Paloma Soto-Castillo: “I don’t think you can compare…the next 39 days to my life outside of it”

Paloma Soto-Castillo is a 24-year-old student who has missionary parents, so she’s lived in different places. A year and a half ago, went to Kenya to do volunteer work where she “completely bushed it,” she said. That’d seem like excellent experience, but for a number of reasons, Paloma seems at once to be prepared for the game and not at all.

She was recruited at the Hard Rock Hotel’s Rehab pool party in Las Vegas, and is a student who graduated with a degree in communications last December but is currently working as a waitress and getting ready to return to school. While she has seen past seasons and understands the basic tenets of the game, I’d say she’s among those who know the least about it. While Paloma was pleasant, nice, and thoughtful, she ends up being kind of forgettable.

Paloma likens Survivor to a game like Monopoly and said she’ll “do whatever it takes,” regardless of her faith. Refreshingly, she said she wouldn’t draw any lines in advance of the competition because she doesn’t know what’s coming. “I don’t want to be that person that was interviewed … and then you watch me three months later and say, that girl’s such a hypocrite,” she said.

We talked a lot about that, because Paloma wants to differentiate between her game self and her day-to-day self, she insisted that what happens on the show doesn’t reflect who she is. While that’s not unlike the argument other contestants made, she seemed especially concerned about not being judged for what she does. “The situation is so different you can’t compare it to real life. Like, when I’m lying to someone on the game, I’m not lying because of resentment or things that I harbor inside my heart, it’s because I want to win a million dollars. So it’s completely different. It’s like you’re comparing oranges and apples. I don’t think you can compare this life and the next 39 days to my life outside of it,” Paloma told me.

That ideology works as a guard against accusations of hypocrisy, but at other points during our conversation, she’d also say contradictory or hypocritical things and not be aware of that. “I don’t gamble but I do like to play Texas Hold ‘Em,” she said, saying that she often wins or comes in second during tournaments.

Hypocrisy aside, that’s a skill that could benefit her in the game, except her Survivor strategy seems to be to wait around until everyone has no choice but to give her the $1 million. Paloma plans to “be myself, be low-key, let people bicker at each other, take each other out, be really helpful around camp, try my best during challenges, just be really active but at the same time not be too loud, where they notice, you know. And then, towards the end of the game, once my biggest threats have been taken out by each other, then I can just step up the game and eventually sneak up their somehow,” she said.

And if she does win, she has perhaps the most noble plan of any contestant, planning to give some of it to charity. She’s concerned that if her fellow tribemates learn that, she’ll be voted out because they’ll think, “she’s going to give some of her money to kids in Africa and build a school, so I’m not going to take her,” Paloma said. She also wants to buy a house, go on a vacation, and do other things with the prize.

Hear Paloma discuss being herself in the game and her role in the tribe:

Review: Married at First Sight

Marriage At First Sight

In an era of Tinder and Grindr, instant acceptance or dismissal of a potential partner, or instant sex with another body, Married at First Sight offers the thrill of watching strangers deal with the very basics of relationships.

Beyond the headline-grabbing premise, the series has turned out to be a stripped-down, authentic exploration of something very interesting. Read the full review.

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.