Yasmin Giles: “if speaking my mind gets me thrown off, so be it…I won’t compromise who I am”

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

Yasmin GilesI want to make Yasmin Giles’ laugh my ringtone, because it’s a fantastic, full, rich laugh–and she laughs a lot. I’d also like t-shirts with some of her great quotes, and I imagine she’ll be one of the most quotable contestants. I’d just quote our entire 26-minute conversation if transcribing it wouldn’t take forever, because she has a great way of framing her philosophy and ideas.

A few examples: “Disrespect me, and you’re going to feel the wrath, baby.” “I see bullshit coming before it becomes bullshit. I see it on the rise. … I have a third eye for bullshit, nothing but bullshit.” “Your gut can never lead you astray.” “You never know how shit goes.”

All of those things will come into play during her time on Survivor Samoa, as will her general philosophy about game play: “When you play fair, you can still play nasty, but be fair. You’ve gotta be fair about being nasty.” I asked if, say, backstabbing an ally would be fair to that person, and she said yes, if an ally was being targeted by everyone else. “What the fuck am I going to do? Go down with you? No. I might want to save myself, so I’m still being fair, because you’re leaving anyway.” That’s a good way of looking at it, I think. But I asked if she’d turn on an ally who wasn’t being targeted, and she said no. “I don’t want to have to live with that. Let’s keep in mind, there’s still a thing called integrity, and dignity, and I don’t ever want to do anything that I’m going to regret for any price, because anything I do is priceless, and it don’t have a price on it.”

For someone with such strong opinions, she also has an interesting way of dismissing her free will, although I’m sure she wouldn’t characterize it that way. And it’s not really an “it’s in God’s hands” religious philosophy, either (“It can be [but] I think I got that from my mama,” she said, saying later, “I’m not super-religious but I’m extremely spiritual”). “You know what, I try to never worry about anything. Life is free, life is fun. I’m extremely happy I’m here, I’m excited that I was selected, and I just want to play. I actually just like to go with the flow; I don’t think there’s no other way to be. I don’t want to put any added pressure on me,” she said, and then added what sounded like “ooh, sigh–I do that a lot. Puts me back in that zone.”

Yasmin also told me, “I’ve never had a problem competing, because in my head there is no competition,” she said. “Competition to me is none. Things are the way they supposed to be and they always end up the way they should be. So I don’t think of things as competition.”

When I asked about her role in the tribe, she said, “I’m the low-key charmer. I could charm the damn pants off of anyone, especially if they allow me to. I’m definitely not a follower. I wouldn’t say I’m not a leader, but let’s just say, I can play under the radar.” But then she suggested that the role was basically out of her hands: “When I get out here, whatever role I’m supposed to play, I’m prepared to take just that. … I just want to be me, keep things light and fluffy, is my favorite word, and be neutral–I think there’s no other way to be.”

At least all of this makes sense as a Survivor strategy, which is to just wait and see. “I won’t put too much into anything until I’m in the game. Pre-preparation sometimes can kind of fuck you up,” she told me.

Despite having that laissez-faire and “light and fluffy” attitude, she said, “I’m probably going to speak my mind. And if speaking my mind gets me thrown off, so be it, because again, I won’t compromise who I am, what I stand for, my integrity or dignity for nobody.” She said that she’ll call others out on their behavior, but added something about being “supposed” to do that: “If they fucked up, they fucked up, whether or not they admit it. I’m never going to get in your ass unless I’m supposed to or I have to, period.”

At another point, Yasmin became serious and said, “This is a game that’s going to get really dirty, downright nasty–these people are probably going to do anything and everything for this million dollars. But at the end of the day, could you really live with yourself knowing you won a million dollars off of cheating somebody out of something? No integrity. No compassion. No character.”

Yasmin paused. “Yeah, I could! Who couldn’t! I just thought I’d bring that up–I had you going for a second,” she laughed, saying she knew I was thinking, “This dumb little thing could be out before she knows it.” Her sense of humor, clearly, is a big part of who she is, as is her take on life, which sometimes makes a lot of sense, while other times, I didn’t quite get it, like the way she contradicted her previous statements about her “integrity and dignity” here.

Despite that, I really like her, and think she’ll make for great TV because of all of this. Yasmin was sort of recruited for the show: She went shopping with a friend and while having breakfast, she was approached by a casting producer who suggested they audition at a nearby open call. Yasmin decided she’d wait for her friend, but then, “I got on and she didn’t–what do you know?” Previously, she’d watched the show “from time to time” and thought “oh that’s easy, I could do that.”

Her biggest challenge is not the lack of food–“for spiritual reasons, I’m really good at fasting”–but actually “not listening to music,” which she said is “good for the soul, good for the spirit” and “gets you pumped.” So she’ll miss music, especially as something to get her prepped for challenges, “and my extended eyelashes. … Other than that, I can rough it.”

Yasmin has been a stylist for her “whole life,” and said that will help her in the game. “I do read people, but I gotta kind get a feel for them” first. “I never make preconceptions of people,” she said. “If somebody didn’t quite rub me the right way, I don’t look at that, because again, I don’t know this person, but for people that did, that’s in the back of my mind automatically.”

I asked how she might be perceived by others, and she said, “If I didn’t smile a lot, it goes without question, probably the angry black girl. You can quote me on this one, sweetie: If there’s nothing else, I’m going to show the world that all black women are not angry. Persistent we may be, a little bit more aggressive, probably–but any race can be that. But I’ll probably handle myself with grace.”

Hear Yasmin discuss her biggest fear in a challenge, going with the flow, and not being the “angry black girl” but instead dancing a lot:

Surprisingly, man not eaten alive on Eaten Alive

Eaten Alive

Discovery Channel’s happy family holiday special Eaten Alive aired Sunday, rewarding viewers for their two full hours of viewing by ensuring that they spent quality time in the company of others instead of wasting that time doing something else that might not have been as satisfying, such as buying things that have labels which accurately reflect their contents.


Winter 2015 reality TV debut schedule

winter 2015 reality TV schedule

Mark your calendars with all these upcoming reality TV show debuts, including Celebrity Apprentice, The Bachelor, and another season of MasterChef Junior, all of which kick off in early January.

There are also 20+ shows debuting in December--including the one-off return of The Sing Off. No winter break for reality TV.

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.