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'Mafia pastor' Shantel Smith ready for 'Survivor 41'

October 22, 2021

Just because she’s a pastor in real life, Toronto-born Survivor castaway Shantel Smith isn’t too worried about having to be a cutthroat contestant as the long-running competition returns for its 41st season.

“Being a pastor gives me the edge because I know people so well,” the Washington D.C.-based Smith says in a video call. “For what I do, day-in, day-out, I think I’ve met every kind of person there is. I think when you’re able to play with a clear heart it gives you an advantage.”

And even though she’s honest, it doesn’t mean she won’t vote her fellow tribe mates out when the time is right.

“I am half-Italian, half-Jamaican. That means I’m cutthroat,” Smith jokes in a trailer for the new season. “I will pray for you and walk you out the door at the same time. I have no problem doing that.”

Smith, 34, is one of two Canadians ready to do battle on Survivor 41 ( airing Wednesday nights on CBS and Global), which features 18 brand-new faces and a stripped down format that was retooled in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Smith will compete for the $1 million grand prize and the title of Sole Survivor , along with Erika Casupanan, a communications manager from Toronto.

The self-described “Mafia pastor” became a fan of the show after a troubled childhood led to her living in foster homes.

“I would watch Survivor even though my life was a mess,” she says. “(Host Jeff) Probst’s message of digging deep and how there’s more to you than you know really stuck with me. I just felt an energy from that show and it carried me through. It’s had a profound impact on my life.”

This season, the contestants will be divided into three tribes of six “to face a faster, more intense and more dangerous season than ever before,” the network said in a release.

For self-avowed superfan Smith, “being in the game and watching the game are two different experiences completely.”

In addition to new twists, this season fans at home will be able to test their own Survivor skills with the Game within the Game , which Probst describes as “an interactive experience for junior, future Survivor players.”

“I’ve studied this game and it’s now being changed,” Smith says. “That’s a hard reality to face. I said a couple of prayers and we’ll see how it all works out.”

Ahead of Wednesday’s season premiere, Smith spoke about her Survivor strategy and which past favourites she took her game cues from.

Looking back at 40 seasons, whose game did you want to emulate?

For sure (2012’s Survivor: One World winner) Kim (Wolfe). She went into the game looking for redemption after a divorce and she found it. She played masterfully. ( Survivor: Pearl Islands and Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains winner) Sandra (Diaz-Twine) as well, she was herself through and through. Also ( Survivor: Africa winner) Ethan (Zohn). Even though I’m playing a game that can be cutthroat and hurtful, he was warm and loving and friendly. Your Midday Sun September 22, 2021

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