Shan Smith: 5 Things To Know About The Dominating ‘Survivor’ Player

Being on a losing tribe in 'Survivor' is never good, but Shan Smith has used it as an opportunity to show off her dominating gameplay in season 41.

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Image Credit: CBS

Shantel “Shan” Smith has had her tribemates eating out of the palm of her hand on season 41 of Survivor so far. Shan is on the Ua tribe, and they haven’t had much luck in challenges. The tribe has been to four of the six tribal councils so far, and Shan has been the one to make most of the major decisions about who would be getting voted out. The pastor has navigated the game by getting her tribemates to trust her wholeheartedly, without realizing that she’s playing them behind-the-scenes.

Now, Shan finds herself on a tribe of just two people, with only herself and her number one ally, Ricard Foye, remaining. Last week’s episode showed the first sign of tension between Shan and Ricard. She gave him her extra vote advantage to hold onto in case she lost her vote by opening the “beware” immunity idol. Since both other tribes also found their immunity idols, though, Shan didn’t lose her vote, but when she asked Ricard for the extra vote advantage back, he refused. Shan stuck with Ricard to vote out Genie Chen, but the cracks in their alliance had already been exposed — and with a potential merge coming up, that’s never good! Learn more about Shan below:

1. Shan Is A Pastor

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Shan Smith on season 41 of ‘Survivor.’ (CBS)

Shan is 34-years old and works as a pastor in Toronto, Canada. A difficult childhood led Shan to her current career. After facing many demons when she was younger, Shan became suicidal as a teenager. A friend helped her find her faith, which si what led to her current career as a pastor. Despite her wholesome job, though, Shan isn’t afraid to lie and manipulate in order to make it further on Survivor!

2. Shan Was In A Gang

When Shan was younger, her mother dealt with drug addiction, which led to Shan ending up in foster care. During those years, she got wrapped up in a gang. Shan says that her history in a gang is something that people would never know from looking at her, but it clearly defined part of her childhood.

“I was homeless, I was living on the streets,” she told Parade. “When you’re in that environment, you encounter a ton of different people. You face a number of circumstances that most people just don’t probably face in their life, and you really learn how to read people — both cops and people who live on the streets who say that you’re friends.”

3. Shan’s Mother Passed Away

On the Oct. 20 episode of Survivor, Shan opened up to fellow contestant, Liana Wallace, about her history — including her relationship with her mother. When Shan was in foster care, she lost contact with her mom, but they luckily reconnected later in Shan’s life. Sadly, her mother passed away, but by that time, she and Shan had a healthy relationship once again.

In fact, Shan even says that her mom is her hero. “I saw her fight her demons until her dying breath,” she revealed in her CBS bio. “She experienced so much pain in her life, and my childhood was dark, twisted and complicated, but she was an extremely hardworking, Italian woman. She always made sure I had a roof over my head and lunch money in my pockets. She did the best she could and I’m grateful. She gave me the best life she knew how and loved me with all the love she had in her. She is my image of beauty and strength.”

4. Shan Viewed Jeff Probst As A Parental Figure When She Was A Child

Years before competing on Survivor, Shan had a connection to host Jeff Probst that was unlike the many contestants before her. In an interview with Parade, Shan revealed that she watched Survivor while in the foster care system, and looked at Jeff as the parental figure who she did not have in her actual life.

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Shan Smith and Ricard Foye on the Oct. 27 episode of ‘Survivor.’ (CBS)

“I didn’t really have a lot of parenting voices in my life,” she said. “Jeff Probst kind of became that parenting voice. When he encouraged the players to dig deep, those were the messages I carried with me. That eventually put myself through high school, college, grad school and doctoral work. So the show has really had a big impact on me, not just surviving, bu winning and thriving in life.”

5. Shan Was In Therapy

Shan is not afraid to admit that she used therapy to help get through the difficult parts of her past. In fact, she says that “doing the hard work in therapy” is her most proud accomplishment. “[I’m proud of] confronting my demons, working through the pain and the feelings of injustice and then being willing to cultivate a relationship with those who let me down when I was little,” she revealed.

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