While she didn't reap the initially available $1.5 million, Tarah Smith was happy to emerge from Unanimous' bunker nearly $400,000 richer. Not a bad payday for a struggling handbag designer trying to keep her company afloat. What exactly was it like living in a sterile underground lair with eight other people, all of whom were tasked to pick one person to give the cash prize to? TVGuide.com spoke with Tarah about this wild experience.
TVGuide.com: Has the fact that you've won sunk in yet?
Tarah Smith: We got done filming like two months ago, so it has had some time to sink in. But now I am reliving it again, which is awesome because now I can talk about it with my friends and family. I'm re-experiencing the excitement.
TVGuide.com: I'm not good with the math and the money-ticking-down thing.... How long were you actually in there?
Tarah: I'm horrible with math, but we were in the actual bunker for 10, maybe 11 days .
TVGuide.com: Was it confusing to figure out what time of day it was?
Tarah: It was crazy because they didn't show a lot of the stuff we went through. Everyone is like, "You were only in there for a couple of days. How come you can't handle things? How come it is so stressful?" But it was really unbelievable! You had to sleep with the lights on; everything the coffee, food, like lasagna was kept cold to mess with us.... It was all these little things that you take for granted and then you just don't have. It was aggravating and frustrating and awkward, and that is why it got under people's skin. That is why we were like, "This is so crazy."
TVGuide.com: Did you have any idea what you were getting into?
Tarah: No, I didn't. They said, "You aren't going to date anybody" I'm in a relationship, so I don't want to go on a dating show "and you aren't going to jump out of an airplane or eat any bugs." They just told me it was going to be an amazing experience and that I was going to have an opportunity to win a lot of money [and would be selected from] a small amount of people. Because I have a handbag company, they were like, "You can plug your handbags and talk about your company. It will be great exposure." That was my incentive to do the show. I've been trying to follow this dream that I have, but at the same time I've had no income.
TVGuide.com: So are you using the prize money to help your company?
Tarah: Yeah. Being a starving artist for so long and not being able to have money, I'm shell-shocked right now. I can pay off all my debts and get level and have the company work and pursue new things that I haven't been able to do.
TVGuide.com: What did your friends and family think about the show?
Tarah: Everyone was like, "It's OK if you didn't win." Because everyone had these strong personalities in there, they really didn't think it was a possibility [that I had won].
TVGuide.com: That's not very nice.
Tarah: I know! I was like, "Can you throw me some love here?" My grandparents say they knew I won the entire time. My friends were floored and were crying. It was just a really nice break for me.
TVGuide.com: They must have really been down when you were outcast and ineligible to win the prize for a while.
Tarah: They absolutely were. But it is weird they didn't expect me to win, so [for them] it was just like, "Oh, this is when she gets voted off." My friends have been so supportive of me, though. I literally could not survive in Los Angeles without them. Because I have my own company and have no cash, they pay for everything. My best friend has an amazing clothing shop and she gives me all my clothes. Winning for me is so amazing because I can actually give back to them what they've been giving to me for years.
TVGuide.com: Back to inside the bunker. It seems now that it was a good thing that Jonathan voted against Steve during the first almost-unanimous vote. But at the time, were you very upset?
Tarah: Yeah. Steve is an amazing man and we all wanted to vote for him so quickly because he just shared so much of himself with us. [He made me feel] very fortunate for the things that I have and that I have accomplished in my life. When we decided to vote for him, I was like, "This is a guy who needs it more than I do," and it was cool for me to find that out about myself. Given the opportunity, would I be selfless? And I was. I'm obviously glad now that Jonathan did change the vote, but at the time I was frustrated because I really did want to give it to Steve. Right now, I'm glad that he threw it and the game did continue because... I would rather win.
TVGuide.com: You were playing a game.
Tarah: Yeah. You forget that when you are in there.... "This person has this and this person needs this." But then I was like, "Hold on, I've known them for three days. This is a game and what makes them more deserving? I shouldn't be penalized because I want to work hard. Because Richard doesn't have a job... that is kind of his fault.
TVGuide.com: Were you mad at Kelly for walking out and thus cutting the prize money in half?
Tarah: I am actually glad that happened because I believe she was the kind of person who was so belittling that we couldn't have this outcome with her there. We couldn't have gone through this game and learn because no one was able to talk while she was there. [Her leaving] was a huge move.
TVGuide.com: They brought out secrets early on in the game, without names attached. Were you nervous that people would find out your secret?
Tarah: I wasn't nervous about it, because of how the conversation was going. It is such a huge story in my life and my nickname stems from that, so I'm glad that it got shown.
TVGuide.com: All we were told was that you were arrested for possessing live ammunition. What is the story?
Tarah: When I first started my handbag company, I had a Mohawk and I was going through an aggressive time in my life, but it was all for the sake of fashion. I started a line with brass-knuckle handles and all this aggressive stuff on my handbags, but because I was living in St. Louis and selling them in California, I would bring them back and forth. They were all one-of-a-kind pieces and they were all unbelievable, but at the same time they were live ammunition. So when I was going through the airport a couple of times I got arrested, because it's a federal offense to have live ammunition in the airport. Everyone started calling me "Bullet," and it became my nickname.
TVGuide.com: Were you glad Unanimous specified that it was live ammunition and not a firearm?
Tarah: Right. I'm glad about that, because then people would have been like, "Ah, we've got a crazy one living with us."
TVGuide.com: I actually think there were some crazy ones living in there....
Tarah: That is very true.
TVGuide.com: Will you keep in touch with anyone?
Tarah: I would like to, for sure, because they did change my life. I would love to see Jamie, who was one of the rarest, most unbelievable women I have ever met. It was upsetting because they showed her as sick and angry, but honestly she was selfless and giving... one of the most pure-hearted people. She's an awesome chick.
TVGuide.com: Will you ever do anything like this again?
Tarah: I kinda got bit by the bug. I'm all excited and I want to do my handbags, but now I have the opportunity to do [other] things as well. I have [been a singer] my entire life it is my No. 1 passion and I'd love to explore that. I'd love to be a veejay, too. I'm really checking things out now because it was an amazing experience.
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