Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire: Lyrsa Torres on being a 'baby queer nugget' inspiration
With Survivor filming for seasons 41 and 42 indefinitely postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, EW is reaching back into the reality show's past. We sent a Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire to a batch of former players to fill out with their thoughts about their time on the show as well as updates on what they've been up to since. Each weekday, EW will post the answers from a different player.
The Goliaths thought they had picked out the weakest of the weak when they selected Lyrsa Torres and Christian Hubicki from the David tribe to take place in an opening challenge against them at the start of Survivor: David vs. Goliath. But what they didn't realize was that Lyrsa and Christian would not be running that challenge alone. "I was also running that course with my family, partner, Puerto Rico, the Latino community, and LGBTQIA community in mind," says Lyrsa. "It wasn't just for me and to show that I was a competitor, I saw all of them in me and that I had to show the world that we could do it." And show it they did, as Lyrsa and Christian went on to victory on the day-one contest.
While Lyrsa did not even make the merge on season 37 (being eliminated at the last Tribal Council before it, on day 17), she succeeded in a much bigger way, inspiring others who saw in her the type of competitor who has been far too absent from the program. As Lyrsa notes now, "I love it when a baby queer nugget approaches me and tells me how much it meant for them to see another queer like them on TV."
With a Quarantine Questionnaire at her disposal, Lyrsa reveals her biggest regret from the show, what she's up to now, why her mom did not like her edit, and a whole bunch more. Dig in!
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, give the update as to what you've been up to since appearing on Survivor.
LYRSA TORRES: After we came back from filming, I jumped into my schoolwork right away. I had the kindest professors (to whom I lied and told them I was doing The Amazing Race), and they gave me "incomplete" on my last two grad courses. I did some lectures regarding food and survival to complete my credits as a gastronomy graduate and independent study on historical cookbooks from the mid-19th century in the Caribbean.
I found a job as a customer service coordinator for Spindrift, and my partner and I founded Künt Boston, a burlesque production company that got affected by COVID since all the clubs in Boston are closed at the time. I am also part of the podcast Heavy Leather Horror Show, which discusses weird/funny news, horror movies, and news in dead. It sounds dark, but is super-funny. We used to have a TV show and I was floor manager, but again COVID messed it all up. Go check us out, we are on Spotify and iTunes… and don't forget to give us five stars. We are Salem, Mass.' number-one horror podcast!
What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?
I think that obviously winning that first challenge. When Jeff said that the other tribe was going to pick the "weakest" players, I knew it was going to be me. Hello! I am a tiny chunky nugget that gives the impression that doesn't do anything but sit on a couch. I knew that I had to prove to everybody that I could do this and that the first impression can be wrong/bias.
I was also running that course with my family, partner, Puerto Rico, the Latino community, and LGBTQIA community in mind. It wasn't just for me and to show that I was a competitor, I saw all of them in me and that I had to show the world that we could do it. So when I finished the course, I kept trying to untie all the rope because I thought all of it had to be in the water. I went into a silent moment and couldn't hear anything, and then Jeff was saying, "Lyrsa, you can stop! You won!" I felt that I had made not just my tribemates proud, but all the people I was representing at that moment.
What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experience?
Possibly not trying harder to work with Natalie. After we came back and I had time to decompress, I saw everything in a different light. I feel we were both at the bottom of our original tribes and had more in common than we thought. Let's start with the fact that Natalie and I were the oldest females in our tribes. I deeply regret not bonding more with her, maybe if we would have been more open to working together, at least one of us would have made it to the merge. And Natalie is hilarious.
What's something that will blow fans' minds that happened out there in your season but never made it to TV?
I don't know if it will blow their minds, but I was very active at camp. I went out to the beach every day and found hermit crabs, snails, and whatever was edible for the tribe to add to the rice. When we got to the Goliath beach, I was so excited about that fishing gear, only to find out it was destroyed. I spent probably half a day untangling the net to find it had a massive hole in the middle, so I decided to use the best resource at hand: the paddles for the fishing boat. I spent hours chasing crabs and smacking them with the paddle. I caught a few, but it was hilarious — me running with a paddle and cursing to the crabs in Spanish. I think all my individual experiences were super-fun, like eating worms with Elizabeth, and cheering on them as if they were a cocktail.
