I got a kick out of this. Thought you guys may enjoy reading how Coby felt about things including Bobby Jon. 8-)'
Survival of the bitchiest
Survivor: Palau’s out gay contestant—and self-described “flamboyant queen”—talks about girls vs. guys, which other contestant he’d like to marry, and whether those donuts cost him $1 million
Openly gay Survivor: Palau contestant Coby Archa made it through a brutal schoolyard tribe-selection process, four weeks of hot and harsh weather, and immunity challenges that pitted both his brain and his brawn against opposing tribe members. But his luck ran out on the April 14 episode, when he was voted off the show by his teammates and became the first member of the jury that will award the $1 million prize to this season’s winner.
Now the 32-year-old hairstylist from Athens, Texas, talks to Advocate.com about his experiences as an openly gay Survivor contestant, the dynamics between the “lazy girls” and “alpha males” on his tribe, and why he doesn’t believe giving up immunity for a couple of glazed donuts ultimately cost him the game.
Advocate.com: We saw in the first episode that you seemed to bond with Angie [Jacusz], but when you were given the opportunity to choose a female member for your tribe, you didn’t pick her. Why not?
Coby: You mean why did I stab that knife in her back? [Laughs] I knew going in that Angie and I were both going to be the outcasts of the game and we were going to have huge targets on our backs. The two of us together would have been an even bigger target. I did it entirely as a strategic move.
Any regrets about that decision?
You know, I think so. Angie obviously proved herself as a great player and a great player for her team. But it was a really hard choice. It was a lot easier for people chosen early to pick others for the tribe, because I really liked all three girls who were left to pick from--even Wanda [Shirk]. [Wanda was not chosen for a tribe, and was the first woman eliminated from Survivor.] Sure, she was a little nutty, but she had 100% passion for the game. So it was a really tough choice all the way around. But, yes, I do think I regret that.
You seemed to dread the schoolyard approach of picking tribes. Did you think that no one would choose you because they thought you were gay?
No. I thought I would be picked because I’m self-delusional. [Laughs] But the reason I was crying is because I know how it feels to not be picked, because being the gay kid, I was never picked for a team as a child. I was crying in empathy for whoever would be last. It’s such a horrible way to start the game. It’s like everyone’s worst fear, right?
Why did you push so hard for Jonathan [Libby] to be the only male not chosen for a tribe?
A lot of people in the gay community have sort of asked that question, if I had something against the jocks in the world and because of that I had to take him out. But what it was is that there were six young guys in their 20s who were built and strong, and I had to take one of them out to make their alliance a little less strong. He was the easiest target since he didn’t interact with everyone as well as the others. But it was not a play to take out the young, good-looking straight guys or me harboring something from my childhood that made me want to get rid of the jocks.
We didn’t see a lot of interaction between your Koror tribe members—mostly because the first few weeks of the show focused more on the ongoing collapse of the Ulong tribe. Did you ever talk about your sexuality with your tribe mates?
I did. But I don’t think it played that big a part with my tribe, me being gay. But being a flamboyant gay person, I felt I had a lot of issues to prove to a lot of people, that I could do well in the challenges. It was a big deal to me to have society look at me as a flaming queen on Survivor who could really play the game well. We haven’t seen that before. I was definitely getting a thrill out of being myself.
Since we didn’t see a lot of the inner workings of your tribe, what were some of the things the viewers missed that affected you in the game?
What was great about us is that we were a winning tribe and a great team. As a team, we were great because we’d let different people come up and show leadership in the challenges, including me. But individually, we didn’t mesh as well because we all have such strong personalities.
Have you seen the episodes?
Yes, but only the ones that have aired so far. We don’t get to see any in advance.
There was a scene in the tribal council immediately following the challenge where you had thrown James [Miller] off the floating platform twice, where host Jeff Probst seemed to be saying to James, “So, how does it feel to lose to a homo?” Did you see that? How did you feel about how he handled that?
I loved it! I’m a very politically incorrect gay guy. I loved that I was portrayed as the fag and James as the hillbilly and we squared off. I’m all for calling a flamboyant gay guy a flamboyant gay guy. That’s something we kind of get hung up on in the gay community, that someone who is openly flamboyant is kind of looked down upon, that someone who’s better at hiding their sexuality or appearing straight is somehow better. I loved it that I was the flamboyant queen of Survivor!
Did you feel extra pressure, being an openly gay man, that maybe you needed to perform better than the others in the challenges?
I think the pressure to do well just came from myself. I think my team wrote me off from the beginning because I was this out-of-shape, 32-year-old queen. I was there for my sake and to face down some of my childhood skeletons of never being on a team. I was there for me and for every other little gay kid watching the show. I wanted to show that you can play with a Barbie, you can wear a skirt, and you can still be on a team and do well. So I think the pressure really was from just me.
It seemed like your tribe members were getting along really well until the last couple of episodes, and then viewers saw you getting irritated with Tom [Westman] and Ian [Rosenberger]. Was that the editing—had those feelings really been building up but we didn’t really get to see them until later?
Yeah, it had been building up. Really what it was, is that it came down to two sexes—the lazy girls who didn’t do anything and the alpha males who wanted to do it all. Me, being the only queen, I was stuck in the middle and had to pick a side. And I didn’t want to be a lazy girl.
Why do you think you were butting heads with Tom and Ian so often?
