David vs Goliath/Survivor
By Gregg Reese, OW Contributor
Cole credits her local up-bringing as preparation for her life successes and suitability for this challenge on in the Mamanuca Islands (Monuriki, the site where they filmed, is the same beach where the 2000 Tom Hanks epic “Cast Away” takes place) in deepest, darkest Fiji.
“Being from South Central LA, one cannot move through the area effectively, safely without having a keen sense of self-awareness and surroundings. How will those skills apply while out on the island…I was definitely curious.”
A significant handicap was the fact that, at 57, she was twice as old as some of her competitors.
Armed with intestinal fortitude and bona fide street credentials, she endured an eight-hour flight into the South Pacific. Upon her arrival, the city girl embraced the pratfalls of life without hot water or modern toiletry (contestants utilized native foliage as sanctuary from the ubiquitous cameras, or simply used the sea as a hygienic refuge).
The physical ordeal of this outpost from civilization was equaled by the mental stress of dealing in an unfamiliar environment. Mother nature add-ed another hardship in the way of a cyclone on top of the torrential rains common to the area.
A strong constitution
“Is my constitution strong enough for me to effectively manage myself when I am hungry, being bitten by bugs, sleep deprived and don’t have any privacy for weeks on end with a bunch of strangers, some of whom I may not like?,” she pondered.
Curiously enough, her most antagonistic relationship during the shoot involved an African American male, someone she initially thought of as a potential ally. Contractually, she is prohibited from revealing the gory details, and so the unfolding drama will not be revealed until the episodes air starting on Sept. 26.
Appealing to the lowest common denominator?
“Their desperation increases as competition from cable grows and the old formulas and formats seem less and less attractive to American viewers.”
—Washington Post critic Tom Shales
“Reality TV to me is the museum of social decay.”
— Academy Award winning actor Gary Oldman
Reality television ,in general, has had more than their share of detractors. No less a person than talk show pioneer Dick Cavett has compared the contemporary appeal of reality shows to the voyeurism of people who used to attend public lynchings as entertainment in a by gone era.
More than a few other notables within the media decry the popularity of reality shows, citing their possible negative influence on the psyche of our collective consciousness as a whole. There is palatable sadism in watching these non-professional performers struggling in hazardous, possibly embarrassing or humiliating predicaments.
Needless-to-say, television, and most forms of popular entertainment, have gone through the wringer of high-brow criticism at one time or the other.
On a personal level, Cole acknowledges her participation in “Survivor” for practical reasons. While many of her contemporaries have ridden the rails of the media (especially social media) for notoriety in the new category of fame called the “celebritant,” she envisions her tenure in the limelight as a opportunity to “build her brand.”
“There are business benefits to being on ‘Survivor’ as well,” she notes.
“Exposure of my brands to a national platform in a game I love was a no-brainer. As CEO of Our Weekly, the largest audited Black owned newspaper on the west coast and CEO of Kalaiaah, a natural and organic skin care line, putting myself out there for national exposure is high level strategy in dis-guise.”
Her “performance” captured digitally, Cole is bracing for vast exposure that may or may not be positive. One prominent show pigeonholed one of its contestants as the angriest Black woman in the world, while its host used it as a platform for high political office.
“My next challenge is to handle the stresses of watching the season where I can be portrayed negatively and where viewers will post negative comments online about my personality, physical appearance…” she admits.
“In fact, two of my castmates have already started receiving such ugly comments on their social media accounts. People get lost in the fact that what they are watching on T V is a character, not the person and maybe more importantly, it is a game.”
“Survivor: David vs. Goliath,” premieres Sept. 26 on CBS.
Photo credit: Natalie Cole “Goliath”/Photo courtesy of David M. Russell/CBS