'Survivor's Natalie Cole Talks Russell Hantz Comparisons and Calls One Tribemate 'Abusive' (Exclusive)
By Jennifer Drysdale
The entire cast of Survivor: David vs. Goliathwas evacuated from their camps on this week's episode of the CBS series, but it didn't scare Natalie Cole. The Los Angeles-based publishing CEO was a force herself during this season's game -- until she met her elimination on Wednesday night.
"The cyclone was actually one of the best things that happened to me while out there," Natalie candidly told ET on Thursday, while reflecting on the episode. "So as they were terrified and shivering and upset about it, I was very happy about the cyclone. I saw it as an opportunity to change the dynamics of the game, and for a period, it did. And being that those dynamics were stacked against me, I was in a good place with it."
Natalie guessed that she and the cast were transported 10 minutes inland during the storm, but said they were separated by tribe, and instructed not to communicate with each other, to preserve the game. "We're all Davids today. That's the Goliath," Christian memorably said in the episode, but as Natalie sees it, she was the sole Goliath -- not the cyclone.
"I enjoyed more being out there, fighting and struggling, than I did watching it. It was cringeworthy at best as to the narrative, and you know, this is the first time in my history of watching Survivor, that I was like, 'Wow,'" she said of her portrayal on the show. "Now, there were some other cringeworthy moments with other characters, but not every episode. There was something redeeming about them."
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From the moment she stepped on the beach, it was clear Natalie would become one of the show's most controversial contestants. She said on Thursday that she's heard comparisons between herself and infamous Survivor villain Russell Hantz, but that's not how she saw herself in the game.
"I don't say that the narrative that was told of me is how I am, no. I'd say that I do speak very directly," she expressed, before sharing one example of how her notable statement on the show -- "Everything about me speaks power" -- was just part of a larger argument she made, but wasn't aired.
"I was saying that I have a presence, and I've always had this since I was a child. I'm very tall. I have a strong voice, I speak very directly, there's an intensity in my eyes, and I said, 'People feel that, and so I've always had to kind of downplay my power to make other people comfortable because everything about me speaks power.' And what did you hear? You only heard, 'Everything about me speaks power,'" she said, calling her edit a "one-note, over-the-top, negative perspective."
Fans also saw several confrontations between Natalie and her tribemates, but she said she wasn't barking orders at them like viewers may have seen. In fact, she said it was the other way around, claiming that contestant Jeremy verbally abused her and alleging that he caused her to be injured in the season's very first challenge. Jeremy appeared to respond to the claims on Instagram on Thursday, writing alongside a screenshot of an article about Natalie's allegations, "Crazy is as Crazy does."
"Jeremy actually made me fall in the first challenge, and I got trampled. So he and I started off on a bad foot," she claimed. "Jeremy was fearful that either he or I were going to be the first target because we're both black and because we both were older. He told me that day one. And because of that, he said he would not align with me at all."
"I'm so tired to seeing and hearing that I was argumentative and confrontational. Not one person can see, of all the film that's been shown so far, when did you see me approach Jeremy and argue with him? You don't see it, because it never happened," she continued. "I was protecting myself against this very abusive person, who was verbally belittling me, yelling in my face. I could smell his breath. And I was dealing with that. And some of it, they didn't even show."
What Survivor did air on Wednesday's episode, however, was an entertaining battle over jackets on the island -- and Natalie's refusal to give hers to a very cold Angelina after she was voted out.
"I didn't trust Angelina, and I thought that Angelina would have led the charge to get me out because Mike was never leading anything for the entire game," Natalie explained, adding that she knew when Lyrsa got two votes that Angelina set her up in the hopes of getting her jacket. "So it took everything in my power not to say anything at that point, because I really, I thought, if you say something, it's going to be so ugly, there's no coming back. There's no coming back from ugly, ugly, ugly comments. So don't say it... So I didn't, but I thought, it's more gangster to walk out and not even acknowledge her begging."
Survivor airs Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS. See more in the video below.