With Valentine Brkich
I still remember the very moment I was chosen
to be on CBS’s
Survivor—The Australian Outback
It was just too unbelievable to comprehend. My life was
about to drastically change and I was terrified! Was I up
for the challenge? How would this affect my family? My mind
was racing. But I never once thought that appearing on the
show would be an ethical struggle for me. As it turned out,
there were more ethical choices to make than I thought.
Everyone knows that
about strategy. The show’s motto is “Outwit,
Outplay, Outlast,” and that’s exactly what it
takes. To win the $1,000,000 prize you have to think and
play smart, or else you’re “off the island,”
as they say. As America has seen with every installment
of this reality show, there is always a certain amount of
lying, deception, and back-stabbing among the 16 contestants.
Some see it as an ethical struggle—should I play fair
and be honest, or should I do whatever it takes to win the
big bucks? (Some see the show itself as unethical because
they believe it exploits the baser instincts of both contestants
and viewers, but I think people take the show too seriously.
They forget that there are hundreds of hours of footage
that are not shown in the final cut, so what really happens
out there can get distorted. Besides, I tried out for the
show for myself alone. I didn’t care what people thought;
I did it for the adventure.)
Some contestants take the high road, saying
they don’t want to compromise their integrity and
go against their word. In real life, that is a great way
to live. On
, however, it’s a great
way to get an early exit from the show! This is a game.
The people on the show are the contestants. The idea of
the game is to win the money.
At first, I got a little caught up in all
the excitement; I even planned to be mean and conniving
because I wanted to win a million bucks. I thought, “I’ll
never have to work again. I can retire at 22!” But
I found out I’m not that kind of person. Even though
it’s a game, these were real people playing the game—which
I realized when I met the other contestants. I thought,
“Wait—I can’t lie to her. I can’t
be mean to him. I can’t betray her.” I didn’t
want to hurt anyone’s feelings. That was the moment
my strategy changed. That was when I decided just to try
my best to get along with everyone.
Since I had gone on the show to have an
adventure, I wanted to make it last as long as I could (which
turned out to be 33 days). Because I didn’t cause
a lot of problems or controversy, I wasn’t given as
much air time as some of the other contestants. But I didn’t
care. I had told myself that I would be me, no matter what.
The day after I was booted off the show
I was in New York for my media appearances, including CBS’s
The Early Show
. While I was there,
magazine contacted me through a CBS employee and said that
they were interested in setting up a meeting. “Wow,
! Who would ever think that
I would be approached by
?” I told them
I’d have to think about it, which I did for about
I admit that I did consider what it would
be like to have all the quick money I would make if I accepted
the offer. In the end, though, I knew that doing it wouldn’t
be the right decision for me. I didn’t want to, and
I think that’s reason enough. I just wasn’t
comfortable with the whole world seeing me in my birthday
I heard that
was kind of
surprised when I declined to meet with them even before
they had made me an offer. But, to be honest, I was a little
afraid that I might be tempted to say yes and I didn’t
want to know what the offer would be. So I guess part of
my “decision-making strategy” was to remove
too much of the temptation before it happened, by not getting
more information about what I would be giving up if I didn’t
accept the offer. I’ve never regretted my decision.
Since then, I’ve turned down several
movie scripts, photo opportunities, appearance requests,
and more than a dozen offers from talent and modeling agencies
because they didn’t “feel right” to me.
But I’ve also said yes to a lot of other offers that
turned out to be great experiences, like posing for
magazine, helping dozens of charities raise money, and throwing
out the first pitch at a Pittsburgh Pirate’s game.
What is my secret method for making the
right decision for me?—ME! I only go with something
if I have a good gut feeling about it. I know who I am and
that’s all I need to make the decision that’s
right for me.
Amber Brkich was a contestant on the
CBS hit show, Survivor. Currently, she is appearing at charity
events, auditioning for television work, and seeking employment
in the public relations field.
© 1990-2005, More Than Money, All rights reserved