Survivor SA winner Nicole Wilmans: 'I never wanted to quit'

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Survivor SA winner Nicole Wilmans.
Survivor SA winner Nicole Wilmans.
Photo: M-Net
  • Nicole Wilmans is part of an elite group of people after being crowned the sole survivor of the eighth season of Survivor South Africa.
  • In the finale, on Thursday night, viewers saw her eliminate Francois "Chappies" Chapman from the top three, after which she got more votes than Anela Majozi to become the winner.
  • "I remember in the 2-week quarantine period before the time, I wrote down in my little journal 'I'm going to win'", says Nicole.

The winner of Survivor South Africa: Immunity Island and R1 million, Nicole Wilmans, says enduring just 39 days with little to no food in bad shelter in the rain was an extremely humbling experience and that stripped of everything, a day arrived in the game where she realised why hungry, homeless people go digging through bins – because she was there and ready to do it too.

On Thursday night, M-Net (DStv 101) broadcast the finale and reunion show in which the digital marketing manager from Somerset West clinched the title of Sole Survivor in the 8th season of the South African version of the Banijay format reality competition series produced by Afrokaans.

The 26-year-old first eliminated Francois "Chappies" Chapman from the top three, after which she got more votes than Anela Majozi to become the winner.

READ MORE | Survivor SA season 8 winner crowned

After the final immunity challenge that she won, Nicole tells Channel24 that she "immediately knew I had to get rid of Chappies. Looking at his track record, he was really a challenge beast. Regardless of the fact that people didn't like him as a player or as a person stealing food, I knew that some on the jury would not judge him on that but the game that he played".

Top 3 competing in the final immunity challenge.
Top 3 competing in the final immunity challenge.

"Obviously for me, the dilemma that I had and that was a massive issue for me was taking away someone's dream. I knew how badly all of us wanted that. Just the person in me was thinking, 'This sucks because it's actually someone else's dream as well that I'm dampening'. That was difficult."

"Yet, in terms of gameplay, I knew what needed to be done. And Chappies had to go."

In many individual immunity challenges, Nicole couldn't effectively compete but stuck it out to win the pivotal final, an endurance challenge when it really mattered.

"It was phenomenal. I remember just standing there. And we stood there for quite long. Viewers only see so much, and for us, it's a do-or-die moment. I knew that if I didn't win that challenge, that I wasn't going to win the game."

"Funnily enough, I remember everyone said Chappies manifested a win. But I remember in the 2-week quarantine period before the time; I wrote down in my little journal 'I'm going to win'. I just kept that in my heart."

"I wasn't out there with "'I'm going to win' like Chappies', but I thought I'm going to be more subtle about this," she says.

"I'm proud of getting to that final challenge, and secondly about slaying Chappies. It's just a feeling that I'll ever be able to put into words because it's just so priceless. It was just phenomenal".

'Playing my own game'

"I didn't want to play a game that everyone else was playing. In Survivor, everyone usually goes in with the same strategy and say they're going to be social, or physical and I wanted to incorporate all of those things because you also have to play to your strengths," she says.

"I need to play what makes sense to me and plays to my strengths, so that's really what I wanted to hone in on and make sure that I was not playing someone's else game but playing my own game and doing that really well. I tried to do my best at that."

Nicole and Anela at final Tribal Council.
Nicole and Anela at final Tribal Council.

"I'm a social person, and I really wanted to form real relationships, and I think that really benefitted me in the end. Obviously, it helped me win, but I really invested in people and listened to them and spoke to them about things outside of the game, and it helps you to stay sane."

'The worst it can be is 39 days'

"Going into Survivor, I knew it was going to be tough," says Nicole.

"I said to myself that the worst it can be is 39 days. Like that is it. I remember one tribal council sitting there, and it was raining, and I thought: 'What is happening?' I just kept saying to myself, 'This too shall pass, this too shall pass'. I never ever wanted to quit. I knew in my heart that it was only 39 days. This will end."

"It's such a phenomenal experience. You have to do it justice and give it your absolute best."

Nicole reading her letter from home.
Nicole reading her letter from home.

About what she's learned about humanity, Nicole says that "when people are placed in pressure situations, everyone reacts differently. I think at the end of the day; people just want to feel safe. It was really interesting for me to learn that this is just a game, but at the end of the day, we are stripped to the bare minimum, and it's really a do-or-die situation."

"At the end of the day, people just want to feel safe and to be treated with compassion. And it's difficult in the game. I met the most amazing people and I'm so grateful for that."

New perspectives

Nicole is obviously R1 million richer, which changes any life, but she says that Survivor SA has changed her life in many other ways.

"Just being even more grateful for the little things," she says, "having a warm bed. Having food in my fridge."

"I remember the one day. I was just sitting there. I suddenly thought: 'I realise why people dig in the rubbish bins in public spaces. They are so hungry. I thought: I am willing to do that right now. That is how hungry I am right now."

"Survivor SA has really taught me to be so grateful for just the little things. I go through every day of my life with even bigger intention and making sure that I do my most because there are so many people out there who are really struggling."

"Obviously, what I went through doesn't even compare to a homeless person or someone who can't get food on a regular basis. And it's definitely changed my life and made me even more grateful for everything."

Nicole celebrating with her boyfriend at the final
Nicole celebrating with her boyfriend at the finale.

ALSO READ | We speak to Survivor SA fan favourite Chappies

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