Since CBS' Survivor: Fiji has been shuffled all over the place because of basketball — off last week, airing Wednesday at 8 pm/ET this week — and all of the promos are promising a big twist, you might have forgotten that Rita Verreos was blindsided during the show's most recent torch-snuffing. But while Rita may have laid low during the game, the sassy single mom let loose during her interview with TVGuide.com about what it would take to win this game, the problem with beauty pageants, and Moto's utterly unfair advantage.
TVGuide.com: As a single mom, what did your kids think of you getting voted off?
Rita Verreos: They were so sad because they couldn't figure out why. What did Mommy do that was so bad? In fact, I'm still trying to figure out what I did that was so detrimental.
TVGuide.com: Is talking about lip gloss the end of the world? Is that the real reason?
Rita: There was no real reason, that's the point. If there had been one, they would have shown it. I hadn't done anything that merited me being voted off.
TVGuide.com: I didn't see you as weak in the challenges.
Rita: Exactly. Everybody was equal. I don't think that I stood out doing anything negative enough to be voted off. I think that Rocky got paranoid because he screwed up on the challenge and that's what made him go off and make up that stuff about me being annoying. Rocky says that I talk too much? From Mr. Diarrhea Mouth himself? Up until then, was I an annoying talker based on what had been shown?
TVGuide.com: No, actually you seemed to be more under the radar than anything.
Rita: I kept it together, and was just very observant. I was making myself available when I needed to be and not available when I didn't need to be. I thought I was playing a really intelligent game.
TVGuide.com: You weren't breaking down in tears, like some other people....
Rita: Hello! Why did I get voted off? Because I was missing a certain body part that would turn me into a man.
TVGuide.com: Interesting theory. It has been all women to have left so far, except for Gary, who left for medical reasons.
TVGuide.com: I thought Anthony was a goner when he had his breakdown.
Rita: I'm telling you... viewers are saying, "If I were Rita, I would have been blindsided, too, because it was just so evident that Anthony was going to go." Where did this come from? How crazy does Rocky sound when he is bashing Anthony, and then the next week he wants to go out and have lunch with him?
TVGuide.com: Does Rocky think he's giving pep talks? Is he trying to lift people's spirits?
Rita: I guess they were his version of pep talks because they were more downer talks. In fact, of anyone, I think the strength that I afforded the tribe was emotional strength more than anything physical. You never saw me breaking down. When I talked about something, it was always positive. When I made a comment, as I did on the last show, it was constructive: "Let's not put so many chefs in the kitchen." It wasn’t like, "You guys are a bunch of a--holes. You just can't shut up. Why can't you listen?"
TVGuide.com: The other tribe was at each others' throats all the time. Were you surprised to see that, since you weren't around them?
Rita: I called it! I said it when I was out there [on the island]: "Don't be fooled by the fact that they are having all this luxury. I have a feeling it isn't all smooth." From the time that they chose the camp [instead of immunity] I thought, "Something funky is going on over there. I don't think those people are getting along as much as they want us to believe." During my whole Latino excursion, as I call it, they were all over there and I was by myself on Ravu. I knew the kind of personalities that they had, so I'm not surprised that they are clashing.
TVGuide.com: What did you think of the initial split/twist?
Rita: Horrible! I had to be careful with my facial expressions because we Latins tend to be very passionate, and when we were divided you could see [how upset I was]. I was lucky Jeff [Probst] didn't catch it, because he caught Boo. When Boo saw that I was on the other tribe, he shook his head. I looked at him and said, "I'm f---ked," but I quickly caught myself; I didn't want Ravu to know how sad I was to be on their tribe because they were going to hate me. I thought we were unevenly matched from the beginning. Then we just got consecutively worse. We kept losing, and losing by so little. It was very demoralizing.
TVGuide.com: I thought the last reward challenge with the wrestling was completely unfair. Moto had such a physical advantage over you.
Rita: Oh, my god, what was that? What the hell? Even the mental challenges, do you think our brains were even functioning the same as their brains? We'd been through Survivor and so far they've been on Fantasy Island. The producers actually apologized to us after that challenge. They said, "We saw it and we didn't sleep last night thinking about what was going to happen to you guys." They didn't show this, but the cartilage in my nose cracked. Sandra cracked my nose.