Well, with Tom, for sure, if you look back on the show, every decision that was made it was Tom that made it. The new beach was Tom. When it was time to pick a representative, it was Tom. He decided we couldn’t use any of the water for a shower. Tom was the dictator, and I don’t like being dictated to. I was sorry to see that he always got his way, and I wanted my way too. I can admit it—I was petty! [Laughs]
When the tribes were chosen, it seemed like Ulong had the youngest, strongest, buffest guys and women, and yet your tribe won every immunity challenge. Why do you think your team won so handily?
I think it was because they gave 110% physically when they should have been giving only 100% and should have been concentrating. Our age and wisdom helped us stay calm, and they really helped us. They obviously had the strength, just not the drive.
In the last immunity challenge that resulted in you being voted off, you voluntarily gave up immunity for a couple of donuts. Were you really craving donuts that badly?
It wasn’t about the donuts. What it was, to me, it felt like the numbers were against me. It was a move like you’d make in playing poker, in calling a bluff. I knew before we went to the challenge that I was going to jump first. I was like, “You are not going to make me stand up there forever and beg for it.” So I knew I would jump first. Was it a good move? No. But if I had stayed up on that perch, it wouldn’t have helped me stay in the game longer than just a couple more days. So it wasn’t like the donuts cost me a million dollars. It was a fun game; I have no regrets.
When Stephenie [LaGrossa], the sole remaining Ulong tribe member, joined your tribe, you made it a point to pull her into a conversation about the dynamics of the tribe right in front of everyone else. Do you wish you had maybe been more secretive about it since it may have played a factor in your being voted out?
No, no, no! That’s my proudest moment in the game! It was so good; I’m so proud of that moment. I did it on purpose because they were playing a safe and boring game. I loved that move. It wasn’t a smart one, but I totally did it on purpose and was blatantly obvious about it.
Stephenie immediately shared all the information you gave her with the other women on the tribe. Did you expect that?
I knew when I had the conversation with her that I was giving Stephenie power, which was my plan. Yes, she turned around and used the ammo on me, but I did give her power. Maybe telling the other girls made them trust her more, which is how she used that power. But I really like Stephenie. I saw her as having a better chance than me. I had spent 24 days with those people and knew the numbers were against me. But Stephenie added a new dynamic to the tribe, and I really wanted her to stay longer because I think she deserved it.
After the tribal council vote where you were voted off, you said that being ousted from the game was a compliment. What did you mean?
What they only showed really quickly, probably because of time reasons, was that as I left I had one of the oars with me. When they voted me out, they all handed me the oar as a sign of respect and they told me that they had gotten rid of me out of respect.
We didn’t realize that, since they showed it really quickly. What it seemed like to us is that you had been voted off because you had been rubbing people the wrong way.
Yeah, because I was a bitch! [Laughs] I’m sure me being a bitch didn’t help. But what it comes down to is that they got rid of me because I was unpredictable.
What was the hardest part of the game for you?
That’s a really hard question, because I loved every aspect of the game. I guess the hardest part was the water. You’d think it would be the food, but it’s the water. You don’t know how bad it is not having water for five days. Dehydration is horrible. I can’t tell you how painful it is.
Looking back, is there anything you wish you could go back and change?
The only thing would be that I should have burned Tom’s clothes! [Laughs] Then I really would have been the biggest bitch! On his last fishing trip, I really wanted to just grab his clothes and burn them.
As an openly gay man, how do you hope you came across on the show? What do you hope the viewers take away from your participation on Survivor?
Well, I can tell you what kinds of things I’ve already experienced. This past weekend a guy pulled me aside and wanted to thank me because he’s still in the closet and the only bond he has with his father is watching Survivor. He said, “Having my dad love you has brought our conversations about the gay community to a whole new level.” He thinks he might be able to come out to his dad because of me. That’s just incredible. And there was this family of five that came up to me and the kids were telling me I’m their biggest role model, and their parents were approving. That means a lot. It’s mind-boggling.
When the show first started, a lot of us here commented on how it seemed the show’s producers chose a lot of really good-looking men and women for the show. Did you find yourself crushing on any of the guys?
Well, I don’t know if you can use this, but let me tell you: Bobby Jon [Drinkard] has got to be the hottest man on Earth. If I was a woman, my eggs would drop for him. I wanted to marry him, move out onto the farm, and have his babies! There’s something about him that is so honest and good. On the show he really comes across as a sweet and good and down-home guy, and that’s really who he is. He’s just pure sweetness. I love Bobby Jon!
How are the people back home in Athens, Texas, reacting to you now that you’ve been on Survivor?
I think the people here are proud. I’m very happy with the response I’ve gotten. I wasn’t sure being a flaming and bitchy queen would go over very well, but I’ve been very touched by the support. I think people kind of glaze over how I was so bitter at the end. I think people really feel like they got a chance to know me.
How about the reaction in the gay community?
Locally, they’ve been kind of standoffish. I think there’s a weird layer of jealousy. But in New York and Dallas I’ve had lots of people come up to and give me hugs and say they worried about me or that they related to me and my story. I’ve been very touched and surprised at the reaction.
One last question. As a hairstylist, who among the Survivors was most in need of your services?
Ian! Hello? What the hell is wrong with his hair? His hair looked so good at the [final tryouts] in L.A. But then when I saw him on the show, he said he had cut his own bangs a week ago. You’re going on national TV and you give yourself your own haircut? Definitely not a good idea! http://advocate.com/exclusive_detail.asp?id=15798