UConn Magazine: Surviving “Survivor”

Chanelle Howell ’14 (CLAS) wanted her very presence on Season 42 of the long-running reality competition show to make a difference. It did.

Photo of the season 42 cast of "Survivor"

Season 42 cast of "Survivor" (Photo courtesy of Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment)

s torrents of rain pour down over the thin outdoor shack covering us at an uptown smoothie bar, my notebook is drenched, my phone is getting wet, and so are we. “It’s A-OK,” says Chanelle Howell ’14 (CLAS). “I’ve seen much worse.”

Of course she has. She was on season 42 of “Survivor.”

First airing in 2000, “Survivor” is the granddaddy of reality shows. Originally intended to be a challenge of survival in the wild, the game has evolved into “100% a social experiment, unequivocally,” says Howell. But there are still plenty of physical challenges.

I should know. I, too, have been immersed in “Survivor” of late. From my couch.

I recently discovered the show and have been consuming as much as I can to make up for 22 years of lost time. I flew across the country for this opportunity to talk with Howell and I am wondering about so many things. But first and foremost, I wonder why our smoothies are taking so long. Howell is unfazed. One of her big gains from “Survivor,” she says, is understanding the principle of patience. Back in New York now, she’s decked out in stylish running gear, with long hair, manicured nails, and her purple “Survivor” buff wrapped around her wrist, because she thought I would appreciate it. I did. Howell is even more beautiful in person than she was on my TV screen.

I work through my hunger-stoked lightheadedness and pull my frizzed-out hair away from my face to get started on our interview, smoothie or no smoothie. I am curious if she views the show differently, as a fan who has now seen the sausage getting made. Howell says she still loves “Survivor,” she just sees it through a new lens.

Read on for more.