Reality Star Sabrina Thompson Talks Surviving âSurvivorâ and Battling Stereotypes

Reality Star Sabrina Thompson Talks Surviving ‘Survivor’ and Battling Stereotypes


Reality Star Sabrina Thompson Talks Surviving âSurvivorâ and Battling Stereotypes

Sabrina Thompson

Very few African Americans make it to the finals of CBS’ hit show ‘Survivor: One World.’ But in the twenty-fourth season, runner-up Sabrina Thompson beat the odds and earned $100,000. Though she may have come in second-place, Sabrina’s giving spirit proves she’s still a winner.

In an interview with EBONY.com, the former TV-producer turned Brooklyn high-school teacher talks surviving ‘Survivor,’ her new endeavor to take kids around the world, and her advice to Black women on reality shows.

EBONY: ‘Survivor’ is such an intense show. How did you get into the mindset to compete?

SABRINA THOMPSON: [Laughs] Girl, you have to be a little bit crazy to be on that show. It's not for the meek and mild! I only had three weeks to prepare to play the game, but I’d watched it enough to know you can't get too far with a bad attitude and I saw the other Black women on the show who were really good and really smart women, but they were very also aggressive. I have an aggressive personality too, but I knew I wouldn't last long if I kept that up. I kind of mastered the middle ground. I had to lay low in the beginning and that's how I made it all the way to the end. It's sad, and I hate to play the race card, but a lot of times, [networks] cast the stereotypical Black woman on shows like this, and I knew that if I would even remotely speak up, I would be seen like some angry Black woman. So, I had to be the peacemaker around the camp. That was my strategy. 

EBONY: How were you able to downplay your personality in order to avoid the pitfalls of the stereotypical Black woman?

ST: It was really hard, but when a million dollars is on the line, I listen more and I shut my mouth. Part of the game is deception. It wasn't the weird animals or lack of food that got to me during the competition, it was the lying. I'm a very black and white kind of person. I’m not into lying because you start lying, you have to top that lie with another lie and another lie and that is just too much energy.  But, I played the game as close to my regular personality as possible. My strategy was to just keep it real. People love people who are loyal, even when a million dollars is on the line, so that’s how I was able to keep the respect of everyone in the game and make it to the end without people voting against me.  

After "Survivor," I turned over a big check to my church, which does such great things in the community, and I just told God, “Have your way. Use me however you want to use me.”

EBONY: You weren’t even supposed to be on ‘Survivor.’ It was really a mistake on the part of the producers that you were chosen because they confused you with another woman. Why do you think this opportunity was placed into your life?

ST: I don't believe in accidents at all, but basically the producers had already chosen the contestants they wanted but the Black lady that they’d chosen had the exact same name as me. Every time they Googled that woman, information about me popped up and they just decided that they liked me better and they sent me an email asking if I wanted to be a contestant.

I do believe everything was designed by God because I was working as a teacher in New York and I had just received a letter from the state Department of Education saying that, due to budget cuts, they were laying off teachers and my name was on the list of teachers that could be laid off.  I’d been teaching for 5 years, so that was God transitioning me out of that life in a really big way. So I obviously jumped at the opportunity to be on ‘Survivor,’ and it was the wildest ride ever.

When I was on the island [in Samoa], and it was the closest I've gotten to God in my life. I had time to reflect on the things. You have no cell phone, no computer, and no conversations with people other than those on the island or yourself. You start to think why are you here on this earth? I got a lot of clarity, and as a second place winner, I got $100,000 and I played a game that I’m proud of and my family is proud of, so I am satisfied. I’m excited about what's coming next. 

EBONY: You’ve got your jewelry line, beanpYe, your work as the Vice Chair of the Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network, and your photography company. What’s next for you?

ST:  Well, my passion is to work with kids, but no longer in the classroom setting. I teach in a very unconventional way. In winter 2013, I’m launching the Teen Travel Society, a travel academy and

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