Skip to main content

Survivor 41 Contestant Evvie Jagoda Discusses The Importance Of Queer Representation On The Show

survivor 41 evvie
(Image credit: CBS)

Survivor 41 was a season defined by a lot of firsts. First season to be only 26 days instead of the traditional 39. The first woman of color to be crowned Sole Survivor since Season 29 (Natalie Anderson in San Juan del Sur). It was also the first time LGBTQ and people of color made up the majority of the cast. Now that it's all been said and done, contestant Evvie Jagoda, who identifies as queer and non-binary (they/she), reflected on the importance of queer representation on the show this year.

Evvie Jagoda actually made one of the biggest impressions in the early days of Survivor 41 with their decision to confide all the secrets of their tribe with outsider Deshawn Radden. One could argue, too, their solid social game was a literal lifesaver when that decision came back to bite them. Unfortunately, Jagoda didn't make it to the end – but they did make it to the jury. And the Harvard PhD student in Human Evolutionary Biology recently spoke to their alma mater's newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, about how they wanted to make their mark in Survivor's history in a significant way. They stated,

LGBTQ contestants on Survivor go all the way back to the very first season with Richard Hatch, the first winner, who was a gay man. And I was very conscious of being in that history. Especially, the representation of non-men queer players is just a lot less. I mean, there's not that many queer players in general, and especially non-men. I think about people going back to, like, Survivor: Vanuatu, where you have Ami Cusack and Scout [Cloud Lee] and more recently, Elaine Stott and Lyrsa [Torres] on recent seasons, so there's some great queer non-men players that I just really wanted to emulate and hopefully — especially compared to the players who played long ago — be like an updated version to some degree. I feel like a lot of people around my age or younger, like in Gen Z, present closer to how I present, or there's a lot of people that do use the word queer, are a lot more gender-fluid, and things like that. And that's kind of who I am. So it's cool to be able to present that version of a queer player and LGBTQ player on this season, especially with it being the most diverse season of Survivor ever. It was really, really special to be a part of that.

CBS indeed followed through on their diversity initiative for their television lineup this year. But Jeff Probst helped set the more inclusive tone of the Survivor 41 season by asking the cast upfront if his standard greeting, “Come on in, guys!” wasn’t appropriate anymore. Ricard Foye – who would open up about his and his transgender husband’s background later on – spoke up and Probst declared that it would be changed permanently. Evvie Jagoda would eventually share her own story and address LGBTQ viewers directly, saying, “Any queer kids out there: Be yourself. You’re amazing. Love yourself.”

Some Survivor audience members and alums have vocalized criticisms of the perceived “woke” changes. Nevertheless, Evvie Jagoda learned first-hand the power of representing their identity. They revealed that they heard from many LGBTQ fans after the season stating that their message “meant a lot to them.” The Survivor 41 contestant continued,

Being loud and proud and joyful about my queerness is just 100% integral to who I am. I literally have a tattoo that says ‘gay’ with a rainbow flag on it. Because that is what queerness is to me. Like, it's not just okay, it's not something I tolerate. It's something amazing about me, that I love about myself and that brings me so much joy. Part of the reason I wanted to do the show was to be able to put that message out there and be someone that people do get along with and wanna play Survivor with, and be my full queer self, wearing rainbow boxers and a bow tie. So that was never in question about whether I was gonna do that…

Seasons 41 and 42 were filmed back-to-back earlier this year. So the upcoming season will likewise be shortened and equally as diverse, with some of the controversial new advantages returning as well. To find out who exactly will carry the baton from the likes of Evvie Jagoda, Ricard Foye, Genie Chen, et al, tune into CBS for Survivor 42 on March 9 at 8 p.m. EST!

Lauren Vanderveen

Freelance writer. Favs: film history, reality TV, astronomy, French fries.