Latest News

Two Carolinians share secrets of 'Survivor'

The odds of being chosen to compete on "Survivor" are awfully slim, but there are a couple of things that can improve your chances, however slightly.

One, you can be young and beautiful. That helps a lot. Two, you can be from the Carolinas.

Over 23 seasons, the reality series has featured 23 contestants who have claimed cities in North or South Carolina as their hometowns. When the 24th season premieres on CBS tonight at 8, two more South Carolinians will be added to the list.

We talked recently with Jay Byars of Greenville and Chelsea Meissner of Charleston, who will be vying for the title of Sole Survivor and the $1 million prize. (And yes, they both also fall into the "young and beautiful" category.)


Age: 25.

Current residence: Greenville, S.C. (Grew up in Gaffney, S.C.)

Occupation: Model.

Q. What did you do to prepare for being on the show?

Being a model, I have basically no fat on my body, so I tried to bulk up. I hired a personal trainer, and I put on about 25 pounds for the show. So then I started reading a survival book and also (watched) YouTube (videos about) how to make fire. I walked around in the woods and tried to find little termites, little bugs that I could eat. Just crazy stuff.

Q. What was the toughest thing about being out there?

You're with (your tribemates) day and night, that's who you have to live with, and you really do get to know those people. But when it comes time to do something crazy like blindside them, it has to be done. So I knew going into the game that that would be a tough part.

Q. Are you excited to see the show?

I am nervous as heck, man. Number One, it's just gonna be surreal. I mean, it's already surreal. But I'm super-excited. I cannot freaking wait. I think about it all day, every day. I can't even sleep at night because of it. But it's always awkward for me to look at a picture of myself, just because I never thought I would be doing what I'm doing as a job.

Q. In past seasons, faith has played a significant role in "Survivor." Since faith appears to be a big part of your life (Byars has been a part of four mission trips to four countries), did you struggle with how much to put that out there for other people to see?

Yeah. But I believe who you are is how you play, and my faith - that's who I am. It's a part of me. It's ingrained in me. At the end of the day, if you don't have food, if you don't have shelter ... your relationship with God is the most important thing. It's just what you have if you don't have anything else. So I didn't try to downplay that. You'll just have to wait and see how that comes out.


Age: 26.

Current residence: Charleston. (Grew up in Hilton Head and Florence, S.C.)

Occupation: Medical sales.

Q. Do you think being young and good-looking is more of an advantage or more of a disadvantage on "Survivor"?

I think being young helps just because people kind of look at you as being helpful in the challenges, to help win for your tribe. As far as looks, I really think it depends more on your personality because I think if you're good-looking but you don't carry yourself well, or you have an attitude, it doesn't really matter how good you look in a bikini.

Q. Not that this is a necessary skill to navigate the game, but would you say you are a good liar when you have to be?

In everyday life, I suck at lying. I mean, I just will laugh and my face turns red and everyone knows that I'm scheming or I'm lying about something. I'm awful at it. But in the game, you kind of learn ways to get good at it if you need to be. You kind of turn into an actress in a sense.

Q. What was the toughest thing about being out there?

Living with women. (The two tribes will be divided into men and women.) I have two roommates at home, and they're enough to keep up with. Even with jobs I've had, I make sure that I'm not gonna be in an office with all women because it would drive me up the wall.

Q. You have referred to yourself as feisty and someone who's not afraid to mix it up. Do you have a temper?

No, I wouldn't say a temper. I'm pretty low-key, down to earth. ... It takes a lot to set me off, but then when you've reached that point, I'll let you know, "OK, you've pissed me off."

Q. So are we going to see a fistfight this season? (Meissner says she's been in three in her life.)

I can't comment on that. You're gonna have to watch. We had a diverse cast, a lot of different personalities. So you're just gonna have to watch.

Related stories from Charlotte Observer