Ashley Trainer: “I am here to prove how strong I actually am”

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

Ashley TrainerInterviewing Ashley was my strangest Survivor interview ever: it took place in the back seat of an SUV while it was raining, and after we were talking for three minutes or so, we were rudely interrupted because she needed to get her photo taken, and then shoot her CBS interview (people with cameras always get priority, alas!). So we didn’t have the time or the environment to go into a lot of depth.

But I really like Ashley, nearly entirely due to her infectious enthusiasm and love for the game she was about to play. “It’s amazing. You have no idea how excited I am,” she said immediately. As an alternate, she’d just learned that she was joining the group. “I found out about two hours ago what was going on, and I was beyond thrilled. I thought I was going home; I was so bummed out earlier, and then they brought me in and told me, and I broke down in tears and cried I was so excited,” she said.

Ashley graduated from college two weeks before going to Samoa, and works at a tanning salon “until I get a big-girl job.” She has watched every season—primarily with her dad—and calls being on the show “a dream come true to me.”

Ashley’s strategy is, well, to form an alliance. “I am going to try to group up with a couple females and a couple males and have an alliance,” she said. “The last couple seasons, cross-alliances have worked, where some people don’t even know they have an alliance with another person, so maybe I’ll try that.” She cited Parvati as a role model in the game, calling Parvati “awesome. She played the game so well, especially the second time around” because she was “kind of flirty but very manipulative. I think that’s a good game to play.”

She said she’s drawn to both Shambo and Kelly as potential allies, but not Ben, who is walking around like he’s “the best thing on earth.” One possible game plan is “having someone do your dirty work for you,” Ashley said. “That may help me out a bit.” She called herself “kind of a planner,” but she didn’t have a planned-out strategy.

Ashley has traveled a lot, including to Africa (“my dad is very passionate about Africa”) and Europe, and says that will help her in the game. “I feel like when I travel, I really take it in. I feel like I have a really open mind about people and just about places, and I think that will come to my advantage for sure in the game, because some people have never traveled before.” She thinks “the rain, and not sleeping, and not eating, is going to be the hardest part for sure.”

What she has in excitement she lacks in introspection or maturity, maybe. For example, when she cited her Midwestern “wholesome values and morals,” she said she’d lie (“you have to backstab to win this game”). But when I asked about whether or not that conflicted with her broadly referenced values, she said, “I don’t think that—I don’t know, it’s so hard to explain. I don’t think that’s going to be against my values. I don’t know. That’s definitely a hard question.”

One refrain she returned to often was proving to herself and others what kind of person she is. “I’m so excited to prove to myself how strong I really am,” she said. Citing the last few months of school, she said, “it’s kind of been an emotional roller-coaster, to say the least. It’s definitely made me grow as a person.”

Overall, Ashley said people tend to underestimate her: “I think a lot of people look at me as kind of a weak person, but I am here to prove how strong I actually am—prove it to myself and to other people.”

Hear Ashley discuss how excited she was to be cast, what being a Midesterner means to her, and what she thinks about close-minded people:

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