“It has taught me there is nothing I cannot do,” Latasha “Tasha” Fox, 36, said. “Until I played the game I don’t think I knew just how much inner strength I have that I can draw on.”
Fox, originally from Alton and currently making her home in St. Louis, is one of 18 contestants on the new season of “Survivor,” which premiered this past Wednesday.
This was Fox’s third attempt to appear on the reality contest show.
“I have watched ‘Survivor’ since the first season,” she says excitedly. “The third time trying out was the charm for me. I was diligent and knew it was just a matter of time. In my audition video, I said I was a triple threat: beauty, brains and brawn. I didn’t even know that was this season’s theme, so maybe that caught their attention.”
This time around, contestants are broken up into three groups, bound together by looks, muscle or intelligence. Fox was chosen for the latter “tribe.”
“Even before playing the game, I decided to be flexible,” Fox said. “I was prepared to do whatever it took.”
Fox grew up in Alton, where her family still resides. She says she has fond memories of the annual Alton Expo and watching fireworks on the banks of the Mississippi.
While attending Illinois State University, she was a collegiate cheerleader and wound up trying out for a cheerleader spot with the St. Louis Rams.
“I have always loved cheerleading,” she said. “I ended up being with the team for six years, including three as a captain.
“Life is so short; you need to start living it. I am totally breaking out of the mold of what I am supposed to be.”
Once hearing the news she was chosen for “Survivor,” Fox began a strict regimen of exercise, working with a trainer and eating less, preparing for the harsh conditions 39 days in Cagayan (a province in the Philippines) would present.
“You share this bond with only about 400 other people in the world,” she said. “No one understands except for the people who have played this game. Even people you may not have necessarily liked playing the game with, you respect them.”
“Welcome to the ‘Survivor’ family, Tasha,” says Mark Anthony (“Papabear”) Caruso, who appeared on “Survivor: South Pacific” in 2011. “We have our own little community and she is now one of us; this show creates a bond.
“This is a game, but it’s also a life lesson.”
And what about Fox’s conduct in a game notorious for chewing up weak players and rewarding backstabbing and deceit?
“You will just have to watch to see how I do,” she said, laughing. “I will say that I am very proud of how I played the game.”
Fox returned home from the competition six months ago, proud but hungry (“When I got home I had two Dairy Queen cakes and three pizzas.”). She emphasized every bug bite, every sore back, and every lost pound is authentic and uncomfortable.
“This experience is real,” she said. “The cameras don’t stop rolling at the end of the day and you get pizza. The experience is just what you see.
“The first thing I did (when I got home) was go to the Four Seasons for a massage. When they worked on me, they asked me if I had been sleeping on the floor.
“I just laughed and told them, ‘Yeah, something like that.’”
“Survivor” airs at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays on CBS. The final episode, revealing the winner, will be broadcast in May.