Reality sinks in for ‘Survivor’ winner

Winning comes at good time - Christmas

The tagline for “Survivor” proclaims “Outwit. Outplay. Outlast.” Danni Boatwright can add one more phrase to that list: Out-suffer.

In what is being regarded as the most physically oppressive of the CBS reality program’s 11 seasons, the Tonganoxie resident bested 17 other competitors while battling 115 degree temperatures, starvation, mosquito swarms and scorpions in the jungles of Guatemala.

The 30-year-old former Miss Kansas USA was crowned sole survivor during Sunday’s live broadcast, defeating runner-up Stephenie LaGrossa 6 votes to 1.

Boatwright, an intern for Sunflower Broadband Channel 6, which is owned by the World Company, spoke to the Journal-World about the “Survivor: Guatemala” experience that led to her $1 million victory.

Q: You seemed almost glazed over during Sunday’s live finale. What was going through your mind after you had just won?

A: The first thing I thought of was, “It’s Christmas. And I so can be the cool aunt and get to spoil my nieces and nephew.”

Danni Boatwright, left, reacts as she learns she is the winner of Survivor:

Q: Were your friends and family surprised you got as far as you did?

A: No. They weren’t surprised at all because I’m so competitive. I have a little bit of a mean streak from having all those brothers. There were so many times I had to bite my tongue and not say anything out there.

Q: What was the single most difficult part of being on “Survivor”?

A: The hunger. That was the hardest part for me. It really took a toll on me. Toward the end I was really feeling it. Who doesn’t love to eat? That’s all I thought about, all day long. I had dreams about going to a Chinese buffet.

Q: How do you think you came across to viewers who don’t know you personally?

A: That’s the only thing that I’m a little upset about was that some people think I was kind of quiet and flew under the radar. I didn’t. You know me, I’m not quiet at all. I did sit back and kind of watch and make sure I made the right moves at the right time. But I definitely wasn’t as quiet as they portrayed me. And I think a lot of it was because the storyline was so based around Stephenie and Bobby Jon (Drinkard) coming back from last season. That was really the focus, and we were all extra. That, and I was the really skinny chick. I lost about 20 pounds.

Q: Is there anything you would have done differently?

A: Now after talking to everyone, they said if I would have taken Rafe (Judkins) to the final, I would have beaten him instead of Stephenie. That way I would have been the first person to play a perfectly clean game and win.

Q: Did you and host Jeff Probst ever talk about both being from Kansas?

A: We did when we were going through the interview process for “Survivor.” Just him being from Wichita, he knew a couple places in Topeka – a couple bars. But I don’t go to bars, so I didn’t know any of them.

Q: Who was the most irritating contestant?

A: Blake (Towsley). He’s really a good guy and I did get along with him fine, but the stories he had. He would talk about women like the typical frat boy. That really irritated me. I just don’t like that. It was either him or Judd (Sergeant). He was pretty irritating. I really did get along well with Judd. He said I should do a commercial for Kansas. He’s like, “This girl – you think Kansas is the greatest place on earth after talking to her. Kansas this, Kansas that. Don’t get her started on the Jayhawks. Everything’s the Jayhawks.”

Q: The buzz about this season is that it was the hardest show of the entire series. Do you think that’s accurate?

A: Because I didn’t get to experience the other ones, I don’t know. But Stephenie said “Palau” was like Club Med compared to “Guatemala.” Now the heat never really bothered me. But the food situation, I got sick from the corn on day three. And the mosquitos – every time you go to the bathroom your butt’s covered with mosquitos. And I got stung by a scorpion.

Q: Was it hard to keep secret about how well you did?

A: Yeah, it was hard. I usually like to talk to the family about everything. My family knew I went far because I was so skinny when I came back.

Survivor watchers and fans of Danni Boatwright cheer during the season finale of Survivor:

Q: Are you going to continue living in Tonganoxie?

A: I don’t know about Tonganoxie. I love it there – it’s where I’m from. Either Lawrence or Kansas City is going to be my permanent home forever.

Q: Which would you rather have: the million dollars or the Jayhawks winning the NCAA tournament and the Chiefs winning the Super Bowl?

A: That’s not a fair question! The only damper I had yesterday was I had a hard time enjoying it because that field goal went wide right (in Sunday’s Chiefs vs. Cowboys game). That’s all I could think about when I was up there: “I wish the Chiefs would have won.” But the Jayhawks won on Saturday. You know, I never would have done “Survivor” if it had fallen during basketball season or football season.

Boatwright may use money to adopt child

During her appearance on CBS’ “The Early Show” on Monday, Danni Boatwright fielded questions about “Survivor: Guatemala” and what she planned to do with her money. In the process, she talked about wanting to be a mother and using some of her money to adopt a child, adding, “I love kids so much.”
During an interview Monday with The (Tonganoxie) Mirror, she said she originally pondered adopting a girl from China because orphanages there are overpopulated with girls who need homes. But after her stay in Guatemala, she’s thinking about adopting a child from that country.
“Because of my age now, I really want to be a mom,” the 30-year-old said.
Boatwright isn’t married, but is seeing someone.
“I am dating somebody and he’s absolutely wonderful and it’s very new, so we’ll have to see what happens,” Boatwright said.
She said she would like to start looking into adoption next summer.