I know a thing or two about failing on national television. On my first season of Survivor, my tribe lost the first immunity challenge on day 3 of the game. Rarely have I felt as despondent as I did when the opposing Zapatera tribe erupted into shouts of joy at their victory. I literally felt like Charlie Brown when Lucy pulled the football. It was the worst feeling, or so I thought.
Later that night, when my tribe went to Tribal Council, I was the first person voted out of the Ometepe tribe. I took my snuffed torch and my dignity and walked off the set. That season, there was a twist where voted out contestants went to live on "Redemption Island" where they would wait until another ousted contestant arrives at which time they'd "duel" to stay and wait for a chance to re-enter the game.
So, off I went to live on my own in the wilds of Nicaragua. A few days later I was joined by the next castoff (my former tribe member and Survivor BFF Matt Elrod). When the day of our duel arrived, I was feeling unsure but hopeful. And then it began. I was in the lead! Jeff Probst was saying I was winning! I'm winning! I'm winning! I'm--- Oh, wait. It's over. I lost.
Survivor: 2, Francesca: 0 and the game was OVER. No more chances. I was pretty down for awhile. No one goes on a reality show to be the first person booted. I wasn't used to losing, so I couldn't believe I was the biggest loser. Little did I know, this wasn't the end of my public humiliation.
I was invited to play again, this time on Survivor: Caramoan (Fans vs. Favorites 2). I told myself, the worst has already happened and it can't happen again. I have no where to go but up!
As it happens, that was a seriously incorrect assumption. The second time around, I had the briefest of glimpses of glory as my tribe won the first reward challenge. We trampled them fools! It's smooth sailing from here on out! And then came the first immunity challenge. We made a good effort. But in the end, by mere seconds (literally - it was less than 5 seconds) the Favorites tribe lost.
Really?? Well, at least I won't be the first person out again. Oh wait - yes I will be. And so I walked, with my snuffed torch, into the (minor, pop culture) history books. I'm the first "first boot" ever asked back and so I'm the only person to be voted out of Survivor first twice. It's possible that I'm the only first boot voted out first twice on any reality show. And there are a lot of reality shows on the air!
So, what does one do?
1. Keep Perspective. This is advice for anyone appearing on a reality show, no matter the outcome. You might win. Most will lose (there's only 1 winner, after all). You might be famous for something embarrassing, you might be loved, hated, or completely ignored. But the real reality is sooner or later, it will be over. You will fade into the footnotes of reality show history. And that's just fine. After all, how can one experience that lasted anywhere from a few days to a few months come to define the totality of who you are? It can't. So, focus on your real reality and keep it moving.
2. There's Always a Bigger Idiot. My first piece of advice does require a zen approach. This one, however, does not. The truth is, even if you are the biggest clown in the world, there is always a bigger one (unless you're Phillip, in which case you can just ignore this whole paragraph). I might have been voted out first not once, but twice- but there are still many examples of people who made much bigger asses of themselves. This is true for both of my seasons and if you take reality show contestants as a whole - I'm Einstein, Michael Phelps and Serena Williams rolled into one.
3. Focus on the Positives. In the case of Survivor, there's a lot of upside to not lasting in the game for 39 days. I don't have any lingering bacterial infections or injuries sustained on the island (this is common for Survivor contestants). I didn't have to starve for weeks and throw my metabolism all out of whack (another hazard). I don't have PTSD, or lingering paranoia or mistrust of people that many contestants experience when they return to their daily lives. I am, on the whole, unaffected in a negative way. I lost a few "show friends", but I can live with that. I have lots of really incredible actual friends who I like better anyways! And my real Survivor friends remain, so no loss, really.
Plus, I get to win awards!
I'm #1, guys.