And now dear reader, Part three of my exclusive interview with ‘Australian Sole Survivor’ Pia Miranda, in which we discuss the longest-lasting endurance challenge in Australian Survivor history….
… Which she won, by the way!
But before that, I wanted to talk strategy…
SH: You mentioned you’ve been a fan of the show all the way through… presumably you watched all the seasons of Australian Survivor so far?
PM: Yes, I watched every one and had seen all the American ones.
SH: Did you have an overall game plan before you started or just a vague sort of idea?
PM: My game plan was to play really low key for the first two weeks, but that didn’t come to fruition… because I was almost voted out on the first day! So I had to play so hard. I just hit the ground running and I was playing hard and fast early. My plan was to find one person that I would bond with, not lie to and have as an ally… which I did find in Janine. And it really does save you when you have one person you can trust, because they’re going to keep an ear out and let you know things they hear. So, you get way more of a vibe of what’s going on around camp when you have two sets of eyes and ears. Then maybe I regret it, but I really decided to just play hard and not play for TV, not play to be liked, not play to do something great for my career… I really just went “I’m going to play to win!”
SH: When you say “playing hard”, how do you define “playing hard”?
PM: Just playing to win. Not making big moves just to be exciting. I wasn’t going to do anything crazy to create “crazy fun TV”. I figured if I was going to leave my family for seven weeks, the only thing I’m concerned about is winning the game. And that was good, because every week, rather than thinking about how I am being perceived, I just thought about getting to the next trial; about surviving that next tribal. That was my only aim.
SH: Eyes on the prize. We mentioned it earlier, but at the first tribal, you said “I’m either going to be the first one voted out, or I’m going to win the whole thing.” What made you think that?
PM: I think I’m a bit of a slow burn with people. I don’t open up that easily. I was always the new kid so I think being a new kid you know when I’m put into a new situation, I am good at it but I do take my time to work out where I fit. I’m small. I don’t look athletic. I think like I’m pretty sassy and kind of dry, but I don’t really show that when I first meet people, so I come across a little bit vanilla.
SH: You play your cards close to your chest?
PM: Yes, totally, so I felt like it would take me at least a week to really get a crew together. I thought the fact that I’m a bit awkward in new groups and the fact that I’m probably not the most physical will probably put me on the chopping block early… and it did.
SH: And it did. BUT you came through and did the second thing you said; you went through and won the whole thing!
PM: I know! Thank God. I was so scared I was going to go home the first.
SH: Well, somebody always has to be the first one to go home, and you always feel for them.
PM: The Survivor nightmare. I did feel bad for Anastasia (the first player voted out) because I got along well with her, but I had to cut her throat because it was either her or me.
SH: Whoa! (LAUGHING) Now, the last physical challenge… Good lord! You mentioned endurance training earlier, but surely even that couldn’t have prepared you for this… Am I right in thinking it’s the longest-lasting Survivor challenge ever?
PM: It’s the longest Australian challenge. I think in America they’ve gone longer in a different kind of challenge. Early on in the challenge, Harry asked Jonathan what the record was for the longest challenge in Australian Survivor. My heart sank, because I knew that I had to beat Harry here. Whatever it was, I knew that Harry would want to break this record. So when Jonathan said “Six and a half hours”, I thought ‘S**t, I’m screwed.’ I knew I had to stay there for at least that long. I had such a strong feeling that Harry had his eye on breaking that record, and I was right. I thought he’d fall apart as soon as he’d beaten it.
SH: As soon as he’d done 6 hours 31, or whatever.
PM: Yes, or maybe he’d break down like 10 minutes after that. I really thought ‘okay, I’ve just got to last.’ The yoga training really helped me mentally, because in yoga training you learn how to breathe into pain, rather than tense up. The more you relaxed your body is, the better you can handle pain. So, that definitely helped. As did being able to tune out; in yoga you also learn to tune out. I knew Luke my husband was looking at me thinking ‘Who is this person?’, because I complain after 20 minutes on the treadmill! When he grabbed me afterwards, he asked me “What happened?” I said “That’s what Survivor does to you.” I think on Day One I could never have done this six hour forty minute challenge, but after 50 days, I’d built up the mental strength and the drive to be able to do it.
SH: You were getting closer and closer to the prize that you’d been focused on.
PM: Yes, it changes you. I did so much out there that I thought was physically impossible and I would cry while doing it, but I promised myself that I would never say “I can’t”. There were two challenges that really tested me and I promised myself I’d always go 100%, and I’d always try. So, I think that changed me, just seeing how I could eventually do things I put my mind to.
An incredible achievement from Pia, and a lesson for us all – we never really truly know all the things we’re capable of, unless we really push ourselves.
And often the results are surprising, delightful and profoundly empowering!
We’ll return with Part IV of this interview after the Christmas / New Year break. See you then!