reality tv

"There is no ‘toilet’." Former contestant Ziggy on the unglamorous reality of Survivor.

Whenever I watch Australian SurvivorI find myself unable to ignore one, overwhelming issue: hygiene. 

I just have so many questions.

At least five times an episode I turn to my husband with a question that he, of course, does not have the answer to.

So I decided to chat to former Survivor contestant Nicola ‘Ziggy’ Zagame, about what it’s really like living in the jungle, on TV, without a toilet.

Ziggy, who appeared on the 2017 season of Survivor, finished sixth. She’s a former Olympic water polo player, which made her a particularly strong contender. Here’s what she said about the behind-the-scenes reality of the show.

What happens when contestants get their period?

Ziggy: Tampons are allowed, but these are kept at camp and are just as exposed as anything else on the island. Let’s just say that that time of the month wasn’t great.

Why do the female contestants seem to have no body hair?

Ziggy: I had laser hair removal about seven years ago now, so that’s why I didn’t have hair myself and I know a few of the girls in my season had it too. I think maybe the girls with hair just hide it quite well and it isn’t shown as much on TV as viewers would think. There were certainly some hairy pits out there, but I never noticed it watching the episodes myself.

Listen to Clare Stephens’ interview with Survivor’s Peter on The Binge. Post continues after audio.

What was the hardest thing to go without?


Ziggy: The hardest thing I thought was going without a roof. Honestly, it rained a lot and the simple comfort of having somewhere which was guaranteed to stay dry was something I missed. Our clothes, shoes, bags etc., were constantly wet and it was really hard just having no escape from the weather.

How many outfits are you allowed to take in?

Ziggy: You are allowed to take the clothes you are wearing, plus five extra items. So that in total accounts for about 11 items of clothing.

Are there toilets for the contestants?

Ziggy: There is no ‘toilet’ but there is an area that you go to, to do your business, more like a hole in the ground I would say. But in the middle of the night, it is so dark out there that you’d never find this location so anywhere has to do.

Do you get inductions before challenges so that you don’t hurt yourselves? And was injuring yourself something that you were concerned about, considering that you are an Olympian?

Ziggy: You get the challenge rules explained to you in a bit more depth and some of those rules were set for safety reasons. I was not concerned about being injured at all, I love the rough and tough of challenges and putting your body on the line!


How long does it take to film Tribal Council?

Ziggy: So long… we have no concept of time as we never see any watches or clocks. It’s especially long if there’s a re-vote or something, then tribal can certainly take over an hour or two, and the rocks we sit on are so uncomfortable!

How long is it between filming ends on the island and the actual winner reveal?

Ziggy: There was about three and a half months in between… a very long time for the final two to have to wait.


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What was the first meal you had when you got home?

Ziggy: When I landed my boyfriend had a fresh cheeseymite scroll for me which was incredible, and I landed in the morning so then met my parents out for brunch at my favourite cafe.

Does everyone get really sick after food rewards?

Ziggy: Yes.


Aside from missing the outside world, what was the hardest thing about being on the show?

Ziggy: I think the physical discomfort was the hardest part. Infected mosquito bites, being cold, wet and hungry constantly was tough.

I saw there were quite a few contestants at your wedding earlier in the year. Are the friendships the most important thing that you took away from the experience?

Ziggy: Yes definitely! The bonds you form with other contestants are quite special as we have an experience in common that no one else will truly understand. I have made some great lifelong friends, and even those who I may not stay in heaps of contact with I know we will have that bond for life. I also just have great memories from the time on the island… waking up on a beautiful beach as the sun is rising and living off the land was so incredible. The stars at night time were amazing too. So many awesome memories!


Who would you like to see win this year?

Ziggy: I would like to see Sharn win this year. She has nearly been eliminated so many times but her communication skills and acting non-threatening is impressive.


This post originally appeared on The Write Now and has been republished with full permission. 

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