Jerri Manthey is an introspective woman, on a dark life long odyssey of the soul.
From the first time we saw Jerri on Survivor: The Australian Outback, she was guardedly sarcastic; but even then you could sense a potential there. She complained at the time that her persona was the result of ratings-driven editing; but in Survivor: All Stars, while other players were trying to cement their reputations as strategists, she sought public redemption as a hero, and lost. She got booed out of the Reunion show.
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Now, ten years after being labeled a black widow in The Australian Outback, Jerri has promised to accept her role as a villain. But in the terms of psychology that Jerri's public soul searching seems to invite, her acceptance of public scrutiny feels more like a breakthrough than a regression.
When I met up with Jerri at the Survivor 10th Anniversary Party she looked almost exactly the same, but she seemed much older. She talked me through the trials of maturing on national television, and she admitted that her portrayel in Australia was not just ratings-driven editing. We also discussed whether aggressive women can ever escape being labeled a villain.
Do you still do Burning Man every year?
Absolutely! For as long as I've been doing Survivor, I've been doing Burning Man - a full decade!
Very cool. Was Survivor more fun when it was national news, or is it still the same game?
You know, I still am amazed that so many people care about Survivor, and they still want to come up to me. The game has changed so drastically from when it started. But I have to say, no matter how many times you do it, it's still the most challenging thing you will ever do in your life.
Yeah, you're one of the people who has the best perspective on Survivor from its beginnings to now.
Colby and I can tell some stories. That's for sure.
Survivor has covered a big part of your life. Has it been about self discovery for you?
Oh my gosh, yeah. I look at myself back when I did Australia and at myself now. I've learned so much about myself and what I'm capable of. I was exposed - all of my flaws and weaknesses - in front of the general public, and I've become a much more considerate person. I've realized that being outspoken all the time is not necessarily a good thing. There are times when it's best to just keep your opinion to yourself.
Was the person we saw in Australia the real you?
It was the real me. Then! I feel like I've come full circle since Australia. I just have so much more wisdom and knowledge now that I've played the game twice. I feel like I'm back to 100%. I'm whole again. After All Stars I was pretty shook up.
Can a female play Survivor aggressively and not be labeled a villain?
It is absolutely impossible for any woman to play aggressively and not be a villain. I truly believe it's just part of our culture that men who play aggressively are strong and heroic, and women who play aggressively are [expletive] and villains. I don't think that's ever going to change, as much as I wish it would.
So are you going to stop playing aggressively or accept being a villain?
I will never do things in my life at less than 100%, ever. Not my style.
I'm glad! Well thank you!
-Interview conducted by Henry Jenkins
(Image courtesy of CBS)