Parvati Shallow: “I can put on this really great, happy-go-lucky, girly facade”

This is the 10th in a series of interviews with Survivor Heroes vs. Villains cast members.

Parvati Shallow In many ways, I think Parvati has become the face of a Survivor winner over the past few years. As I told her, so many new, primarily female contestants I’ve talked to over the three seasons following Micronesia cited her as a role model, and Surviving Survivor tonight gave her more airtime than perhaps anyone else. “That’s what I was going for: empowering women,” Parvati laughed. “All I did out there was listen to my gut. I took it day by day by day.”

She said that the reception she gets from viewers is okay with her. “If I come off as being happy-go-lucky and cutesy, that’s fine; I’d rather be that than Debbie Downer. I don’t care if people don’t like me for that.” And in fact, it’s part of her game play. “I can put on this really great, happy-go-lucky, girly facade. It’s really a talent I have, innate talent. But then people don’t understand what’s going on inside my head, that I’m always running scenarios and trying to figure out what’s the best way to work with each individual, and then also as a group to bring them together. I think that’s one of my strengths, actually, is just being able to work with different personalities.”

Parvati is one of the winners on Survivor Heroes vs. Villains who had a similar strategy for dealing with that perceived deficit. “I think I can turn that around and use it to my advantage, because I think these people aren’t going to want to vote for someone in the end who’s already won. No one wants to do that. I think being a winner could actually help me have people keep me around, just because I’ve won once and they don’t think I can do it twice. I don’t believe that, personally,” she said.

While Parvati said, “I don’t have a set strategy,” she plans to “play as hard as I can, be a dominant social force, dominant physical force, and just win based on merit at the end. … I’m going to at least form relationships with every person out there,” she said, noting that in Micronesia, she didn’t have perfect relationships with everyone, which presented a risk at the end. “This time I won’t do that.”

Parvati is on season 20 with three of her previous allies, but she has no pre-season alliances. “You have to be super-fluid and adaptable to win, which is why I think it’s hilarious that people’s asking me about pre-alliances and who I’m going to align with and who I’m going to kick out first. I don’t know; you can’t know that stuff until you get there. … I think it’s the most foolish thing to do.” Parvati said others form alliances because “I think people here are just scared. Everyone’s running around paranoid that they’re going to be the first person voted out, so they’re trying to do anything to make themselves feel safe, and they’ll side with whoever gives them a wink and a nod in the hallway.”

Even though she realizes it “will be threatening to a bunch of people here,” she’ll consider re-aligning with the same people again. “If we do decide to do that, we’re going to have to keep that lo-pro,” Parvati told me. “I would like to play with Amanda again … we can kind of read each other’s minds, which is a very good skill to have out there. So I would like to play with her again, but I don’t know how she feels about playing with me.” But she also cited Cirie and Amanda as her biggest threats, “because I know how good they are” and “because those girls could win this game.” So, Parvati said, “I won’t risk it” and if she gets “a weird vibe” she’ll turn on someone like Cirie immediately.

Overall, Parvati is impressed with the other cast members. “No, oh my god, all these people are serious competition. I’m just looking at everyone as a threat. I’m not paranoid, I’m not running around scared, but I am going to give everyone some serious credit as competitors. I’m not going to take anyone from granted.”

But she also told me that she’s wary of their egos. “You have to treat these people with kid gloves. Everyone has huge egos. … I’m really going to have to think before I speak and filter my words and don’t hurt anyone’s feelings,” she said. “The smallest little thing could set these people off. Some of them are very big babies, I think.” I asked if she included herself. “Oh my god, I’m such a diva,” she said, and joked about her demands (listen to that below).

Post-Survivor, Parvati has been traveling, hosting (“I love hosting, I love entertainment, I always have, that’s why I moved out to L.A. in the first place before any of this Survivor hoopla began”), and doing triathalons, but said, “I’ve really separated myself” from other cast members, except for James, who she’s friends with.

She hasn’t even kept up with the show. “I watched a little bit. I didn’t even watch my own season,” she said. “When I came back from Survivor, I couldn’t even hear the music, it gave me, like, panic attacks. I was so traumatized. I don’t know what it is. Ask James: it happens to him, too. We both get panic attacks when we hear that music. It’s the beginning credits.”

Listen to Parvati joke about her diva demands, and the difference between interacting with cast members during the game and in real life:

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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.