‘I’m actually a fierce lion’: ‘Survivor’ has its first winner of Filipino descent

Survivor winner

A Filipino Canadian “Survivor” contestant has gone down in history as the first contestant of Filipino descent to win the title “Sole Survivor” and the second female to win the competition since 2017.

The winner: Erika Casupanan, 32, of Niagara Falls, Ontario, took home the $1 million “Survivor” prize on Dec. 15 after she was crowned as the “Sole Survivor” of the show’s 41st season, according to the Toronto Star.

  • The competition, which puts 16 random people on an island where they must survive for more than a month using bare necessities and avoid being outvoted by other players, was filmed on the Mamanuca Islands in Fiji for its current season, Inquirer reported. Although the show usually films for 39 days, “Survivor 41” lasted for 26 days because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The 41st season was supposed to be shot  from March to May2020, but filming was  postponed to April and May 2021. Casupanan had to keep everything a secret from everyone for months due to this schedule change.
  • Former “Survivor” winners Parvati Shallow and Wendell Holland speculated that there might be an unconscious bias toward the show’s male participants. Shallow postulated that players tend to perceive women with alpha characteristics as a threat.
  • So, for a woman to win in this era of ‘Survivor,’ she has to downplay her leadership abilities, fly under the radar, but also be assertive and strategic enough to make moves that she can put up against the alpha males she’s sitting next to in the end,” Shallow said, which was exactly what Casupanan did in the season.
  • Speaking to the Toronto Star, Casupanan said she did not need to prove herself to the other contestants. “I’m going to let them think what they want about me and that’s going to lead to their downfall,” she added. “I wanted to go in looking like this lamb, fly under the radar, and eventually work my way up and show that I’m actually a fierce lion.”
  • Casupanan is the third person of Asian descent to take home the “Survivor” grand prize after Yul Kwon from the show’s 13th season and Natalie Anderson from the show’s 29th season, according to the Philippine Star. Casupanan is also the second female to win the “Sole Survivor” title, with the first being Sarah Lacina in 2017.
  • Following the news of Casupanan’s win, Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati claimed that she is now as “high profile” as other Canadians, such as DJ Deadmau5 and “Titanic” director James Cameron. ​​“At this present moment? She’s No. 1,” Diodati said.
  • What I have already proposed is inviting her back so that we can do a proper recognition here in the city because I believe this is worth it,” Diodati added. “I’d like to present her with a key to the city.”
  • As for her plans with the prize money, Casupanan said she would use it so ensure that her parents “have whatever they need to live a comfortable life,” she told ET Canada. “Second priority, maybe irresponsible, but there’s a lot of expensive shoes I want,” she continued. “And then after that, I’ll do all the smart stuff you do with money.” 

About the winner: Born in Hermosa, Bataan, Casupanan migrated with her family from the Philippines to Toronto, Canada. She was reportedly a fan of “Survivor” ever since it premiered on May 31, 2000, and admitted that her parents were worried for her safety after she told them she would be joining the show.

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  • Casupanan, who worked for 10 years in corporate communications, reportedly quit her job in Toronto after being cast in “Survivor.” 
  • After graduating from Saint Paul High Catholic School and Western University, she worked as a consultant for companies such as Foodora, Google Canada, PlayStation Canada and Epson Canada.
  • In her “Survivor” cast profile, Casupanan said her grandma is her hero.
  • She lived with my family growing up and I have a tattoo inspired by her,” Casupanan said. “She [was] strong willed, so chic, sweet, yet opinionated and caring. She had my back 100% of the time. During her final days in the hospital she was still so high-maintenance and always made the nurses put on her pearls and diamonds.”

Featured Image via @survivorcbs

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