Exclusive: Semhar Tadesse talks about 'Survivor: South Pacific'
By Reality TV World staff, 09/29/2011
Semhar Tadesse's Survivor: South Pacific experience proved to be a short one when her tribemates voted her out of the Savaii tribe at the game's first Tribal Council session.
Most of the Savaii tribe turned against the 24-year-old spoken word artist from Los Angeles, CA, because not only had she performed poorly in the season's first challenge, but she also seemed to enjoy speaking her mind when fellow castaways offended her almost as much as she loved reciting poetry.
Due to this season's game-changing Redemption Island twist, she still got a chance to earn the right to eventually return to the game by competing in duel challenges against the game's subsequent voted-off castaways. However, Semhar's first duel didn't go much better than her first Tribal Council visit -- resulting in her permanent ouster from the game during Wednesday night's broadcast of Survivor: South Pacific's third episode.
On Thursday, Semhar talked to Reality TV World about her Survivor: South Pacific experience -- including whether she was surprised to be voted off, whether she believed returning castaway Ozzy Lusth wanted to keep her around because he had a crush on her, why she suggested she didn't succeed in the coconut-throwing challenge, whether she was glad or intimidated to have Ozzy on her tribe, and how she insisted the show's editing misrepresented what actually happened during filming.
Reality TV World: Based on what we saw, it seemed like your exit was a bit of a surprise to you. Was that actually the case, and if so, why were you surprised?
Semhar Tadesse: I was surprised because [Whitney Duncan], [Keith Tollefson], [Jim Rice], and [Elyse Umemoto] had all assured me that I was fine. We had a discussion about why it should be [John Cochran]. Jim and I even took a walk and talked about it and then moments before Tribal Council, I look at Ozzy and he's like, "Sorry. I tried really hard."
And I was like, "Wait, what? I thought I was good," and then we walked into Tribal Council. So, yeah, I was surprised because I was like, "Do I trust Ozzy? Do I trust everyone else? I don't know where I'm at right now."
Reality TV World: It seemed like Ozzy had been trying pretty hard to prevent your elimination. Were you aware of that at the time or did you only find out afterwards?
Semhar Tadesse: I only found out afterwards and I think it was very sweet and very kind of him, and it was smart of him, because I really would have gone to the end with him and I would have been a loyal player with him. So, I think it was a smart move on his part.
Reality TV World: Why do you think he was trying so hard? Do you think it was anything like Jim was suggesting in that he had a bit of a crush on you or something like that?
Semhar Tadesse: Uh, I don't know, you know? I think you're going to have to ask Ozzy that one.
Reality TV World: The premiere made it look like the fact you had volunteered to shoot the coconuts and told your tribe you were good at shooting and then struggled with it and complained about being exhausted only a couple coconuts into it was why you were voted off. Do you feel that was accurate or not?
Semhar Tadesse: No, absolutely not. What you don't see is that when we have our 30 seconds to discuss who's going to do what, which obviously isn't a lot of time for nine strangers to try to figure something out, and it was out of the guys. So Ozzy immediately volunteered, of course. He's a killer in challenges and Keith is nice and tall and built, so he volunteered as well.
Both of them turned to Jim and were like, "Can you do it?" And Jim was just like -- he put his hands up like he didn't really want to do it. "You guys know me -- not good at anything, not bad at anything, you know what I mean?" And we're like, "Oh hell no. We're trying to win this."
So no one else stepped up regardless of what Whitney tried to say at Tribal Council later. I didn't hear that anyone else stepped up so I was like, "You know what? If anybody's really great, go ahead. If not, I'm good."
And I'm pretty good at basketball. Basketballs have air in them but coconuts are much heavier. And after climbing a 12-foot wall and other activities... So yeah, I was over my head. I took on something that I was not capable of and I suffered the consequences.
Reality TV World: So you're saying even though Jim was shown saying you had been "adamant" that you wanted to be one of the shooters and Whitney was saying you had been confidently insisting that you wanted to be one of them -- you feel that wasn't accurate, that that wasn't the case?
Semhar Tadesse: No, I mean literally, you can see the captions and I say, "Look, if anybody's great then go ahead but if not, then I'll do it." That came up in Tribal Council, but Tribal Council is two hours long and you only get to see about 10 minutes of it, I think. I like that [Survivorhost Jeff Probst] called Jim out on it.
He's like, "How is the biggest guy on the team going to pass up the opportunity and then get on the smallest girl on the team for stepping up?" I think that was more accurate. I wish they had time to fit all of that in, but apparently not.
Reality TV World: After you got to Redemption Island, you were shown saying you didn't understand how "people could be so cold-hearted" and couldn't believe your fellow tribe members "had lied" to you. Can you explain what you were trying to say with that? You didn't really go on Survivor thinking no one was ever going to lie to you, right?
Semhar Tadesse: Yeah, you know what some people are going to lie to you. Could I have predicted that Jim was going to lie to me? Absolutely. Could I have predicted that Cochran might be so into the game that he would? Yeah! But I was surprised at the people who did lie to me. I would not, speaking of my tribe...
