Qieän Wang on Survivor SA: 'I was thrown in a lot of deep oceans but pulled my way back'

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  • On Thursday, Qieän Wang (35) became the 8th person voted out of Survivor South Africa: Immunity Island.
  • "Every single time I've watched Survivor, I just want to crawl into the TV and be a part of it," she says about her decision to enter the reality TV show.
  • When asked about her decision to not share her food with her tribemates, Qieän says: "I didn't want to be a liability through losing immunity challenges."

Volunteer firefighter Qieän Wang (35) became the 8th person voted out of Survivor South Africa: Immunity Island on M-Net (DStv 101).

In this Q&A Qieän tells Channel24 about her experience on Survivor South Africa: Immunity Island and being labelled "selfish" after not sharing her food with her tribemates.

What part of the competition were you looking forward to experiencing?

Actually, I've been watching Survivor since high school, and I was 19 years old when the first season came out. I was sitting in the computer lab at Wits thinking, "Oh, wow, this is incredible." I've loved this show for a few years, and I really want to enter.

But back then, I felt that I wasn't quite interesting enough to be entering a show like this, and I felt that I needed to build more on my life CV and see and do more things before I can actually enter Survivor SA.

Every single time I've watched Survivor, I just want to crawl into the TV and be a part of it. For some people, it's the prize money; some people just enjoy being winners - for me, it's every single experience, every single second being on Survivor SA and eating food with no spice and flavouring. For me, it's the biggest bucket-list item I could possibly have ticked off on my list of things I want to conquer. I felt very blessed and grateful for the experience.

What did your parents say when you told them you've made it as a final castaway for the season?

Despite the fact that I grew up in South Africa and have a very strong South African upbringing, my mom is still very much Taiwanese to her core.

So for a lot of Asian older generations, they feel like, "What are you as an Asian girl trying to prove by putting yourself in that kind of a situation because Asian women don't do things like that?" Because you are breaking the stereotype by being a part of something like Survivor. No ways. 

We emigrated to South Africa in 1994, and my parents are not fluent in English. Back then, my parents didn't speak a single word of English, and still today, it's very basic communication in English, so I didn't have any fear of them spilling the beans on me being a part of Survivor

And watching you, what was the reaction of friends and family?

Knowing that I was on the show, there was a lot of excitement to see me on television, and to them, it's all very fresh and new. To me, goodness, it's just so strange to hear your voice on TV and to realise, "Oh, it's me speaking in there." They've been so supportive, and I'm currently in Hong Kong, and my friends have watch parties for me, so we have lunch, and then we watch Survivor SA together, which is fantastic. 

Some of your tribemates in the last episode during which you were voted out said behind your back that it looked as if you're selfish by eating in front of them and not sharing the food you brought over. Do you think that was a mistake?

To be so frank, at that moment, my journey to that point had been so rocky. I was so emotional at that point - all that I could think about was: "What can I do to contribute to ensuring my safety in this tribe so that no one goes home?"

So obviously, if you lose tribal immunity, you go to tribal council, and I didn't want to be a liability through losing immunity challenges. My first thought was, if I need to contribute, what do I need to do? I need sustenance. I feel so bad that I made them feel that way. It just wasn't intentional.

From my side, I just wanted to make sure that I have the energy to stay strong, and I didn't want to become a liability to the tribe. In real life, since then, I've spoken to Santoni and Wardah, and you've seen in my final tribal council that I was sent off with a lot of love because the girls had tears in their eyes, and we had pet names for each other on the parchments.

I really do feel bad, but back then, I was thinking about the tribe and not of myself and I feel guilty that it came across that way and not taking into account that they haven't eaten. Survivor puts you in such a strange and weird space, and sometimes your truth in Survivor isn't necessarily your truth in reality - so reality TV versus reality. In real life, my social skills are definitely not inept.

What went through your mind when you spilt the food and picked up all the rice, and did you think it could cost you the game?

No, definitely not for spilling the rice. I have been on the outside of the Vuna tribe. 

Tyson said I was picking up every grain of rice out of fear that it could be what would send me home. For me, I thought that our food supplies were so scarce and that was literally one handful of rice that we needed to feed how many of us - and Anela wasn't there, so five of us.

All I was thinking was, "Oh my gosh, we have such limited supplies of food, I cannot - and especially being Asian - I cannot waste this rice." I have to pick up every single grain of rice. We need this food as a tribe in order to sustain ourselves! I think you can see from the episode that that wasn't actually the reason why I got sent home. 

How do you feel about bringing a South African Taiwanese flavour to South African television, Survivor SA, and popular culture?

I think, especially in this current climate where there's anti-Asian hate now, it's critical to have this Asian representation because there are so many misconceptions that happen around the world because people don't take the time to get to know the other person.

When people have this misconception of you, no matter how much you try to convince them otherwise, it can't change their minds. So, what I really tried to bring into television as an Asian person is to be kind and what I really wanted to show is that we are not any different from other races whether you are White, Black, Indian - at the core we are all the same human beings - especially with South Africa that had an Apartheid background as well, I think it was quite important as a message to send out. 

At tribal council, you were quite emotional. Did you have a stronger sense that this time it is your last tribal and that you're the one going home?

So, I don't know if you noticed that during tribal council, Santoni and Wardah actually had tears in their eyes when they saw that I was leaving. Santoni's hairstyle at tribal council was actually courtesy of me - I did her hair that day.

We actually did have a bit of time to bond prior to tribal council. That day we knew it was either Santoni or me going home. You could see Wardah said that Santoni was a double-agent and that she can't trust her, and she and Anela have a full, straight-on open disagreement. But the turning point was during our immunity challenge, where Wardah sorted out her differences with Santoni. 

Santoni was petrified of going into that river again and having to swim, and Wardah stayed with Santoni, and I think that that was a massive turning point for their relationship. Wardah did an incredible job in ironing out those differences and thinking about her game going forward because we knew that a merge was going to happen. 

I think that I did build quite a good case to Wardah as to why it would be in their interest to take me forward but that strong bonding moment during tribal immunity made a huge difference. I was also glad that I was able to bond with them just before tribal council and me - I felt that that was the first time during my entire Survivor SA journey that I felt there are people to who I can be loyal. 

My tears - a lot of my tears - were that I finally found my people after a rough 18 days and because my journey was cut prematurely. I've been such a massive fan of the show and so passionate about the game that I just really wanted to be able to go into the merge, to have that feast, to do a merge challenge.

My strategy was to stay under the radar, and I knew what kind of strategy I wanted to go in with, but having that Survivor knowledge doesn't necessarily mean that it will work practically in this specific Survivor SA season. I felt comfortable that I would make it to merge, and I think it made me slightly complacent in terms of my gameplay. Wardah had so much experience, on the other hand, with the tribal council, and you want to play Survivor like that. 

What do you think you could have done differently, if anything?

There are absolutely no regrets. I do not regret anything that I've done.

I went in there with one game plan that I would stay under the radar, I'm going to hopefully smooth-sail into merge - although my journey from the start was never smooth - and then go bright, go shine, and go hard.

I said that I was born to be like water, and in the ocean, I thrive, and I think I did conquer. I was thrown in a lot of deep oceans during my time on Survivor. I think that I managed to pull my way back and get that beautiful send-off where I was actually loved and not hated and not have animosity and bad relationships with anyone. For viewers, that's very much not what they want to watch, but I've accomplished what I've wanted to do on Survivor SA.

Survivor SA: Immunity Island is on M-Net (DStv 101) on Thursdays at 19:30

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