Facing her fears

Leslie Nease of Tega Cay joins the cast of "Survivor: China," premiering at 8 tonight on CBS.
Leslie Nease of Tega Cay joins the cast of "Survivor: China," premiering at 8 tonight on CBS.

TEGA CAY -- Starting tonight, Leslie Nease's friends and neighbors will get to see how she spent her summer vacation.

Nease, a Tega Cay resident and radio personality for New Life 91.9 FM in Charlotte, is one of 16 contestants of this season's "Survivor: China" on CBS. The season premiere starts at 8 tonight.

"China's quite beautiful," she said in a recent interview. "We were in a very remote area; it was gorgeous."

Nease had applied to be on the show in each of the previous 10 seasons. The 11th time was the charm.

"I felt like Noah," said Nease, 38. "He kept saying, 'It's gonna rain, it's gonna rain,' even though there were no clouds in the sky. I kept saying 'Survivor' is going to call.'"

Nease, who is married to husband Rod and is the mother of four children, has worked as a fitness instructor at local YMCAs, teaching kickboxing, step, sculpt and cycle classes.

She takes fitness seriously, and she was already in shape when she left for a summer of taping for the show in south central China. Preparing herself spiritually also was vital.

"I knew I'd face some spiritual challenges," said Nease, who runs her own speaking ministry, where she helps others rekindle and strengthen their faith. "I even fasted some to get my mind and body ready for going without food."

Nease, the daughter of a U.S. Marine, traveled all over the globe while growing up with her family, studying and graduating from high school in Okinawa, Japan. She's a former Mrs. North Carolina 2001, who competed in the Mrs. United States Pageant.

She viewed the "Survivor" experience as God opening a door for her.

"No matter where you go as a Christian, you take Jesus with you," Nease said. "Maybe people will see Him in you and ask you questions and you'll get to share your beliefs. If someone comes to know Christ through me on 'Survivor,' that's great."

"Survivor" was both fun and challenging, Nease said. But she won't provide any spoiler details. CBS is keeping all the contestants mum about the program.

So, Nease said, she won't be returning to her midmorning time slot on 91.9 until after the "Survivor" finale has aired. CBS has not yet scheduled the final live episode.

Luckily for Nease, her employer at 91.9 had no problem giving her time off.

"When I interviewed at 91.9 three and a half years ago, I told (General Manager) Joe (Paulo) every six months I try out for 'Survivor,' so I'm going to need some time off one day," Nease said.

"The next thing I know, he's asking me to jump out of a plane with some listeners as a promotion for my first show."

Nease took a flying leap in April 2004.

"If something scares me, it kind of ticks me off," Nease explained. "I force myself to face my fears. I was terrified of doing 'Survivor,' but I went out and did it anyway. You only live once."

Nease also has applied to be on "The Amazing Race" and was considered as a possible guest co-host with Regis Philbin on "Live with Regis and Kelly" while Kelly Ripa was on leave. Nease is often asked which show she'll try out for next.

"Right now, I just want to be a mom," she said about her children, Stephanie, Tommy, Kennedy and Peyton.

"I was away from my kids for a while, and now I want to spend time with them."