Tampa-based Mikayla Wingle breaks the mold of previous contestants on CBS' Survivor
There was a time, about 10 years ago, when Survivor contestants were kept under wraps like a Mafia crime boss in witness protection. No talking with the press until you’re shown getting kicked off the show; similar bans for close friends and relatives, with a multi-million-dollar penalty at hand for severe violations.
But consider current Survivor star Mikayla Wingle, a model and lingerie football player from Tampa who was on the cover of Playboy months before CBS came calling to place her in the cast of its South Pacific edition.
Fans can get up-to-the-minute reports on her activities through her Facebook page, website and Twitter feed (@ILuvMiki); she’s putting the finishing touches on her own swimsuit calendar for 2012; and she’s got an Android app for smartphones on sale (priced at $1.99).
The New Jersey native also admitted last week she was originally recruited to appear on a different unscripted CBS competition, The Amazing Race.
“It didn’t work out…they said I have a bit of a manipulative personality,” said Wingle. “Which I don’t think I do…I just think I’m good at persuading. It’s like upselling (in a restaurant)…I have a way of wording things that help me a little bit.”
The loosened rules about pre-show publicity come at a time when there's more competition than ever on Wednesday nights. Survivor host Jeff Probst, fresh from winning his fourth Emmy Saturday, just established a page on the video sharing website Tout; he's planning to answer questions there during the show's Wednesday debut, at 8 p.m. on WTSP-Ch. 10.
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She’s such a child of the Garden State that her pre-contest interview released by CBS didn’t even mention Tampa. But the 22-year-old has lived in the area since 2007, when a visit to her grandmother convinced the then-18-year-old that a scholarship to Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania wasn’t worth the winter snows and she came south.
Eventually, the standout high school basketball and softball player landed on the Lingerie Football League’s Tampa Breeze, playing linebacker on a team featuring women in short shorts, bikini-style tops, shoulder pads and helmets playing what Wingle swears is truly-physical, smashmouth football.
“Come onto my field and I’ll show you what it’s all about,” she said, noting that she missed games last season because of a fractured rib, benched only after trying to play with the injury and realizing it wouldn’t work. “I want some contact; I want to hit people. My old coach once said, you can be fast and you be strong, but (tapping into) crazy, is a whole other thing.”
Of course, Wingle had to keep a lid on the crazy for her time this summer filming Survivor: South Pacific in Samoa. Just as in the previous edition, survivors would face Redemption Island – where two people voted off compete in a challenge to see who actually gets kicked off the show – and veterans from a previous edition of the show (this time, Ben “Coach” Wade and Ozzy Lusth).
She’s not allowed to say anything about what happened during the game; CBS still keeps some details close to the vest. Wingle even let some friends think she was visiting non-existent family in Kentucky to avoid questions about where she was during the summer.
“Everybody asks ‘What was your strategy (going in)?’” said Wingle, who compares herself to “Boston Rob” Marciano, who won the previous cycle, dubbed Redemption Island. “But you can’t figure out what you’re going to do until you know who you’re facing. Until you see who’s going to be in a game with you, you can’t decide.”
She did admit that part of her strategy involved keeping some aspects of her background quiet, including the fact that she landed on the cover of Playboy in January when the magazine featured girls from the LFL (“It’s a reputable magazine…it was extremely classy,” she says of the photo). On a break from classes at Hillsborough Community College, she hopes to leverage her fame on Survivor and in Playboy into greater opportunities – a far cry from the schoolteachers and college students who often returned to civilian life after a run on the show.
“CBS and Survivor, the (public reaction) is like tenfold of what happened with Playboy,” she said. “I came down here four years ago with nothing. But with a little hard work and determination, look what you can achieve.”