People often wonder just how real reality TV is. And usually it’s with good reason, as some scenarios are obviously the result of a producer’s interference. However, when “Survivor” Hall of Famer Parvati Shallow went flying off a quad bike during the filming of “Around the World for Free” it couldn’t have been any more real.
Fortunately, Parvati isn’t the type of girl to let a little thing like a broken wrist stop her.
I recently had a chance to speak with the “Survivor” champ about the highs and lows she experienced during her 100-day odyssey, her thoughts on being name-dropped by Brandon Hantz, and why she thinks being the highest vote getter in last year’s “Survivor” Hall of Fame deserves a bigger reward than a crimson coffee mug…
Gordon Holmes: Alright, explain this “Around the World for Free” fiasco you got yourself into.
Parvati Shallow: “Around the World for Free” is an interactive Web series on CBS.com. I had to travel around the world in 100 days with no money. So essentially you rely on the kindness of strangers, audience participation…people can actually watch the show and interact with me. There was an online poll on CBS.com and sometimes they could dictate where I would go next.
Holmes: How would that work?
Shallow: One of the choices was; which island should I hop to? I had a free plane ticket from this guy who was sending me somewhere; Martinique, St Lucia, or Barbados. The viewers decided to send me to Barbados, and I didn’t have a contact person there, so it was up to me to figure something out. I met someone in the airport and he let me stay at his mom’s house. It was kind of cool, it was like “The Truman Show” in that you can watch and play a part in the host’s journey.
Holmes: Most people know you from “Survivor” which is all about lying and backstabbing. This seems like the exact opposite, having to trust people and rely on their kindness.
Shallow: Honestly, it’s much closer to my nature. My natural center is to trust people right off the bat. I’m extremely trusting, sometimes overly trusting. So, it got me back to where I was before “Survivor.” Because, when you play “Survivor” you really have to put all of these walls up. You have to be guarded. The bonds you’re making are not real, it’s not true friendship. But in “Around the World” it was so different and I appreciated it so much because it gave me a chance to really get back to my root nature which is meeting people, talking to people, liking people right off of the bat. There was nothing bad I can say about “Around the World for Free,” nothing negative came out of it. I made friends with all of my hosts and I will keep in touch with them. It’s just totally different from “Survivor.”
Holmes: Nothing negative came out of it? Wasn’t there a bit of a dust-up with a quad?
Shallow: Yes, I got in an accident in Libya. I was on a quad bike and I was really going for it, throwing caution to the wind and going crazy. I wasn’t aware that there’s a certain slope to a sand dune, there’s one side that you can cruise up, and then the other side is a straight drop. So, I went over one side and just dropped and basically slammed the front wheels down into the ground and crushed my right wrist. I have a brace now, I had to have surgery in Johannesburg. It was the first surgery of my life, my first broken bone. A lot of firsts on this trip. But I can honestly say something positive came out of it because it wasn’t the worst thing that could happen. I was talking to the X-ray technician and she told me that most people who get into quad bike accidents either die or break their necks. So, all things considered I was really lucky. Right now I’m writing with my left hand, so that’s awkward. Everything I’m doing is a relearning process. It was part of the show, it was part of the journey.
Holmes: Two things. First of all as a left hander, welcome aboard.
Shallow: Thank you!
Holmes: And second, when I’m doing something physical, if I get hurt, even if I just get my feelings hurt, that’s it. I’m packing it in.
Holmes: But you stuck with it. The reason we’re talking right now is in celebration of your 100th day. How does it feel to face such adversity and see it through to the end?
Shallow: It feels really good because if there’s one thing I know about myself, it’s that I’m not a quitter. If I’m extremely passionate about a project, no matter how much of a toll it takes on me, there’s no room for even a moment’s thought of quitting.
Holmes: Now Parvati, I don’t want to be the guy that calls you out…but I’m gonna.
Shallow: (Laughs) Oh, please do.
Holmes: I saw an episode where you did some roller derby. You didn’t seem to like that very much.
Shallow: Dude, I loved that! I was like, “Hit me!” They wouldn’t hit me because they felt bad for me. They were like, “No, we’re not going to hit you because you’re little and you’re new.” And they were big girls. They play hard. Finally, they started throwing me on the ground and I loved it.
Holmes: Were you scared at all during the journey?
Shallow: The most scared I was was jumping off the cliff in Rio. That was the only time when I was like, “I’m nervous, I’m going to call my mom.”
Holmes: Was that your method for dealing with things when they got intimidating? You’d just drop your mom a line and she’d talk you through it?
Shallow: Yeah, my mom is really good at being more scared than I am. Then it makes me feel less scared. Now that I’ve displaced my fear and my mom’s holding it, I’m all good.
Holmes: My mom used to say, “Where’s your spirit of adventure?” But that was generally when she’d want me to try a new vegetable.
Shallow: (Laughs) I feel like you could learn a lot from me. I feel like we should take a trip together.
Shallow: I’ll blast your life wide open, Gordon.
Holmes: OK, but if my feelings get hurt or if I have to try new vegetables, I’m done.
Shallow: Dude, toughen up. Man up! (Laughs)
Holmes: I know, I’m very sensitive.
Shallow: I’ll knock that out of you really quick.
Holmes: During your travels you got a tattoo from Shanghai Kate. The fans got to vote on it. I don’t know if I could’ve handled that.
Shallow: (Laughs) That wasn’t my first rodeo. I have a few tattoos.
Holmes: They’re addictive, right?
