Brett Clouser: “they think I’m the young, naive, optimist, which probably holds true”

This is the 13th in a series of interviews with Survivor Samoa cast members.

Elizabeth KimBrett Clouser is an entrepreneur at age 23 and looks a lot younger, and when I asked him how he thinks the other Survivor Samoa contestants were perceiving him, he said, “they think I’m the young, naive, optimist, which probably holds true to some degree.” Then he added, “besides the naive part.” I think that answer and its coda pretty much sum him up perfectly.

Brett is 23, and was recruited while selling the clothes he designs at a Las Vegas trade show. He said he was a “huge fan earlier on,” and while he hasn’t watched the show recently, he is excited about playing the game. “The only thing I worry about is maybe some of the social interaction, but as far as living outdoors, I’m pretty ready for that,” he said, citing camping and hiking while growing up in Oregon.

Brett calls himself “a big dreamer” who “set[s] big goals.” Deciding to work on his clothing company full-time was “a pretty risky maneuver” but he said he’s “willing to take bigger risks for a potentially greater reward.” His company is The Monument of Our Hearts, and when I asked what that meant, he described the company as “melding apparel and advocacy for body image and self esteem. So what I’m trying to do is utilize clothing and go through the fashion industry, and basically be an activist for body image and positive self esteem, and so forth.” Inspirational messages are printed inside the clothes, and part of the proceeds will be donated to charities.

During our conversation, Brett answered many questions in a somewhat convoluted way, or at least articulated those answers in an unsophisticated way. At the very least, while his answers could make sense and demonstrate insight, they were often muddy and not quite clear. For example, talking about his strategy in the game, Brett said, “There’s always a different winner. The skill sets that person brings is entirely different,” he said, referencing what he’d learned watching previous seasons. “What I’ve really deduced is that I’m going to be really consistent with my personality and be someone that people can rely upon for doing things around camp. Putting in effort where it’s needed, in competition really putting out my best bet. Even if our team is losing, I’m not going to be the person that’s going to give up; I’m going to keep pushing on.”

His strategy, basically, is to be nice and trustworthy, and lead by example. “I will lead in some respects just by my overall attitude and my intensity that I bring to competition and getting things done, but by any means, I won’t be telling people to do this or to do that.” because “me being young, that would be a pretty poor maneuver for myself,” he said. “If you can set yourself apart as someone who’s trusting, I think that will help me in having a little bit more longevity.”

As to lying and betraying others, Brett told me that he plans to be “straightforward. … I don’t really lie too much in my personal life,” but he will do so in the game if it’s necessary. “Calling it lying, if you like, or call it just not fully telling the truth. I’ll do my best to be as straightforward to people as possible, but I’d be surprised if I didn’t lie once in this game and made it to the end,” he said.

Brett also told me he thinks his game play might surprise us. “I think people will perceive me as a pretty nice, genuine, kindhearted individual, but I don’t think people will necessarily see the brain behind the operation, but see my ability to connect with people and ability to manipulate conversations and so forth to really move in the direction that I want. I think for the most part I’ll kind of be the nice, young guy and will be the guy who looks quote-unquote sweet and innocent, and I don’t think that will necessarily hold through throughout the entirety of the game.”

He had somewhat of a hang-up about women, and kind of sounded like a younger version of Dave Ball, so perhaps they’ll team up and form an anti-vagina alliance. “I’m mostly worried about the women. I think the women are going to try to manipulate by me,” Brett said. When I asked if he was easily manipulated by women, he said, “Not at all, but just by watching previous seasons, it seems like the women are the sneakiest and will try to pull the low blow, whereas guys seemed more straightforward. … I have to be wary of their flirtation and the way they interact with me.”

That said, Brett also admitted, “I’m a pretty flirtatious person” and will “try to tone down my flirtatious side, especially with the young, beautiful ladies.” We spent probably a lot of time talking about the way those women–and the men–will perceive him, which was a subject we kept coming back to. “My physical appearance is a few years behind my actual age,” Brett said. “I think they might discount me because I’m younger. When I interact with [Survivor producers and Ponderosa staff], I have more of a positive energy, I let my personality out, I smile a lot. So I think they’ll know I’m more of a positive, likable person, which is good, but it can also be a threatening component come time to when people look at other competitors and see a jury vote.”

When we were talking about perception, I asked about being straight and working as a fashion designer, and Brett said, “People try to stereotype individuals. Me being someone that is straight in an industry where people stereotype a lot of homosexuals as fashion designer, people will maybe attach a certain orientation along with me. Without them knowing, that’s kind of on their end of the stick. But by no means do I have anything against that. I have actually quite a few industry friends who swing from both sides of the plate. I’m a pretty confident person, confident in who I am, and what people may say about me, it’s not going to affect me.”

Ultimately, whether it has to do with his age or sexual orientation or behavior in the game, Brett said, “I consider myself someone that has little to no shame, so I’m not worried at all how I’ll be perceived, whether positive or negative.” While he’d be glad to use show-related publicity to help his company, he said, “I’m not one to aspire toward fame” because it “twists up” celebrities’ lives. But he also said, “I’m not against pursuing acting down the road” if the opportunity should present itself.

Hear Brett talk about why he’s passionate about his company being “positive advocates for healthy body image,” as its web site says:

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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.