TVGuide.com: But you toughed it out.
Rita: I never complained. And not only that, but I went again.
TVGuide.com: You are a tough cookie.
Rita: Yeah, I'm a tough cookie, honey. But did that come into play when the decision was made? Not to be mean, but here's my take on that moment. The members of Ravu knew that my nose had been cracked, because Jeff stopped everything at that point and brought the medics in. I didn't ask for it. Jeff said, "Are you OK?" and I said, "Yes, I'm fine." He said, "No, your nose is bleeding." I said, "Let's just go with it. Let's go!" and he said, "No, you are being too tough." The medic said that the cartilage is cracked, but the nose isn't broken. I said I wanted to go on. Then it was my turn again, and Michelle said, "Wait, this is insane, you guys are going to let Rita go again? Hello!" It was her way of saying that Earl or anyone would be a better match for Cassandra. But of course, when it came time to be a real man, they just [looked the other way]. But when it was time to criticize women about talking about lip gloss, then they are all manly.
TVGuide.com: Who was your alliance with?
Rita: I had a couple things going on. It was Mookie, Michelle, Rocky and I. Then Earl and Anthony approached me. I said yes, because at that point I had had enough of Mookie.
TVGuide.com: How hard was it to be away from your kids?
Rita: It was excruciating. This is going to make me sound like a bad mommy, but the only way that I got through it was to not think about them. I thought about them the first night and I almost lost it. If you put yourself in my shoes it wasn't just the time factor, but the fact that I am their sole parent right now. Their dad isn't even in the same country. I'm the only parent they have and [the only] provider they've known for the past three years. I cannot give my parents enough gratitude and props for stepping in and giving me this chance of a lifetime.
TVGuide.com: I'm sure they are proud.
Rita: My son thinks I rock. He's like, "Mom, don't worry about it, you're going to be on All-stars." I'm like, "Oh, you're putting me up for this again?" His main impetus in making me do this was that his teacher was a big Survivor fan. I didn't want to do it. At first I was scared to death. "Are you kidding? I'm going to die!"
TVGuide.com: You knew what you were getting into, though.
Rita: Yeah, for me it was more symbolic. After three years of struggling and trying to make ends meet and jump-start a career, I'd been feeling the total opposite of a survivor. I'm very spiritual, so when this suddenly came into my life I thought this must be God up to his old little tricks. How ironic is it that I am feeling the total opposite of a survivor and what lands on my lap is something called Survivor? It just gave me that reminder of, "Why are you doubting? Look what you have achieved. You are doing it for your two kids and this is just the beginning and don't give up." I set an example for myself and hopefully other women my age and single parents — that you are never too old to dream.
TVGuide.com: Are you back advising pageant girls?
Rita: I do coach girls for the Miss USA pageant. But my main goal is to hopefully land something as a TV host. I have a big goal to hopefully, someday, be called upon when Barbara Walters decides to put a Latina point of view on The View, which has yet to be represented on there. They've had every other ethnicity on there and with the Hispanic population what it is in the United States, we should be represented there. I can't afford not to aim high, because I've got my two little ones to set an example for.
TVGuide.com: They have pulled from the Survivor pool before with Elisabeth Hasselbeck.
Rita: They have, and if they can have a shoe designer on there.... I do have a journalism background, and I have a literature degree under my belt. It isn't too far from the left.
TVGuide.com: Back to the pageants for a sec: do you think they are getting a bad rep lately?
Rita: I know! What the heck is going on with the pageants? That is insane. I'm disappointed that [Donald] Trump made the decision [to let Tara Conner keep her Miss USA title], because for me pageants have always been about representing a positive image, and there are rules and standards that we should not bend. I thought pageants were to make girls the role models that they should be. I'm personally very upset because the girl that I trained last year was the first runner-up that could have taken the crown. I'm training this year's Miss California for Miss USA [airing Friday at 9 pm, on NBC]. I'll be there and, as you know my brother, Nick, was on Project Runway, so he's designing her gown.
TVGuide.com: What a talented family you have.
Rita: We are very, very blessed.
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