Candace Smith: “I don’t want my strength or confidence to be blatant”

Candace Smith has a law degree from Northwestern; has worked as an actor and model; does consulting; is working on a book about self-esteem and an “inner beauty” pageant for inner-city girls. She’s also been a stand-up comic; appeared in a “ton of music videos” (for Lloyd Banks and 50 Cent, among others); appeared on Entourage, Joey, and other TV shows; and said, “I’ve showed my boobs in a movie.” (The movie is Beer Fest.)

I pointed out more than once that her resume seemed to have disparate items on it, but she didn’t really see those as contradictions. And that’s what’s so interesting about her, because they aren’t, really, nor does one thing define her, but the combination is interesting. That she’s modeled or appeared topless in a movie is just as natural as the fact that she practiced law.

The one-time Miss Ohio USA and actor “wasn’t a lifelong fan of Survivor,” but applied anyway last summer. She said she “was always kind of fascinated with it, but I didn’t think of doing” it. Candace applied “the challenge. It’s an amazing challenge, and I haven’t had one in a while. I’ve been comfortable, chilling for a little bit,” she told me. “I think I got burned out and now it’s time for me to rev it up again.”

She was surprised to have actually been cast. “I honestly didn’t think they would actually pick me. I thought CBS would be crazy to put me there. I don’t feel like I’m the typical Survivor person. It’s not like I’m the all-American girl next door. I’m not Elisabeth Hasselbeck,” Candace said. But “obviously, they’re not worried about sticking to the good girl, right wing political image–did I get political for no reason at all?” We were talking the Thursday before the presidential elections, which the cast of Survivor Tocantins missed (the final three or four didn’t learn of the results until December, assuming the others were told at Ponderosa). “I’ve already decided that if McCain wins I’m not going back,” Candace told me. “Honestly, I’m not going to come back. Honestly, I won’t get on the plane.” When she asked me who I voted for, she said, “I was going to have to get up and walk away” if I’d said McCain. That’s a good example of her passion, which only seemed overboard in that instance.

Regarding her career as an actor and model, which included being a Barker’s Beauty on The Price is Right, she’s extremely forthcoming. “Obviously, I wasn’t looking for an Academy Award with Beer fest,” Candace laughed. “On the Price is Right, I only lasted a couple months, they didn’t really like me,” she said, because she didn’t like “not being able to talk” (more on that in the audio clip below).

Candace left law because “I didn’t like it, and so that’s it, I quit,” and moved to L.A. because “I’d always loved performance.” Now, though, she said “I feel like I’ve been retired from this.” That’s her response to those who think she’s on Survivor just for the exposure. “Honestly, I could’ve done reality TV a long time ago. I’ve been in L.A. four and a half years and I’ve never necessarily wanted to use that as a stepping stone,” she said. She also said those other possible reality shows were “cheesy. This isn’t; I don’t care what anyone has to say. This is, like, for real. … We haven’t even started and I’ve already done so much soul-searching already.”

In the game, her strategy involves “kind of just being me. I’m a hard-working person anyway, and I’m pretty considerate and respectful,” she said. “My strategy is definitely to put more energy into trying to relate to the women, because I think the guys will feel comfortable with me, and I think I’ll do well in the physical challenges. Really, you never know with this game, so part of my strategy is just being flexible and being ready to adapt second by second. Because when they switch things up, you can’t stay complacent and comfortable,” Candace told me.

She cited Jacquie Berg‘s elimination from Survivor Gabon, and added, “You can’t stay comfortable with this original alliance you have; you start all over again. I don’t think you should form these undying alliances from the very beginning, because you never know what twists and turns are going to come.”

Candace laughed at CBS bio’s description of her as “brutally honest” and “a total bitch,” but said they’re accurate. However, she added, “I’m not planning on coming out of the gate as a ruthless bitch everyone hates. It’s going to be subtle. I don’t want my strength or confidence to be blatant; I want it to be subtle.” There are other strengths she brings to the game, too. “I can be a diplomat, I can negotiate. I think that I’m pretty analytical, I know how to reason with people very well. Some people may look at that as manipulating. Maybe. Who cares?” Candace said.

As to her fellow competitors, she was already annoyed by some, like the people who were “cutting lines, spilling stuff and not picking it up. I notice everything and little things like that says something: lack of respect, lack of consideration. Will that wear on me and will I end up sticking my foot in my mouth? Probably. Probably.”

That will challenge her in the game, as Candace said that “some people’s air of entitlement is going to be hard for me–and I’m getting a little deep here, I don’t know if you mind–but I’ve noticed in past seasons that sometimes people who’ve had to endure more in their life have a more difficult time in this environment because people who haven’t had to experience much, it becomes really obvious in an environment like this.” That’s one of her challenges in the game: “I know that’s going to be really hard for me … to deal with the people who’ve been sheltered and babied their entire life.”

Candace told me that “Tarzan is intriguing” (Ben/Coach, I presume). “I really want to be on a tribe with him. There’s just something about him. I’m like, ‘He would protect me.’ But who knows; he could be the first one to throw me under the bus.” While she didn’t talk about others in terms of actual game play, she did point out that “as the days go on, people become more and more attractive. And I’m not sure if that’s because I’m isolated in the woods or if I’m having the opportunity to see another layer to their beauty.”

There were “three guys that’re looking hot to me right now, so that’s not even a threesome, that’s a foursome,” Candace laughed, and also noted that “the only black guy could be my uncle” and while “I’ve been known to date a couple older men, but not” people who look like her uncle. Earlier, she said that, once the show ends, “Maybe I’ll do Playboy, or maybe I’ll meet a husband on the show. Then we’ll get married on TV, then I’ll have a baby on TV.”

On a more serious note, Candace wants to “help the young girls and then show my boobs.” She’s writing a book and working on the pageant, and with both, “I feel like I finally found something that I can be good at, that’s exciting and can be fulfilling for me, helping young girls. It’s almost kind of selfish because I finally would feel kind of good about something. That and Paylboy, those are the things I want to do when I get back,” Candace told me.

While she was being funny, she was also very serious. “I feel like I’m a new kind of role model; I’m not freaking perfect. You don’t have to be to be a role model,” she said. “There’s young girls out there that aren’t perfect and they’ve made mistakes and they feel like, ‘Well, shit, I’m not good enough because I don’t meet up to this standard.’ Yeah, you are.”

Hear Candace discuss why people think she’s “a very big bitch,” her “main concern” in challenges, and not being a “cooperative model” on the Price is Right:

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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.