Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire: Sabrina Thompson says Survivor needs 'more damn diversity'
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.
Sabrina Thompson will not mince words if you ask her what sort of changes she would like to see on Survivor. “More damn diversity,” says the Survivor: One World runner-up. “It makes no sense that Survivor has been on for two decades and there is an average of two Black people on per season. The numbers get even more dismal when you look at Latinos, Asians, Natives, and the LGBTQ+ community.”
But, here’s the good news: Sabrina believes changes are coming: “I’m glad that a coalition of Black Survivors had several meetings with Jeff Probst, the Chief of Diversity and Inclusion, and also the VP of CBS to outline our concerns and list of changes we’d like to see happen within the show. The changes they have made have been extremely commendable and I cannot wait for America to see it reflected on the upcoming seasons.”
While Sabrina is looking ahead to how the show can improve its representation of all types of people, we also asked her to look back at her time on the island for a Quarantine Questionnaire, and she delivered the goods, complete with a harrowing-turned-hilarious story about something that never made it on TV. Enjoy!
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, give the update as to what you’ve been up to since appearing on Survivor.
SABRINA THOMPSON: Life after Survivor has been one big adventurous ride in business and love!
I took the prize money from the show, invested it, and opened a media production company called Kuu Productions (Kuu means “prominent” in Swahili). My specialty is directing, producing and editing everything from national TV commercials to mini documentaries and photo campaigns. I’ve had the company for eight years and it’s been one helluva ride. I’ve traveled the world telling the stories of families, companies, and organizations whose stories are often ignored by mainstream media.
In addition, I was one of Hillary Clinton’s cinematographers during her presidential campaign and focused on the narratives of the Mothers of the Movement. In 2017, I was the lead photographer for the historic Women’s March in DC. My work has been published in many places ranging from Conde Nast coffee table books to art exhibits in the U.S. Embassies around the world. I’m now developing and shopping several scripted and unscripted television shows.
In 2019, I got married to an amazing guy I met my freshman year at LSU. We were just friends in college, but we lost touch after I transferred to The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Nineteen years later, he found me through an old friend and the rest is history. Sometimes you never know where life will take you and who will end up coming back in your life. I’m glad I was open to love. Now, he is way more of a Survivor than I’d ever be. He’s a hunting and nature guru. I’m excited about building our lives together with plenty of adventure.
What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?
I’m proud that I made it to the finals, placed second, and was able to make history when it was the first time the top five were all women.
What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experience?
I have no regrets whatsoever. Everything worked out how it was supposed to work out. I feel like I played the best hand I was dealt and was able to be a positive role model to young kids at home who were watching our season.
What’s something that will blow fans’ minds that happened out there in your season but never made it to TV?
I woke up one night and thought I was dying. I had very severe chest pains. Turns out it was just a ridiculous case of gas that incurred because my crazy ass downed a whole glass of milk I won during a challenge. My cast mate Tarzan was an MD, so I begrudgingly ask him to help diagnosis me. Lol. Oh, yeah…one important note to this story — I’m lactose intolerant. However, anyone that has played Survivor will agree how crazy and desperate you are in the jungle and will devour any type of food or drink you get your hands on, no matter the outcome!
How do you feel about the edit you got on the show?
My edit was pretty damn spotless and amazing. I have zero complaints.
What was it like coming back to regular society after being out there? Was there culture shock or an adjustment coming back?
Coming back to Brooklyn from the jungles of Samoa was pretty unsettling. Although I was in the comfort of my own bed, I had a very hard time sleeping. My dreams were extremely vivid, almost palpable. The experience taught me what I needed versus what I wanted. I repurposed and simplified my life, whether it was shopping less or more intentional conversations with friends. I now only do what brings me and my family joy and I don’t associate myself with anything that is not purposeful or adventurous.
Was there ever a point either during the game or after you got back where you regretted going on the show?
Whom do you still talk, text, or email with the most from your season?
I communicate mostly with Bill Posley, Alicia Rosa, Kim Spradlin Wolfe, Christina Cha and Matt Quinlan.
Bill is such a beautiful human. We did not spend that much time on the island because we were split up via gender; however, life outside the game…this man is my brother. We are both creatives and radical in nature, so we make sure to check in with each other every few months to either discuss the s--- show going on in America…lol… or the TV projects we are developing. We both pretty much have already claimed… “one day we’re gonna create something magic for the world to see.”
Alicia and I were not that close during the show, but outside of the game we share a lot of similarities. Although we are both married now, we would share crazy dating stories, get family advice, and just have girl talk about life as Black and Brown women.
Christina and I often chat about creative opportunities because we both have careers in TV/film.
Kim and I talk about DESIGN, DESIGN, DESIGN! She is has an amazing eye designing and flipping homes and I’m creating a new design coming slated to launch in 2021. Kim and I also have hard conversations about the state of the world and she is very open and comfortable enough to call me and say “What can I do as an ally?” to help ease racial tensions and start reconciliation of the atrocities that have taken place in American history.
Matt and I communicate mainly via social media and he is such a dope ally with anything involving social injustice. It is comforting to know he uses his privilege to help make the world better.
Do you still watch Survivor, and if so, what’s your favorite season you were not on and why?
I actually have not seen a full season of Survivor since my season aired in 2012. I’ll catch an episode here and there when I know there is a season with more than two Black people in the cast. If the show had more diversity, I’d probably watch entire seasons. The great thing is that CBS and Survivor have committed to some big changes regarding diversity, casting, editing, and more for the upcoming seasons.
Who’s one player from another Survivor season you wish you could have played with or against and why?
Crazy ass Sandra Diaz, Jeremy Collins, Cirie Fields, and Wendell Holland. All extremely smart players that are consistent in personality, game play and who I can see myself being friends with outside of the game. I am friends with them all outside of Survivor, except Cirie. I’ve never had the chance to meet Cirie.
If you could make one change to any aspect of Survivor, what would it be and why?
More damn diversity. It makes no sense that Survivor has been on for two decades and there is an average of two Black people on per season. The numbers get even more dismal when you look at Latinos, Asians, Natives, and the LGBTQ+ community. I’m glad that a coalition of Black Survivors had several meetings with Jeff Probst, the Chief of Diversity and Inclusion, and also the VP of CBS to outline our concerns and list of changes we’d like to see happen within the show. The changes they have made have been extremely commendable and I cannot wait for America to see it reflected on the upcoming seasons.
Finally, would you play again if asked?
It was an absolute ride and honor competing in what is considered by many to be the greatest game on earth; however, I’m done. I totally support the folks who go back a second and third time. The thrill can be an addiction that is hard to explain. Some things you do once, and this is my story. I have infinite memories and lessons from the show to last me three lifetimes.