and went over to her and said ‘okay, my wife is on the phone, will you talk to her please? She’s a huge fan!’
LN: She told me ‘never give up! They look at every application. Never give up!’ And this was like four years ago, so I kept at it. Thanks Tina! (Laughs).
MJ: Very cool.
LN: And of course Rupert. You gotta love Rupert! And I love Austin Carty. I thought he was a great representation of a Christian on the show and Stephannie Favor from Cook Islands. She’s a great lady.
MJ: That’s great. Thank you so much for talking to me. I really appreciate it.
LN: Oh my pleasure. Thank you.
MJ: Alright, take it easy. Bye bye.
LN: Bye bye.
Leslie Nease’s stepfather was a United States Marine, so she traveled with her family all over the world. She attended and graduated from Kubasaki High School in Okinawa, Japan. Moving back to the United States, Nease attended two years of college at Shepherd College in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.
Nease currently works as a Christian host for a midmorning radio show. She is on the air from 9 am until noon, and then spends the rest of her day being mom to her four kids, Stephanie, Tommy, Kennedy and Peyton. She also teaches fitness classes three nights a week (step, kickboxing, sculpt and cycle) and has her own speaking ministry where she encourages others in their faith. She has written a book about fitness & spirituality called Body Builders. She has previously worked as a personal trainer and waitress.
Nease’s hobbies include reading and studying scripture, writing poetry, yard sales and camping with her family. Her favorite sport is volleyball. She describes herself as energetic, passionate and overwhelming. Her favorite topics are what she considers to be her “Four Fs”: Faith, Family, Friends and Fitness. She was Mrs. North Carolina in the Mrs. USA pageant in Las Vegas in August 2001. In March 2003, she was the first New York finalist in the Regis & Kelly co-host search when Kelly went on maternity leave. In April 2006, she went on a mission trip to La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, Bolivia, where they spent most of their time outdoors in the Andes Mountains visiting Compassion International-sponsored children in underdeveloped areas.
Nease has auditioned for SURVIVOR every season for the past five years. She always wanted to experience SURVIVOR for herself and decided she wasn’t giving up. She never let the rejection get her down, but instead allowed it to fuel her passion for the adventure. Finally, after 11 audition tapes, her dream is coming true.
Nease currently resides in Tega Cay, South Carolina with her husband of 18 years, Rod. They have one dog, Buddy. Her birth date is March 25, 1969.
– Survivor: China airs on CBS on Thursday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
– Survivor: China airs on the Global network in Canada on Thursday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
Sir Linksalot: Survivor: China
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