IVINS — Sandy Faria believes she is perfect for the part.
The New Jersey native is 6-foot-1 and 50 years young. She spends half her time in the wild and has a rugged philosophy that has carried her through a half-century on the planet. With her long, white hair, Faria is a 21st century image of her great-great-grandmother, a Lenape Indian who married the chief of the Delaware tribe.
She is perfect, she says. Perfect to be among the next group of castaways to be selected for CBS television's hit show "Survivor."
"I do a lot of hiking, and I guess I take my vitamins on a regular basis, but I'm basically an extremely strong person," Faria said from her home in Ivins. "I definitely consider myself a survivalist."
In the wake of the "Survivor" show's ratings bonanza, many people do, and thousands like Faria across the country are vying for spots on the next reality-based show, "Survivor II: The Australian Outback."
Colleen Sullivan, director of prime-time series publicity for CBS, won't say how many people have applied to the program from Utah. But interest in the top-rated show — which chronicles the group dynamics and eating habits of 16 strangers on an island in the South China Sea — has eclipsed network expectations. "It's huge," Sullivan said.
Lots of people apparently want a chance to win $1 million as the ultimate survivor.
At a tryout sponsored by a Bay Area television affiliate, one man armed himself with a tiki torch and scrawled the word "survivor" across his chest. He later slurped down a goldfish to prove his ruggedness, according to a report in the San Francisco Examiner.
Faria is taking a low-key approach. She borrowed a video camera from Dixie College to tout her philosophy and talents that should make her "Survivor"-worthy.
She has studied wilderness survival and says she
has a unique outlook on life inherited long ago from her American Indian foremother. "I consider myself a spiritual person. I believe you have a mission in life, and you touch people's lives as you go and become a better person that way."
She has an interest in totem animals and believes each of us "get messages from the birds that fly across your path and the clouds in the sky."
Faria's life led her in March to Ivins, which she discovered while camping at Gunlock Reservoir. She was living in Las Vegas at the time and shortly after, moved to Washington County. She works as a counselor with Red Cliff Ascent, an outdoor therapy program, where she leads kids into the wilderness and teaches survival and life skills for 60 days. The groups carry their own supplies, cook their own food and hike up to 10 miles a day.
In Faria's mind, it's not a far jump to a rugged island in the middle of nowhere.
"Survivor" is part of the reality-based television phenomenon that includes shows like CBS's new "Big Brother" and MTV's "Real World." The program dominates the CBS Web site, and a special "Survivor" page includes survivalist profiles, highlights from each episode and details of "tribal council" meetings.
Other entertainment sites are feeding "Survivor" fever. Hollywood.com offers "edible insect recipes." Entertainment Weekly Online has "Survivor Updates" and diaries from the show's participants.
Hopeful castaways must make a three-minute video of themselves and apply before July 28. Producers will choose 800 of the thousands of participants to be interviewed in various cities around the country, including Salt Lake City in August, and 48 semi-finalists will go to Los Angeles in September for final interviews. Sixteen finalists will be chosen, and filming will take place in October and November of 2000.
The application says contestants will be selected based upon having the following traits: being strong-willed, outgoing, adventurous, physically and mentally adept, adaptable to new environments and having an interesting lifestyle, background or personality.
Faria hopes she make that cut. "If not," she says, "it was fun trying."