SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

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.

Jessica “Sugar” Kiper certainly has experienced both side of the Survivor spectrum. Her first time out, she lasted all 39 days on Survivor: Gabon (losing to Bob Crowley). Then, in her return appearance, she was the very first one out in Heroes vs. Villains. That’s appropriate seeing as how the fan favorite also experienced both highs (just watch her face when Randy Bailey played the fake idol) and lows (her epic feud with Corinne Kaplan) in the game.

Emotional and entertaining, Sugar has always been known for speaking her mind, and speak it she does in her Quarantine Questionnaire. Whether it is talking about her wild ride right after appearing on the show, revisiting the aforementioned feud with her “nemesis,” or asking for more compassion and care from the producers for the contestants who act as “rats in their maze,” Sugar always manages to always bring a little spice as well. Buckle up, folks!

Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS via Getty Images

ENTERTAINMENT WEKELY: First off, give the update as to what you’ve been up to since appearing on Survivor.

JESSICA “SUGAR” KIPER: Jeez... it’s been a while. Well, I did some more scripted TV (what I did before Survivor), and that other reality show that I never mention, moved home to Louisiana to get away from Los Angeles, got a very public DUI (it was raining and this guy was hauling carpet on a little trailer with no lights, I called the cops, and my idiot friend mentioned I was on TV...). It was Baton Rouge, so they played it every night for a week on the local news, because nothing really happens there besides football. Even though a few years before, I’d gotten my own float, front page article, and my own “DAY” for a Mardi Gras parade. Lol. You know how it is... drama.

Anyway, I cleaned up my act, met a super-hot guy and made him put a ring on it, take care of me, and give me a baby. Luckily, she turned out to be totally RAD and even better than I had hoped for!

I’m back in Los Angeles with my family. Punky Jean and I have the same manager, but she has a different agent. It’s totally okay if I ended up being her chauffeur/set teacher/acting coach. It’s also okay if she never wants to do anything in the arts. Some other ideas she’s had are: teacher, doctor, scientist, and astronaut. Obviously, NOTHING is happening this year, but she’s started remote learning kindergarten. These days we pretty much just go out to eat once or twice a week and have playdates with other quarantined friends.

What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?

Proudest? Pfffffft... that show will turn a good person into a monster, and a regular monster into a hideous demon! I mean... I’m proud that I didn’t jump across the fire and blind a person... but that’s probably because medics gave me a “calm down” shot right before final Tribal.

I guess I’m just proud of sticking in there & not letting a--holes win? That was my goal, so... mission accomplished. In hindsight, I could’ve tried to go for the money... but then I couldn’t have killed “bad guys,” and that part was SO fun!

What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experiences?

Regrets... I’ve had a few... but then again, okay, yeah — I could mention them. I guess I wish I hadn’t gone mad with power. I’m usually a little more chill than that, but the game gets a hold of you and the longer you’re in, the crazier you get. I hadn’t realized that and did a bunch of crazy stuff directly after returning to my life. Like... marrying a complete stranger. That was nuts. I wish I had heeded the words of the psych a little more. “Don’t change where you work. Don’t change who you’re in a relationship with, or jump into one. Also, you will feel compelled to pee behind bushes and keeps snacks on you all the time. That’s normal.”

This is what the doctor told Bob, Susie, and I in the van after the final Tribal. I had already filled my bag with snacks they had in the van... so we all laughed at that. It took me a long time to get my head on straight. I was absolutely NOT prepared to go back for Heroes vs. Villains (I think that’s obvious, but I want it to be clear that I am aware).

What’s something that will blow fans minds that happened out there in one of your seasons but never made it to TV?

Some insane things that certain people talked about very early on while we were getting to know each other... even for the bad character, they couldn’t air that stuff — it’s still a family show. I’d never experienced someone bragging about terrible things they’d done. I don’t think people usually do that.

I was actually trying to keep my mouth shut, because I don’t like to lie... but I didn’t want to tell them I was a SAG actor and this was just something weird that fell into my lap when I was completely lost, mourning my father. I didn’t want to do Survivor. I was scared, but people convinced me, and watching the seasons they’d sent convinced me. I told my tribe that I was a '50s diner waitress and a Marilyn Monroe impersonator. I didn’t lie, those were jobs I had held. Sugar was already my nickname for 10 years by then (not a character I made up for Survivor).

I had just moved to New York so was not currently acting on anything, or doing a side job like waiting tables. I was living with my ex-husband (ex at the time), an AMAZING tattoo artist, Nalla Smith, who had literally lost his father as well three days after mine, so we decided we should be together. We were both so sad at that time, Survivor seemed like a sign.

Corinne’s whole final speech was dumb to me, because she had a false sense of who I was. Not that it would make her dislike me LESS knowing I’d been a working actor on primetime already. Jealous mean girls are pretty malicious and you can’t fix them if they like themselves that way. She couldn’t stand losing to someone she thought wasn’t as good as her. I was repped by the William Morris Agency and on a TV show called For Your Love during what would have been my “college years.” I got my education by working on TV (because I WENT for it, and got it).

