Crystal Cox: “I can’t play under the radar because I’m 6’3″

Olympic gold medalist Crystal Cox is “a fan since day one” of the show, and is super-excited about being on the show, and after applying for the first time last year, was almost cast for Survivor Micronesia before being cast for this season. “I’m here to play and I’m here to win,” she said at the end of our conversation.

While she may be known for her athleticism, she’s “a full-time mom” of an eight-year old who watches Survivor with her. “Anything that I do in life is for her now, and she’s my reason and purpose for everything,” Crystal said. She’s prepared physically by weakening herself, and said she “slowed down on the training and let my muscle turn into fat,” she said, although that “kind of put me in a slump because [training is] something I’ve done my whole life.”

In the game, which she seems to know well, Crystal wants to be “the ringleader of who votes who off” in an alliance, but she acknowledged that “there’s always that one person, but then, in the end, they get voted off, so I have to be careful.” That’s because “I can’t play under the radar because I’m 6’3″. It’s like an elephant hiding in the middle of nowhere,” she said.

Crystal has already faced problems with being too domineering, like when they were unloading luggage at pre-Ponderosa. Crystal said she thought to herself, “Damn, I hope they don’t think I’m trying to take control, because clearly, I don’t want that to work against me.”

While others may be judging her–and several did identify her as an athlete in their conversations with me–Crystal clearly has strong feelings about other people. “Some of them I can’t wait to write their name down–as soon as I figure out what it is. Some of the guys, they are such dickheads,” she said, citing the way they were “cutting me off” at the airport and even in line at meals.

“Honestly, I get along with almost anybody, but like I said, there’s a few dickheads here. So, I’m going to have to play up trying to be their friend and kiss some ass, and vote them off before they vote me off,” she said. Her plan is to “definitely knock off the folks who don’t bring anything to the table,” including the women who are “playing up the whole sexuality thing. … I’m going to have to let them go, too, because they’re not bringing anything to the table. It’s strictly about survival out here.”

That said, she knows that “your fate in this game is determined by other people.” And although she isn’t fond of the “dickheads,” Crystal has favorites, primarily Susie, who she plans to align with. “I can just that tell me and her have this bond going. Hopefully, she’s on my team and we can build alliances and go all the way to the end,” Crystal said.

Overall, Crystal seems very grounded and realistic. When talking about what she’d do with the prize money, she said that “after I pay Uncle Sam his 50 percent,” she’d travel some and build a house, and “probably start a foundation for at-risk youth. I definitely want to do something along those lines, because I was, at one point, an at-risk. … I want to help pull other people out of that situation.” She hopes the show will serve as a “stepping point” for her to be able to help others as she transitions away from being a professional athlete.

Hear her talk about why she can’t fly under the radar, preparing physically for the game, what she hopes her increased fame leads to, and her social game strategy:

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.