Shallow: The first time someone told me that I was like, “Yeah, freakin’ right.” But now I love them. They become a part of you. I hope you love every tattoo you have, because I love mine.
Holmes: I love most of them. The one that says, “Jeff Probst 4 Life” I regret a little bit.
Shallow: On your right butt cheek? I’ve seen it on your MySpace page.
Holmes: One of the things that must’ve been pretty amazing was the opportunities your trip gave you to take part in some charitable initiatives. What was that like?
Shallow: I was really interested in making it to Haiti and working there and seeing how things have progressed since the earthquake. Haiti was intense. It was one of the most intense experiences I’ve ever had in my life. It came on the heels of a wonderful time in Austin. I was just slammed in the face with that kind of devastation, that kind of poverty. I tried my hardest to be in the moment and just give these people all of the love that I could. It was so sad, the orphanage I was living in and these women who’d bring in their children, and not just one child, they’d be giving us three kids. They’d be like, “I can’t take care of these kids.” And it wasn’t even that they were sad, it was what it was, they couldn’t handle it. So seeing that kind of intense poverty and apathy for their own flesh and blood…that was just a shock to me. That was hard to take. But it was also something that was inspiring. I have a place in my heart for Haiti and I will go back and I probably will end up adopting a couple of kids. There’s something about those children that you just want to help them.
Holmes: You were one of the main the focal points for three season of “Survivor.” Did that fame come into play at all once you left the United States?
Shallow: Oh yeah, it was wild. It’s crazy to see the impact of “Survivor” on an international level. When I was in Brazil, most people who reached out to me were fans from “Survivor.” And then in South Africa I did a radio interview on one of their most popular afternoon radio shows and they were huge fans of “Survivor.”
Holmes: Have you been watching “Survivor: South Pacific” at all?
Shallow: I have not been able to catch up with it, but I really want to because I’m anxious to see how Ozzy and Coach are doing. Actually, how are they doing?
Holmes: Coach is doing well, he’s at the head of a dominant alliance. Ozzy…not so much. His closest ally was just blindsided.
Shallow: Uh-oh…Ozzy’s in a pickle?
Holmes: And uh…your name came up…
Shallow: I heard that. I heard Russell’s nephew said something.
Holmes: He’s worried that a woman on his tribe named Mikayla is using flirtatious ways. He said that she’s a Parvati-type. His actual words were something like, “Parvati has screwed many a man.”
Holmes: In his defense, I think he meant that within the context of the game, not literally. Does that bother you at all?
Shallow: (Laughs) It just makes me realize that I did have a huge impact on that game. When I played “Survivor” everyone was always trying to get me out. So, I guess people were threatened by me. But these new contestants have watched my seasons and my gameplay is influencing how they’re playing. I think that’s wild. I’m flattered.
Holmes: Now, as a member of the “Survivor” Hall of Fame, I wanted to get your opinion on…
Shallow: Which I won a (coffee) mug for…thanks a lot, Gordon.
Holmes: Hey! C’mon now.
Shallow: I hope there’s a budget for trophies this year, because people are going to be upset if they don’t get a trophy. I’m just saying.
Holmes: Here’s the thing. Your trophy…I sent it to the engravers and they keep getting it wrong. The text was supposed to read, “Parvati Shallow – The Top Vote Getter…The Loveliest…Smartest…”
Shallow: Most bad ass, coolest chick ever.
Holmes: Exactly. It’s embarrassing that they keep getting it wrong. And you deserve nothing but the best. So until that gets completed, you’re not going to see that trophy, but know that it’s in the works.
Shallow: Alright, I’m going to hold you to that. I’m going to keep checking in with you, pretty much weekly to see what’s going on.
Holmes: Anywho, I wanted to get your take on the Redemption Island twist.
Shallow: I thought it was kind of lame. I thought it was just giving them too many changes. If you can’t win based on gameplay or social strategy, then you’re twisting “Survivor” up and making it a totally different game. It’s adapting, and they’re trying something new. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that and if people like it, that’s cool.
Holmes: I got a very specific question off of Twitter. They want to know if you found the immunity idol during your final visit to Exile Island, and if you did, why didn’t you use it?
Parvati: The only time I was sent to Exile was one time during “Fans vs. Favorites.” I did find the idol, but I left it there because I knew if I brought it back people would make me empty my bag and prove that I didn’t have it. It’d just cause more chaos around camp. So, I left it on the island. But, it was a personal quest that I go and find it.
Holmes: Now, I heard a rumor that your “Survivor” Hall of Fame mug currently resides at your fitness center, ESP Wellness.
Shallow: It does, it’s sitting on my desk. It’s holding a lot of pens.
Holmes: I also heard that the reigning Miss USA works out there. So, if I go to ESP Wellness, I’ll probably have a shot to win that crown?
Shallow: Most likely. We have an unbroken record right now. We’re one for one.
Holmes: That’s a good advertisement, because I think I’d look good in a sash.
Shallow: We might actually do a Miss “Survivor” pageant. Rob Cesternino (“Survivor: The Amazon” and “Survivor: All Stars”) and his wife Nicole are coming up with a pageant, like Miss “Survivor.” We might do a swimsuit, talent, and beauty pageant. Eliza Orlins (“Survivor: Vanuatu” and “Survivor: Fans vs. Favorites”) might fly in for it.
Holmes: And, do they need judges for this pageant?
Shallow: It’s possible, if we do it I think you should be tops on our list.
Holmes: I need to drop Rob a line…
Shallow: You should!
Watch Full Episodes of “Around the World for Free”
Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes