***WARNING: Survivor spoilers (below)***
It’s safe to say Zeke Smith‘s Survivor experience is not exactly what he signed up for.
As you may recall, the Brooklyn-based comedian and writer was publicly outed when fellow contestant Jeff Varner revealed on camera that Smith was transgender. Obviously, this situation sparked national backlash for Varner, who has since apologized for outing Zeke.
Despite having the country’s support, the 29-year-old was ultimately eliminated from Survivor: Game Changers — and is now more than ready to talk about his inneresting experience on the celebrated game show. In fact, the seasoned competitor dished all to The Hollywood Reporter following his recent elimination. Bless!
On the aftermath of his outing while still filming, Zeke noted he knew his time in Fiji was coming to and end. The reality TV vet shared:
“After what had happened with Varner, my life in the game was pretty short. It became abundantly clear on the first day of the merge. My name started getting tossed around, and the reason why is that nobody wanted to sit next to me in the end, because I had a very compelling story. The biggest sign was that I had a lot of great relationships with a lot of people, and all of the sudden, nobody was coming to me to talk to me, about anything.”
And despite the horrible thing that happened to him, Smith revealed that the incident gave him the inspiration to “go out swinging.” He continued:
“What happened at that Tribal is probably the meanest thing that’s ever happened to me, and there was no calling my best friend or hugging my dad or even having a night alone to process. I made the decision on the way back to camp that you’re either going to quit or you’re going to play, and if you play, there’s no crying, no woe is me, no sitting around moping. You suck it up and you play the bold and reckless way you play….I felt I was in a position where it was very important to model resilience. No matter when I went, I needed to go out swinging.”
Although Zeke would not have chosen to have been outed the way he was, he has no regrets when it comes to participating on Survivor. Smith has since defended CBS‘ decision to air the confrontation with Varner. Zeke explained:
“I very much wanted it to air. First, I didn’t go on national television unprepared for the world to know that I’m trans. I was ready, should that part of my life become part of my Survivor story. But I wasn’t crazy about the way it happened. It never crossed my mind that it shouldn’t air. Ever since it happened, I felt it was important for the world to see.”
Not to mention, it probably helped that Zeke had Jeff Probst in his corner as an ally. According to the mustachioed contestant, the TV host was more than dedicated to protecting him from people who wanted to “exploit” his story. Smith gushed:
“He said, ‘There are people who are going to want to exploit you, and I am going to fight them. That’s what I promise you. And I also promise that if you want to hide in a hole, or if you want to lean into it and use this to help others, then I will be with you every step of the way fighting with you.’ Jeff Probst has kept every single one of his promises. I have usually found it true that you should not meet your heroes. Jeff Probst is a bright, shining exception to that.”
AH-Mazing! Now, Zeke is still processing everything that happened to him, but he is so grateful for the love and support he’s received from the public. Before ending the interview, the Survivor superfan relayed:
“I was surprised at how overwhelmingly positive the reaction was. How well reported it was by the media. Everything reported it well. I was prepared for salacious headlines and dredged up photos from my past. I was prepared to be re-victimized. That the outrage was all toward the wrongdoer and the sympathy was towards me, and that people went out of their way to not even call me the trans Survivor player, but Zeke the Survivor player who is transgender ├óΓé¼ΓÇ¥ using the long way of writing about it ├óΓé¼ΓÇ¥ I was really overwhelmed. It was a unique moment in the way trans people are handled in the public eye. I’m very humbled and still awestruck at what happened.”
Well said. We have a feeling this isn’t the last will see of Zeke — we mean, if the producers are smart, they’ll find a reason to bring him back for a third season!
[Image via CBS.]