IM this article to a friend!

May 7, 2003

One `Survivor' didn't turn a deaf ear to adversity

From: Kansas City Star, MO - May 7, 2003

Knight Ridder Newspapers

"Survivor: Amazon" has been one of the better editions of the CBS "reality" series franchise, and one reason is 24-year-old Christy Smith, who lasted 33 days with a bunch of back-stabbers she couldn't possibly have heard plotting against her.

Deafness didn't turn out to have any advantages for the former children's adventure guide, who reads lips and speaks clearly, but her own character did, and judging from my mail, she's one of the most popular "Survivor" contestants ever.

Plain speaking didn't hurt.

"I am going to make sure that those freakin' evil stepsisters of mine are not going to win the million dollars," Christy, the newest member of the "Survivor" jury, promised viewers after fellow 20-somethings Heidi and Jenna betrayed her in last week's episode.

How angry was she?

"I was very, very, very angry. I was very upset. I was hurt," she said Friday afternoon in a phone interview conducted with the help of an interpreter. "I was...all the negative feelings a person doesn't want to feel."

A day's worth of interviews had stoked her anger anew, but "I'm OK," she said. "I've learned to forgive them."

She's OK, too, with those in the deaf community who've reportedly been unhappy with her assimilation into the hearing world of "Survivor."

"I was brought up to develop a skill that some people don't have," she said. "I'm not ashamed that I have my speaking ability. I worked hard for it. I look at myself as a bridge builder. Yes, I'm not like everyone else in the deaf community, but I do represent the deaf community."

Speech, though, wasn't enough to bridge the gap with some of her fellow contestants.

"In the beginning of the game, my deafness was an issue," she said. "I saw frustration in all of us because of me being different and having somewhat different needs. But then my attitude changed, and I realized this can't be about my being deaf," she added.

"I was not voted out because I was deaf. It was probably because I had no idea of what I wanted to do...and they all got kind of scared," she said.

Watching the show, and seeing much of what was hidden from her, perhaps more than from the hearing contestants, "was hurtful," she said. "It was also wonderful. It was also educational. I think I'm a better person because of this experience."

Her father, too, has become a better person, she said.

"He's learned a lot about me through watching the show, things he's never realized before," she said. "When he watched the first show, he cried, 'I had no idea how frustrated Christy gets.' "

© Copyright 2002 Knight Ridder. All Rights Reserved