To my nemesis, I just hadn’t gone to college, so I was “uneducated.” So, I guess maybe that’s why she’s kept that hate coming at me for the past 12 years. It sucks being wrong. Narcissists will never admit it & just keep doubling down. I’ve seen absolute LIES in print from her.

All that, and them shooting me up with drugs before the final Tribal... those are some things that fans didn’t know.

How do you feel about the edit you got on the show?

Gabon was pretty accurate. It felt very character based. Heroes vs. Villains was completely different. They couldn’t air my J.T. drama, so they made it look like I had the hots for Colby. That was weird, but whatever. I was a sitting duck that season anyway.

What was it like coming back to regular society after being out there? Was there culture shock or an adjustment coming back?

After Gabon, I was bats--- crazy for a long time. I was just floating through life and not paying attention. Eating ALL my friends' leftovers off their plates, and you know, married the director of a movie I was filming two weeks later — a COMPLETE STRANGER (so... not heeding the doctor’s warnings AT ALL). It’s taken me years and years to come to grips with the PTSD, and mixed emotions over the “game.”

Was there ever a point either during the game or after you got back where you regretted going on the show?

Buahahaha! Every other day. Yeah! Definitely. That’s life though. You can’t shoulda, coulda, woulda. This the reality I chose, so I try and not hate it or love it. I don’t make it my entire world and make a podcast or anything, but I do appreciate the amazing crew & players I’ve met and befriended. It is a wonderful LARGE family, where most people love, appreciate, and respect each other. As you know though, we all have some s---ty no-good cousins that you just put up with at Thanksgiving.

Whom do you still talk, text, or email with the most from your seasons?

Hmmmm... well, there are different levels. There are people you share friendly notes with on social media, and then there’s people you text or call.

Bob and Susie, I keep up with. Matty is kind of AWOL because of personal things, but we use to hang out a lot for years. I have communicated with Paloma, Crystal, Jax, & Ace (Ace and I took a cross country trip and jumped out of a plane together), Kelly, Gillian, Charlie, Marcus. I tried to talk to Kenny and include him in some things.... but apparently he thinks we all hate each other. I think he just hates US. I thought Randy and I got along, but he lashed out at me recently on a podcast, so I guess he’s been upset by something recently.

From Heroes vs. Villains, I talk to Sandra the most and also Coach, Courtney, and Danielle. Maybe forgetting someone... but I doubt it.

Do you still watch Survivor, and if so, what’s your favorite season you were not on and why?

Favorite season ever? I DO watch, but sometimes out of obligation so I know wtf you kids are talking about on Twitter. It’s so wack now. It must be a little harder for the players to keep up with all the options. You can only choose one adventure at a time — so turning to the wrong page could just blow the whole book to bits! I’m a fan of the old school (‘cause I’m old), so I was really into the characters! I think maybe China was the season that sold me on coming on the show though... even though some of my favorite contestants weren’t very nice. It’s f---ing miserable out there. Being nice in those conditions isn’t easy... at all. Anyone who says differently is full of s---. 😉

Who’s one player from another Survivor season you wish you could have played with or against and why?

There’s a ton of cool people I would’ve liked to play with (not necessarily against). You could just go through each season and find the players with the best quality and most meaningful tattoos. I’d probably enjoy them. Although for a real answer, I would’ve loved to scrape my way to the merge on Heroes vs. Villains and begged Sandra to let me be her goat. I really should’ve told Tom that... ooooooh! Shoulda, coulda, woulda! Honestly, I love the majority of Survivors I’ve played with and I meet at charity events, so I really don’t feel the need to think about who I’d WANT to play with. That ship has sailed. Now if I don’t like a Survivor in a social environment, I can just walk over to a different group. Plus, I get to eat, and sleep! I much prefer it this way.

If you could make one change to any aspect of Survivor, what would it be and why?

If I could change one thing... honestly, it would be that the producers cared more about the players and not as much the ratings and gearing the story the way they want. I would want the production to give every player more love, and thank them for being rats in their maze and making them SO MUCH MONEY.

I mean, like players that were off early and never heard from again... I think half of the players (in the past) were recruits and had no idea what they were in for. I don’t know what I’d expect from them, maybe a Christmas card? I enjoy residuals from the shows and movies I’ve done in the past (that’s why there’s a Guild). Survivor contestants don’t see anything after the game... but we still get all the social media love and hate and have to relive it... as production just keeps making that sweet, sweet money from previous seasons. Just sayin’... a card would be nice! 🙄

Finally, would you play again if asked?

Nope! I sleep with four pillows and a heating pad and for as long as I like! I eat whatever I want, whenever I want and I get to choose the awesome enlightened people I surround myself with. I enjoy my comfort and loved ones way too much nowadays. I’m gooooooooood. 🌍🌏🌎✌🏻💋

To keep track of our daily Survivor Quarantine Questionnaires and get the latest updates, check out EW's Survivor hub, and follow Dalton on Twitter.

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SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

Strangers starve themselves on an island for our amusement in the hopes of winning a million dollars, as host Jeff Probst implores them to "DIG DEEP!"

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