I was actually speaking on something very personal. So yeah, that was definitely edited to make me look cuckoo, but I had to laugh at it. It was funny. It's really funny when you watch it all.
Reality TV World: Also on Redemption Island, you talked about how it was "scary" there because you were alone, but there was obviously a camera crew there with you, so I'm assuming that was another issue with the editing then?
Semhar Tadesse: Well, no. There wasn't a camera crew. I don't know how much I can really speak on that, honestly, but no. It's not like you have a crew hanging out with you. (Laughs) There definitely are moments when you're there completely alone and that is scary, but you learn a lot. I learned that I can be thrown into the wild on my own for three days, and I will survive.
I will build a fire and I will make the most of it. That's actually very refreshing to learn about myself having never even been camping a day in my life. I was like, "Ooh, yeah! Fire! Woo!" So it was definitely -- my words were definitely misconstrued here and there, but at the end of the day, it's just a show and you've got to laugh about it.
Reality TV World: You spoke a pretty intimate poem before the duel. Did it have any particular meaning for you?
Semhar Tadesse: No. I mean, it was suggested to me. Someone said, "Maybe you should do a poem to calm yourself down," because we couldn't start the challenge because I was so shaky. It's ridiculous.
So they were like, "Maybe you should do a poem to calm yourself down." I put my head down, did the poem to myself -- of course my microphone was on and that was made so other people could hear it and they couldn't. So I found that hilarious too. It was so funny.
Reality TV World: So the eye rolling and reactions we saw from Benjamin "Coach" Wade, Ozzy and Jeff was just the editing and they didn't have any idea what you were saying?
Semhar Tadesse: Absolutely, because you couldn't hear me where I was at. They couldn't hear me, but that was funny though. You gotta admit that the editors are pretty talented to do all that. (Laughs)
Reality TV World: After you lost the duel, you told Jeff being voted out by your tribe had brought up a lot of bad memories from your past because you had to move a lot and felt abandoned as well. I don't know if you're comfortable talking about it, but if you are, can you explain a little bit about your background and elaborate on what you were referring to a little bit?
Semhar Tadesse: Um, ugh. I really kind of don't want to speak about it if that's okay.
Reality TV World: That's fine. What was your general reaction when you found out Coach and Ozzy were going to be coming back? Were you glad to have someone that had played the game before around or not, and if so, was there someone else you would have preferred to see come back instead?
Semhar Tadesse: Oh my God, no. I was so happy when it was Ozzy, because -- I mean, I'm not a huge Survivor fan, I haven't watched a ton of episodes at all -- [but] one of the seasons that I did see was the [Survivor: Micronesia -- Fans vs. Favorites] season and I was like, "Ooh, he can climb trees like there's no tomorrow and he's killer at challenges."
I was so happy to have him on our side, and I think he has a good heart. He plays -- I mean, I'm going to be interested to watch the rest of the season to see if he does -- but the vibe that I got from him is that he's a good person and has a good head on his shoulders and I was happy to see him.
And it'sSurvivor, so if people aren't happy to see them, they have the opportunity to vote them out. And that's what the game is about -- being smart, making decisions and surviving.
Reality TV World: Coach and Ozzy both seemed to end up integrating themselves pretty well into their tribes, at least so far, but do you think things might have worked out a little bit differently for you if your tribe had been t he one that ended up with Coach instead of Ozzy?
Semhar Tadesse: Oh, for sure. Everything would be different if that were the case. They both play very differently. I think Ozzy is super about challenges. He's not about drama, he's not trying to stir things up. He's just a very chill person, and Coach doesn't seem to be very chill from what I noticed of him in the first episode pointing at [Brandon Hantz] and teaching him how to chop something.
I was just like, "Ozzy would never do that." Ozzy would just be right there chopping with you. So, I'm happy that we got Ozzy. I felt like he was the better returning player.
Reality TV World: [Dawn Meehan] seemed to get off to a rough start before you were voted out of your tribe, but yourself and Cochran were the vote targets going into your tribe's first Tribal Council -- why do you think that was?
Semhar Tadesse: I was surprised it wasn't between Jim and I considering everything that had happened. But it did, it ended up being Cochran, because he hesitated to go over the wall, he was not contributing to Tribal at that point -- I mean to our tribe.
We were building shelters, we were making fires, and he was sitting there talking about like, "I wonder if it will be the challenge from Gabon," or, "I wonder if we'll have the challenge from dah, dah, dah there."
"Oh, what about in Episode 234!?" I was like, "Kid, come on. Wake up. You're here." (Laughs)
So a lot of that didn't get shown, but I mean, that's why it came down between Cochran and I. He wasn't a valuable asset physically. People assumed he would be great at puzzles because they considered him smart and you know, that's why it came down to him and I.
Reality TV World: How were you cast on Survivor? How did you end up on the show?
Semhar Tadesse: Uhh, I'm just going to say that I didn't go searching for it. The opportunity presented itself before me and who's going to turn down the opportunity to win a million dollars? You know?
(Photo credit CBS)
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