Sunday, June 7, 2009

Interview with Darrah Johnson ("Survivor" Contestant)

Darrah was Mississippi's first entry into the world of Survivor - and was fondly remembered as 'the girl that took the shower.' She was very pretty, genuinely very sweet, and - trust me - a lot smarter than you thought she was. When I did this short interview, she was already becoming a canny interviewee.

This year’s Grand Marshal of Mal’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade is Darrah Johnson, the first and so far only Mississippi contestant on “Survivor,” the current reigning champion of the reality TV sweepstakes.

On the show, Johnson played her game quietly, allowing others to take the spotlight – and promptly be shot down – time and again. She kept somewhat to herself, allowing others to come to her and propose alliances and deals. In her Delta-infused accent, she made nice with almost everyone else, at least until it was time not to.

Late in the game, she rose to the occasion, winning three immunity challenges in a row and taking control of the game while simultaneously scaring the hell out of her opponents. She made the final four, lost the next challenge, and was immediately voted out by the others.

She met us at the Jackson Zoo for a photo shoot and interview. Clearly used to the attention, the girl from Liberty, Mississippi proved as comfortable in front of the tape recorder as she did in front of the camera.

PLANET WEEKLY: “You’re living a bit closer than Liberty now. Where do you call home?”

DARRAH JOHNSON: “I moved to Ridgeland about three years ago to go to school. I’ve been up here ever since.”

PW: “What brought you here?”

DJ: “I came up here to go to funeral service school. I graduated with my funeral service degree, then got out and couldn’t get a job. So now I’m going back to school to get a degree in dental hygiene.”

PW: “Are you in school now?”

DJ: “I’m taking some classes right now at Holmes. Hopefully in August, I’ll get into UMC.”

PW: “Malcolm [White] told me when he invited you to be the Grand Marshal, you told him that this would be your first time to the parade. True?”

DJ: “This is my first time. I’ve never been, but I have a lot of friends that go, and they told me it’s a big deal. Malcolm told me about 50,000 people come. I’m looking forward to it, but I don’t know what to expect yet.”

PW: “Are you doing a float?”

DJ: “We are. I’m going today to pick up the print and the materials. We’re going to decorate Thursday and Friday. It’s me and about fifteen or sixteen friends who are going to be on it.”

PW: “What can you tell us about it?”

DJ: “It’s going to be a little bit of a surprise, because I don’t even know what is going to be on it just yet. [The designer] has a print of it, and she hasn’t explained what it will look like.”

PW: “What made you try out for “Survivor?””

DJ: “I’ve been crazy about the show ever since it started. I didn’t see the first season, but from the second season on, I’ve been crazy about it. I was in school at the time, so I just thought I’d apply and see what happened, not thinking I’d ever get picked. I filled out an application, sent it in, sent in an audition tape, and got a call and had to go to New Orleans for some interviews. They narrowed it down from 65,000 to eight hundred, and then to fifty. Then I had to go to California for ten days for extensive interviews. They narrowed it down from fifty to forty, and then to sixteen. I was excited.”

PW: “When they cut it down, did they tell you why they kept you?”

DJ: “No. I think maybe my funeral service work had a part to do with it. They’d never picked anybody from Mississippi, so I was the first. Maybe me being a little country girl, I guess that’s what caught their eye.”

PW: “What we saw on TV; was that natural?”

DJ: “Who I was on the show is pretty much who I am, except for the fact that if somebody makes me mad, I usually speak out and tell them exactly what I think. But you’re playing a game and you can’t do that.”

PW: You probably went further than anyone has by playing under the radar. You never seemed to break cover, except at the end. Was that your plan?”

DJ: “My plan was not to go to people to form alliances, but for them to come to me. That way people couldn’t say I was trying to get anybody off. That was my whole strategy and that’s what happened. Until it got toward the end, when I was winning immunities, and I could say, “Hey, I’m voting so-and-so off. You can go with me or you’re gone.” They had to go with me.”

PW: “Is the show as hard as it looks?”

DJ: “It’s a lot harder than what you really see.”

PW: “Is this something you’d do again?”

DJ: “Oh, yeah, I’d definitely do it again. [Laughs] I had a lot of fun out there.”

PW: “Was there anyone you really bonded with?”

DJ: “Actually, there’s T [Tijuana], Osten, Andrew, and Ryan. I just came back from California, seeing them. We travel together and stay with each other. We are real, real close.”

PW: “After the show started, did people ask you to tell them what happened?”

DJ: “Yeah. Oh, yeah. When I got back, people wanted to know who made it. I told them, “You don’t want to know.” It would ruin it. I didn’t tell anybody.”

PW: “Did you ever want to kick Jeff Probst in the face, knowing that he was coming from an air-conditioned building somewhere?”

DJ: “No. He’s a super nice guy. We’d ask him every night what he had for supper. He didn’t want to tell us, because he didn’t want to aggravate us.”

PW: “Are you planning on doing what other Survivors have done, and move to L.A.?”

DJ: “No, no. L.A. is not for me.”

PW: “Are you going to stay in Mississippi?”

DJ: “Right here for right now, unless something comes up. I’m going back to the finale of this one in May. All the Survivors will be there from every season.”

PW: “Where’s that?”

DJ: “May 9th, in New York. Madison Square Garden.”

PW: “Any advice you’d give to anyone who wants to be on the show?”

DJ: “Go for it. It’s a once in a lifetime thing. I don’t know what strategy to suggest, but go out there and do it. Play as hard as you can.”


  1. Why is is sooo hard to find videos or photos of Darrah!?!? SHe is my Favorite of all time!