She ended up with only $100,000 as runner-up on last summer's Survivor series, but Kelly Wiglesworth may turn out to be one of the show's biggest winners in the long run.
With her legal problems regarding a $67 stolen credit card charge resolved with a plea bargain last week, Wiglesworth, a 23-year-old river rafting guide from Las Vegas, can smoothly navigate her way into show biz. Using her status as a Survivor veteran, she has been popping up on talk shows to comment on the sequel, Survivor: The Australian Outback, which airs its second episode at 8 p.m. tomorrow on CBS. (A rerun of the first episode will be shown at 8 tonight for those who missed it after the Super Bowl on Sunday.) She'll appear on this Friday's Early Show, which airs at 7 a.m. on CBS, to chat with the second voted-off player from the Kucha and Ogakor tribes.
Wiglesworth also hosts Celebrity Adventures, a series on cable's E! Entertainment Television network that is sending her around the globe to hang in glamorous resorts with famous faces. And she was featured recently in Cosmopolitan magazine and in a People spread that had her snowboarding in a bikini - NOT the pink one she wore on Survivor's Pulau Tiga island, however.
“I burned that thing! I hate the color pink,” she said over a lunch of salad, fish, and hot tea in Pasadena, Calif., recently. Wearing a soft, upswept hairdo and a silky blue blouse, Wiglesworth looked more girly-girl than she ever did on Survivor. As if to prove she hasn't lost her edge, she stopped chewing long enough to touch her nose with her tongue, which sports a silver stud.
Wiglesworth has two agents keeping track of her offers and bookings, but she hasn't gone so Hollywood that she won't dish about post-Survivor rumors. First, she did not sell that pink bikini on eBay.
“Who would want that thing? It's nasty! The night before we started Survivor, I realized I didn't have a swimsuit so I ran to Target and that was the only one they had in my size. Now I'm stuck with it forever.”
And no, she hasn't made nice with Pulau Tiga tigress Sue Hawk, the truck driver who stunned viewers with her venomous snake/rat speech before casting the deciding vote for winner Richard Hatch.
If Wiglesworth were dying of thirst, Hawk squawked at that last tribal council, she wouldn't give her a drink of water.
Wiglesworth laughs about it now - “Every restaurant I go to, people send glasses of water to my table” - but it's clear some bad mojo still brews between her and Hawk.
“I definitely forgive her, but I'll never forget,” Wiglesworth said. “She wants to be friends. She sent me a big letter apologizing and asking my forgiveness. Who needs friends like that? We're not friends by any stretch. I have no interest in trashing her, but I have no interest in being her friend, either.”
Hawk and Wiglesworth have appeared together on TV since Survivor, most recently on Monday's Today show on NBC. But it's an uneasy sister act.
Wiglesworth seemed to delight in telling a lunch guest about the audience's reaction to Hawk at the live reunion show that followed the last Survivor in August. As the cast assembled backstage, nobody sat with Hawk. And when the cast members walked out to be interviewed by Bryant Gumbel, the studio audience booed her.
“They might as well have been throwing cabbages at her,” Wiglesworth recalled. “The house shook.”
The ill will between the two may never heal, but Wiglesworth has stayed tight with Survivor producer Mark Burnett, who has gone rafting with her, and with fellow castaways Dirk Been, Gervase Peterson, and Joel Klug, a trio she has dubbed her “boys.”
They go surfing and snowboarding together and recently had dinner with three stars of the British survival show Castaway 2000 and with Outback player Jerri Manthey. “We wanted to welcome her into the family,” Wiglesworth said.
She has no inside info about who wins this time around, but Wiglesworth said she doesn't think it is Manthey, an aspiring actress.
“She did not say a word to me, but I don't think she won,” Wiglesworth said. “She could be (the winner) for all I know. But personally, I just got the vibe that she didn't win.”
Did Wiglesworth offer Manthey any advice on surviving instant celebrity status?
“Not really. (Fame) has been such a huge surprise. I didn't go on the show for the money. I didn't go for TV. I wanted to see if I could do it. I thought `Cool, I'm gonna go run around the jungle.' I didn't know what the mental game was going to be.”
She said she still can't believe she finished second to master schemer Hatch.
“It trips me out that he won. It's a mean game; it's a nasty game. I'm glad I wasn't the winner of that,” she said. “You make friends and then you stab them in the back.”
Except for the finale, which Wiglesworth watched with the other castaways the night it aired, she hasn't seen any of her Survivor episodes.
“Why should I? I lived it,” she said.
And she's not sure she'll watch much of Outback either.
“Everybody's going to be playing for the camera. And love him or leave him, you need Rudy (Boesch, the retired Navy SEAL), you need Rich, you need Sue. That's what makes the show.”
The Outback players will have to outplay and outwit with a vengeance to achieve the same stardom as their predecessors.
Boesch now hosts a History Channel series. Hatch wrote his memoirs, appeared on Becker, and will host the pilot of a new game show on NBC. Sean Kenniff, the doctor from Long Island, does health features on Live with Regis and Early Show. Colleen Haskell puckers up in a Chapstick commercial. Hawk guest-starred on the sitcom DAG and an episode of TNN's 18 Wheels of Justice.
Told that Hawk recently was cast as a truck driver in a TNN series called Pop Across America, Wiglesworth rocked with laughter.
“They should call it Survivor with Sue! Throw somebody in the truck with her and see if they can make it across the country!”
Elaine Liner is The Blade's media editor. E-mail her at email@example.com. or call 1-419-724-6126.