Game-wise, I don't know why I always "seem" to be behind on challenges. On the challenge we had to build the season's logo, I had all my pieces set correctly next to me, but I couldn't do anything since I was on the last spot and had to wait for my peers to start building up. On the challenge Jabeni finished second and we got the kebabs, Gabby and I were virtually running it together, and on the heavy saucer challenge that sent me home, I felt I was the only one that didn't want to quit. I kept telling my peeps that we had to keep going even if we lost, so you never saw me pep-talking to them and saying we had to keep going.
How do you feel about the edit you got on the show?
I think my edit was very fair, but I wish more of my story was shared with the viewers. I think I had a very unique vision of what was going on and I was really funny. Many of my confessionals were bilingual. We would do them in English first, and then I was asked how would I have said X or Y in Spanish. I think that was a really good opportunity to hook the Latino community on the show. But, in general, I do like my edit… my mom, not so much. She felt I was going to be on the screen all the time and would call me very upset: "Why are you not on the TV?" Mostly because she also bragged about how her only daughter was going to be on TV. I think she thought I was going to be the next Rita Moreno or something like that, ha ha!
What was it like coming back to regular society after being out there? Was there culture shock or an adjustment coming back?
Coming back was really easy for me because I went on the pre-merge trip, so we are already used to be out there. I think that the only weird thing was holding my cellphone again and being able to go on social media and communicating with friends and family. So it was a pretty easy adjustment to society.
Was there ever a point either during the game or after you got back where you regretted going on the show?
Yes and no. It depends on the situation. Do I regret going on the show when at 2 to 3 in the morning people started to bully me on IG because I voted Natalie out and they didn't stop for days? A little bit. It felt like high school all over again, and we (the players) were a bit over the situation already.
But in general, no. I have had the experience of a lifetime — an experience thousands would love to have and I have lived one of my life dreams. I have met amazing people because of the show. I have been able to give back to society a bit more because of the show. I love it when a baby queer nugget approaches me and tells me how much it meant for them to see another queer like them on TV. So, in most cases, I do not regret going on the show.
Whom do you still talk, text, or email with the most from your season?
Believe it or not, I text with Natalie from time to time. We check up on each other and see how life is going. I speak the most with Elizabeth. We both have super-busy schedules, but when possible we ring each other and keep each other on the loop. I have communications with Davie too, especially since the BLM movement. But when possible I check up with all the castaways. No matter what happens, we are a family and what we lived together will always be there.
Do you still watch Survivor, and, if so, what's your favorite season you were not on and why?
I still watch, but I have to admit I don't watch it on the night of the episode's premiere. For season 38, I was working at a public television show (behind cameras) and it conflicted, so I would watch the episodes late at night or the next day. Same with 39. But from the seasons after mine, I think season 39 because of the conversations that were brought to the table. I think it was important to talk about the issues we are actually living in the real world, and Survivor is a really good platform to do that. Before my season… it's hard to pick!
Who's one player from another Survivor season you wish you could have played with or against and why?
Do I have to choose one? I'm torn between so many players!! I think Bryce, Rob Cesternino, Jamal, Karishma, Sandra, Abi, and Wentworth.
If you could make one change to any aspect of Survivor, what would it be and why?
I think it is important to tell the story of the winner, I mean he/she IS the winner. But so many stories are left out, stories that are important to tell. There is other 19 players that in many cases are the reason the winner is the winner, and we get lost in the background. Survivor is a great outlet to tell the story of our POC, the LGBTQIA, women… I think representation has not been fair, but I read it's coming.
Finally, would you play again if asked?
Of course, but it has to be a really good theme. Like Heroes vs. Villains 2. I think Survivor players are adventure seekers, and mostly we love to win. And I know most people in the world love to win, but we are very extra about winning. Come on, we are willing to starve and not sleep properly for 39 days (or in my case 17) to win, and of course, I would love to have the chance to play again and try to win. I would definitely play a different game.
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