After making it through 39 days in the Guatemalan jungle and outwitting, outplaying and outlasting her 17 other competitors, on Sunday night Danni Boatwright was crowned the champion of Survivor: Guatemala. The 30-year-old Kansas City sports-radio announcer won by a landslide over Stephenie, who only received one out of the seven votes cast. TVGuide.com spoke to Danni the day after her win to find out how she managed to make it through without lying too much — and why she didn't bust former NFL player Gary Hogeboom for his deceptive tale.
Danni Boatwright: Thank you so much.
TVGuide.com: Has it sunk in yet?
Danni: Not yet. I got my check, and it's just weird. I don't think it's going to sink in until I get home.
TVGuide.com: What was it like waiting to find out if you or Steph won?
Danni: That's the hardest part, just spending that whole time waiting. You think you know, but you get blindsided so much in the game that you're not sure. I just didn't want to get my hopes up until it was all done.
TVGuide.com: Watching the season unfold on TV, were you worried they weren't going to vote for you?
Danni: When I got finished with the game, I pretty much knew I had it because I didn't really make anybody mad. I didn't even say anything about anyone. I thought Judd might be mad because I manipulated the situation to get him out of there.
TVGuide.com: He was more mad at Stephenie.
Danni: She should have talked to him about it. But she didn't.
TVGuide.com: Was Judd's vote the one you were most surprised to get?
Danni: No, no, I wasn't surprised, because I knew Steph had really made him mad. Cindy was so in awe of Stephenie, I thought she might have voted for her. I didn't really know where Cindy stood.
TVGuide.com: Rafe was upset because you didn't take him to the final two. Are you friends now?
Danni: Oh yeah, he came out to Kansas City and we went to a football game. We talk every day. We're good friends. He even said, "Danni, you made the right move, because you for sure would have beaten Steph. I should have won the immunity." Rafe is such a classy guy and he's not a sore loser. We saw some sore losers, and he's not one of them. He's an amazing person.
TVGuide.com: Besides Rafe, is there anyone you're going to stay close to?
Danni: Stephenie and I actually got really close. Brandon — the farm boy from Kansas — and I talk all the time; he's like a little brother. Brooke and I are close, and Margaret. That was probably the closest bunch for me.
TVGuide.com: What about Gary?
Danni: Oh, gosh! Gary's like the best father and best husband. We had some talks out there. We could just walk and talk and have fun. I dropped the whole "Gary Hogeboom, quarterback" thing because we were in an alliance. Also, I saw him throw, and he wasn't very good. I thought, "Maybe he isn't the guy I've seen in pictures."
TVGuide.com: Did you ever think you should have tried to get him out earlier because he was lying?
Danni: No. I may have pushed it if we didn't have a switch in tribes, but we became buddies and I just let it go. It all shows that you almost have to lie. He was the most wonderful person I've ever met and he started the game off with a lie. A big lie.
TVGuide.com: You played the game pretty admirably.
Danni: I did, but I was put in a situation where it was easier for me to do that because I didn't have an alliance to eventually go back on. If it had stayed where it was — Bobby Jon, Brandon, Gary and myself — we would have had to turn on each other. We did that in Yaxha, when we had to vote off Amy and Brian, but we were honest with them about it. We really didn't want to hurt somebody's feelings, and they respected us for that.
TVGuide.com: Was voting people out the toughest part of this game?
Danni: It depends on who it was. [Laughs] When Brandon got voted off, of course, I didn't vote for him, but when we had to vote off Amy and Brian, I did have to make that decision. That was tough, because we really got close and they were awesome people and players. Judd and Jamie, just by the way they talked about our tribe — all confident and cocky — it was fun to watch them get voted off. I was like, "Ha, where's that strong alliance now?" I loved watching the show because I didn't see all that stuff [during the actual game]. When we went fishing, they said they were going to knock us off one by one and stuff, so it's cool to see one of the Yaxha people win the whole thing.
TVGuide.com: I was a little worried about you because you started to look very, very thin.
Danni: It's so funny, because people say to me or say over the Internet, "Oh, she's anorexic," but I hadn't eaten for a really long time and I'm just thin. I was disgustingly skinny. Watching last night, I was like, "holy cow!"
TVGuide.com: That may have helped you on the balance challenge.
Danni: I grew up doing gymnastics, which helped me with that. But [being thin] did help with the heat, because I had really low body fat.
TVGuide.com: Watching the finale, I was surprised to see how you are now.
Danni: Yeah, I've gained 30 pounds — I needed to. I also have a very high metabolism, so it doesn't take long to drop weight, but gosh, it was gross. I was like 100 pounds coming out of the game, and I'm 5' 10"!
TVGuide.com: I was hoping someone would take you on one of the rewards, because you needed to eat.
Danni: [Laughs] My poor mom — when I got off the plane, she knew I went far because my legs were so tiny. And I lost my butt completely.
TVGuide.com: I hope you got it back.
Danni: Oh, yeah. And then some.
TVGuide.com: You said you wanted to spend the money on your family. Do you have specific things in mind?
Danni: Yeah, sometime I'm going to sit down with my mom, because everyone in the family has a different need and I need to figure out exactly what I'm going to do.
TVGuide.com: Well, you do have a lot of siblings!
Danni: Yes, I have a ton. I went in there knowing that was something I wanted to do, even before I won. I thought, "This could be a huge blessing." In the final immunity challenge, I'm thinking, "I've got so [many family members] with financial needs who could use this, and I can't let them down."
TVGuide.com: What do you hope to do next?
Danni: Sports are definitely my passion. I grew up with all those brothers, and it's just what I've known my whole life and I love it. I probably have to be a little bit more well rounded, but I'm not. But I want to go back and do sports radio. Before Survivor, I was getting into a little more TV, as far as sports go, so I want to maybe go down that avenue.
TVGuide.com: Are we going to see you on the NFL sidelines someday?
Danni: Actually, college basketball's my favorite. It's just fun to be down in the action. While Survivor was on, I was working with one of the stations back home where a friend of mine is the sports director, and I got to take a camera and videotape the high-school football games. I loved it! I almost got tackled a few times, but it was so much fun to be down there in the action, then come back and make your highlight tapes and stuff. I want to do that for sure.