reality tv

'We couldn't talk to each other.' Pia Miranda on what Survivor was really like behind the scenes.

When host Jonathan LaPaglia read out Pia Miranda’s name as the winner of Australian Survivor, it was the realisation of a 20 year dream.

The actress and Looking For Alibrandi star, 46, was crowned winner of Survivor in a landslide 9-0 victory over Baden Gilbert and as a long-time Survivor fan, the win meant more to her than any other accolade.

Speaking to Mamamia, Pia said when Jonathan read out her name, “Pia, pia, pia,” she thought everyone was playing a prank on her.

When Mamamia’s super fan met Luke from Survivor… Post continues below video.

Video by Mamamia

“I was expecting them to, you know how they do ‘two votes Pia, two votes Baden’, but they just kept saying my name. I thought everyone was having a laugh and they were going to tell me it was a joke and it wasn’t real.”

And it took awhile for the shock of victory to wear off.

“I walked around for days just in a fog going ‘It can’t be real’, because I’d honestly dreamed about winning Sole Survivor for 20 years,” Pia said.

“You don’t very often ever in life get to do something so amazing. Like, I would rather win Sole Survivor than an Oscar, that’s how much I love the show. It was the biggest thing for me ever.”


She said despite two decades of watching the show, getting to the finale was a journey tougher than she ever could have imagined.

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As she explained to Mia Freedman in an episode of No Filter in deciding to do the show she knew she’d have to give up her family’s privacy.

“Not that there’s anything wrong with reality TV, it’s just not something I’d considered…I am pretty private. But I couldn’t get it out of my head [the invitation to play],” she told the podcast.

After talking it through with her husband and her agent, she decided to take the plunge.

“I’ve watched so much Survivor so I was really prepared for how hard it was going to be, but it was a thousand times harder than I ever could have imagined. The mental strain, the physical strain, missing my family, the nights were freezing cold, days of rain, no food, it was just incredible. I’d turn up to challenges with a knot in my stomach thinking ‘What are they going to make me do now?’,” she told Mamamia.

She said the hunger and being constantly cold and wet were the toughest parts of her experience, and admits to bursting into tears on the first day when she looked around at all of the athletes she was competing against and thought, “I don’t fit in.”

“It sounds existential but I really had that moment when I was out there where I thought about all the people that were actually starving in the world. I knew I wasn’t going to die out there of hunger, but being hungry is incredibly painful and I really thought how lucky I am to at home have things like food and warmth available to me that not everyone has. It really changed my perspective on how lucky I am and made me appreciate the small things,” Pia said.

Mamamia’s No Filter podcast spoke to Pia in the wake of her win. Post continues below audio.

In her interview with No Filter, Pia explained the boredom that came with playing the game, including the fact that before and after challenges they had to “sit in a chair and not look at each other or talk for between one or two hours”.

If they tried to even so much as “give each other eyes” Pia said they were yelled at by minders.

Behind the scenes there is a humongous crew, the actress added, while chatting to Mia Freedman. “There’s so many cameras and so many people, you walk up to the challenges and there’s almost 100 people,” she said.

“But they don’t talk to you, so at the end of the 50 days I walked up and introduced myself to the camera crew because I didn’t know them.”

Some of Pia’s gameplay resulted in public backlash, including her decision to vote fan favourite Luke Toki out, which Pia admitted to Mamamia, has been hard to deal with.

“I’m a grown woman but I still find it really tough when people take time out of their day to say horrible things to you on your Instagram or your Twitter. I found it really shocking, and sometimes I would look at ‘Who’s that saying the horrible thing?’ and I’d see a mum with kids or a dad with kids and I’d think ‘What are we doing with our society that we’ve all made this okay?’

“I mean, there were beautiful people who would come and defend me but I’m not going to say that I wasn’t shocked by it. I’m tough, but it hurt, it really hurt… There were three of us who made a vote and I was the one who struggled with it the most on the day and I was the one who was actually willing to give Luke a chance, but for some reason everyone seemed to come for me and I didn’t expect that I would be the sole recipient of so much hate.”

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In the finale, we watched as Pia grimaced throughout the final challenge. It involved standing on two tiny pegs while holding weighted idols and basically looked like a form of torture straight out of a medieval history book.

After more than six hours and forty minutes of excruciating pain, third-placed Harry cracked and Pia followed soon after.

She credited seeing her husband and two children as giving her the extra motivation she needed to stick it out.

Pia Miranda PTSD
Image: Network 10.

"I think having my family there really just propelled me to try harder and push past what I thought I would be able to do, because it reminds you of why you're out there playing," Pia explained.

"My thing was that I really wanted to last longer than Harry, because Harry and I had told each other that we were going to both take Baden. I was really willing to die up there, I think. At one point medical had a chat to me to see if I wanted to come off because my feet were so swollen but I was just really committed to staying up for as long as I could.

After Baden chose to take her to the final two, Pia made her case to the jury. And they listened.

She explained how winning the $500,000 prize money would change her family's life.

"We're just like a normal Australian family that saves up for a [house] deposit, pays a mortgage, has to save up a really long time to go on holidays if we get to go on any at all," Pia said.

"So for us, it's an incredibly amazing opportunity where we can put the money on our mortgage and possibly take the kids to Disneyland.

"It just gives us the breathing space that most Australian families want. I feel incredibly lucky and the gravity of it is not lost on me."

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