Backstage Interview with 'Survivor: Samoa' Winner Natalie White

Last night Natalie White won Survivor: Samoa by a 7 to 2 vote. I may be one of the few people who can honestly say they were rooting for her from Day One. For two months in 2007 we both lived in the same small town of Van Buren, Arkansas. My fiance was from Van Buren, and we were visiting her family over the holidays after a 2,000 mile post-graduation road trip.

If Natalie and I ever passed at Wal-Mart or the Calico County soul food restaurant, I certainly didn't notice. But I know the effect the Whirlpool Factory layoffs had on the whole town, and the way the town's single Broadway looked anachronistic, not because the people there were living

in the past but because they didn't have the money to refurbish it every 30 years.

Russell could be the most dynamic player in Survivor history, but make no mistake. Winning a million dollars is a very happy ending for a girl who could buy the nicest house in town outright for that money. A rich oil executive getting richer would not have packed the same punch for me. It's easier to curse the jury when you don't have to see where they went to high


Last night I talked with Natalie on the red carpet after the Survivor finale, and asked her about issues of faith, Arkansas and Russell's use of an unkind expletive. She told me how she played Russell, rather than the other way around, and avoided being burned by him, when no one else could.

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