'Survivor' castoff: I fulfilled a dream

Tega Cay's Leslie Nease

Leslie Nease doesn't want anyone feeling sorry for her.

So what if she was the first member of the Fei Long tribe eliminated during Thursday's episode of "Survivor: China?" She still made her dream come true.

"It was a really amazing experience," said Nease, 38, a Christian radio talk show host from Tega Cay who became known as "Sister Christian" or "Mom" to her tribemates. "I'm very proud of myself, and I hope I made my town proud."

The mother of four auditioned for Survivor each season for the past five years. It took 11 audition tapes before Nease was offered a spot on the 15th installment of the CBS reality TV giant. But after nine days in the ancient south central province of Jiang Xi, Nease found herself in the hot seat. She created doubt in her tribe's mind by praising the rival team's spirits -- it also didn't help that she also bonded with the Christians over at Zhan Hu -- and ultimately Nease became the third person voted out of "Survivor: China."

Nease has been back in York County since filming wrapped in early August. She took time to talk with The Herald on Friday to discuss secret alliances, her Christianity and what happened after she was eliminated. And she said she'd do it all over again in a heartbeat.

Q: Have you been watching the show as it unfolds on television?

A: I've been watching the show with my family, because I feel like I'm going to throw up every Thursday. It's so nerve-wracking. I didn't go to any viewing parties. ... It's weird because it's so personal, and yet the whole world is watching.

Q: Do you think you've been portrayed accurately?

A: Absolutely. The only thing they did is that every mention of God or the Bible, they put it on the air. But I didn't go out there and scream my faith. My intention was to go out there and be my best, and I did that.

Q: Right off the bat, you created a stir by refusing to take part in a welcoming ritual in a Chinese Buddhist Temple. Do you have any regrets about that?

A: Really, I don't. It felt wrong in my heart. I'm sad there are people who were offended. The monks that were there were not offended at all. If I was in a Christian ceremony, and a Buddhist didn't wish to participate, I'd understand. ... I did consider bowing and just praying to the Lord and just making it between me and him. But if I were to go make out with another man and then tell my husband, "Well, honey, I thought about you the whole time," he would still hurt. And I couldn't do that to him. I couldn't do that to the Lord.

Q: Do you think talking about the Christian connection or sharing information on your tribe with the rival tribe did you in?

A: The only reason I brought that up is they asked why the other tribe selected me (to kidnap). I told them maybe it's because three of them were Christians. They felt a connection with me. ... I think my mouth definitely got me in trouble because I wear my heart on my sleeves. I'm a communicator by nature. I think it was really hard to keep my mouth shut about how great it was over at Zhan Hu. My intentions were right. I just was misunderstood.

Q: What was the first thing you did after your final tribal council?

A: I chugged a Coke -- the best Coke I ever had in my life. I devoured a Snickers Bar. It was kind of surreal. I was like, "Wow, did I just do that? How cool was that!" They didn't show that, before I walked out, I hugged every single person on my tribe. I walked out of there with my head held high, knowing that I'd formed relationships and was true to myself.

Q: OK, tell us some fun stuff. What happened after dark?

A: I shifted and moved and tossed and turned and tried to sleep, but couldn't. It got really cold at night because we were wet. ... Nighttimes were eternal. We would watch the moon literally go all the way across the sky, and we'd be like, "It's almost all the way to the right. That means it's almost morning."

Q: Did people smell bad?

A: Like you would not believe. I didn't know it was possible to smell so bad myself. The worst-smelling player out there was Todd.

Q: What did you think about Thursday night's show when Dave got naked during a challenge?

A: I was mortified, with a capital M. But I could see how that would maybe be a strategy, to try to keep the guys from attacking him. Because who would want to attack a guy whose pants were off? ... But I wish I had the blurry mark (like you see on TV).

Q: What was your No. 1 strategy?

A: To go in there and be myself and really focus on relationships, and not the money. I knew once I started focusing on the money I would lose myself in the game. And you know what, I did it. I got taken. I got outwitted. But I'm really proud of myself because I did everything I set out to do.

Q: So what's next -- a return to normal life?

A: (laughs) We'll see. I sure hope so.

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