Neleh Dennis (Courtesy Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Neleh Dennis (born February 19 1980), pronounced nul-LEE-uh, was the runner-up in Survivor: Marquesas, the fourth season of the popular reality show. The season aired in Spring 2002. In the first part of the season, she was often nicknamed "Sweet Pea" because of her apparently innocent and ingratiating demeanor, but that nickname faded when it became apparent that she was playing the game with strategy and occasional ruthlessness. At times, she was also referred to as "The Princess."
Dennis hails from Layton, Utah and is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Before filming "Survivor," she was a student at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah.
Dennis was known for her alliance with Georgia judge Paschal English, the only contestant ever to be eliminated based on pure luck. She also famously used the phrase "Oh, my heck" numerous times on the show. Dennis was part of the most significant power shift in "Survivor" history up to that point when she joined Paschal, Kathy Vavrick-O'Brien, Sean Rector, and Vecepia Towery to overthrow the dominant "Rotu 4" alliance, led by John Carroll, in the eighth episode. Neleh was instrumental in the formation of this alliance, convincing English, who was strongly against the idea because of his initial distaste for Rector, to join against the "Rotu 4." Having thought they would have no hard feelings about it, since they had clearly revealed their plans to exclude her and Paschal, she was surprised at the backlash she faced from the overthrown alliance at the final. In particular, she told the jury she only began to play the game on Day 24, a timeline of total significance to them (and especially to John).
Dennis's 4-3 tribal council loss was the subject of some controversy because many fans believed that she played a better game than Towery, who won the tribal council vote. It is widely believed that Towery's win had much to do with the "Rotu 4", who sat on the jury, exacting payback against Dennis, one of their original tribemates. But it was largely also agreed that Neleh's performance before the jury was poor. She had lost popularity among some tribemates because of an incident following a reward challenge where Paschal won and invited her for the trip (instead of Vecepia, whose birthday was that very day). Upon their return, they explained that they weren't able to bring back food for the tribe, and Neleh offered them a half-chewed mint that had been in her mouth (which did not endear her to Sean Rector).
In addition to refusing to swear (an utterance of "sucks" during the final tribal council took everybody off-guard), Dennis also wore far less revealing clothing than other younger female contestants. At the time her season aired, she was the youngest-ever contestant up to that point. She was 21 at the time of filming.
Dennis won the final immunity challenge, the first involving three women, and continued the trend of the final immunity winner losing the last tribal council vote (a trend broken by Brian Heidik in the following season). At the last tribal council, Neleh received the votes of Vavrick-O'Brien, English, and Zoe Zanidakis. Carroll, Robert DeCanio, Rector, and Tammy Leitner voted for Towery. Zanidakis "defected" from the Rotu 4, while Rector had a long-standing alliance with Towery.
Following her stint on Survivor, Neleh was employed briefly by KUTV, the CBS affiliate in Salt Lake City, as an entertainment reporter for the morning show. She left the show in the summer of 2003 upon her marriage to fellow Mormon Kris Nielson. After her marriage and departure from the morning show, Neleh consciously withdrew from public life and tries to maintain a low profile to preserve her privacy. Dennis's last national television appearance was in a TLC documentary about the birth of Towery's child, in which Nielson also appeared, along with Rector and other Marquesas contestants.
Dennis was known to have been upset by the reporting of an alleged romance with fellow contestant Gabriel Cade on several "Survivor"-related websites. Dennis never confirmed a romance with Cade nor spoke publicly on the matter at all.
Another minor controversy involved the revelation of John Carroll that two contestants had received a tattoo of a turtle with him after the show. Spoiler sites immediately insisted that the two Survivors in question were Neleh and Cade, which later fueled the rumors of the aforementioned romance. Dennis never confirmed nor denied receiving the tattoo, a practice also frowned upon by the Mormon religion.
Neleh's first name is simply Helen spelled backwards. She is named after her grandmother.