'Survivor: Ghost Island' Player Profile: Meet Jenna Bowman

Originally from Michigan and now living in California, the 23-year-old advertising account executive feels she can come across as unfriendly, but insists she's secretly "a softy."
Courtesy of CBS
Jenna Bowman of 'Survivor: Ghost Island'

Welcome to the Survivor: Ghost Island preseason! The Hollywood Reporter's Josh Wigler reports from his visit to the show's shooting location in Fiji, where he interviewed host Jeff Probst, as well as the 20 new castaways battling it out for the million dollar prize.

Click here to make sure you're all caught up on our stories from the island, including our weekly podcast series First One Out: Ghost Zero, an in-depth look at all of the new players, culminating in an interview with the first person voted out of the season, and Wigler's exclusive overnight stay on Ghost Island.

Originally from Michigan and currently residing in California, Jenna Bowman spends much of her free time watching engagement videos and consuming other forms of love stories — a fact that might surprise her fellow competitors, many of whom express their trepidation about her intimidating aura during our preseason conversations. But according to Jenna, she's aware that she might give off unfriendly vibes at first, which is something she's been working on in the weeks heading into the game.

"Jenna is another one I really root for going into this," says executive producer and host Jeff Probst. "She, too, is looking at her life right now and saying, 'How can I make it better? How can I be a better person? How can I represent who I am better to the world?' One of the things we talked about is just how she comes across with her smile. She's been working on that! She's said, 'My dating life has changed. Everything's getting better.' I always think if you have momentum coming into the show from a point of growth, that could be really advantageous — unless you start walking around trying to help everyone else grow, in which case you become a preacher, and nobody wants that."

Hear more from Jenna and the other players in the third episode of our preseason podcast series First One Out: Ghost Zero, and read on for highlights from our interview.

Jenna's story, coming into the season:

"I'm somebody I think people will resonate with. People have always perceived me a certain way. I can come across unfriendly and unlikable, with a harsh outer edge. 'Resting bitch face,' people have said. Coming in, that's going to be my biggest obstacle to overcome: first impressions. Getting people to really understand who I am underneath, not just who I am on the outside."

Who she is on the inside:

"I'm honestly such a softy. I watch engagement videos and soldiers coming home on YouTube every morning when I wake up. And two days ago, I already cried in front of Jeff. I just started crying, I don't know! I thought I was going to come into this being like, 'I'm so tough. I'm going to kick ass.' But all of the sudden, I got into a room with him, and water works. He had to hug me! It was just so overwhelming, and I'm just so excited, that seeing him was like a 'Holy shit!' thing. I think people at home are going to be surprised at how emotional I am."

How Jenna feels Survivor should be played:

"Hard. If you don't have enemies on the jury, I don't think you played the game right. You're going to have to lie and deceive people to get to the final place. Troyzan, just skating his way through? I don't think you belong there, really. You have to be willing to come in and play hard. Everyone says, 'Play like it's your second time, not your first time.' I'm not going to have this fear of hurting someone's feelings. You just have to play to win."

So, Jenna's not here to make friends?

"I feel like friendships will happen. They'll have to come back around. If someone screws me over, I'll say, 'Okay. It was the game.' I definitely want lasting friendships. Survivor is kind of a family. But I'm here to win a million dollars — not to make best friends."

Jenna's history as a Survivor fan:

"I grew up watching it. But then I was in a household with my mom not really loving cable, so we didn't have too much TV. But in the past couple of years, I've been binge-watching everything, and obviously I'm a bigger fan now that I understand the social aspect. Growing up, it didn't click with me. Now, you follow these characters, and it's like, 'Oh my god.' So, yeah. Now I'm a huge fan. I'm ready to see what I can do and see if I'm like Cirie, coming out here to see what I can do, and I think I can do well."

How her first day will go, if it goes perfectly:

"The perfect day would be making connections with everybody. I don't want alliances already necessarily. I would obviously like somebody I know I can trust, right off the bat. Making that initial connection with every single person, because you never know what's going to happen."

Jenna's ethical philosophy on Survivor:

"Survivor's just a game. You want to make friends. I love meeting new people. But at the end of the day, it's literally just a game. When you have people on the jury saying, 'How could you live with yourself, playing like that?' Well, it's just a game! You shouldn't have emotion involved. I will do anything and everything."

How she will react if she gets blindsided:

"I'll be bummed, like, 'Fuck, I wasn't perceptive enough to catch people doing that!' I'm going to try not to be too trusting, and always have my guard up to know that this person could always easily stab me in the back. But if I get blindsided, and it's a good play? I'll applaud them. Absolutely."

That's Jenna in her own words. But what do the other castaways think about her? Over the course of our interviews out in Fiji, the Ghost Island castmembers were presented with pictures of their competitors, and asked to establish their preseason thoughts. With that said, here's what they think about Jenna.

Angela Perkins (Army Veteran, Naviti Tribe): "Definitely a competitor. She's young. She has a huge personality. I see a lot of myself in her, from when I was her age. She's definitely a competitor and someone to watch out for. She's going to make big moves, and she's going to be very aggressive a lot of the time."

Josh Wigler (Reporter, THR): "Would you have aligned with that version of yourself?"

Angela Perkins (Army Veteran, Naviti Tribe): "Probably not. Fucking intimidating, right? No way."

Bradley Kleihege (Law Student, Naviti Tribe): "I don't get a great read from her. I get the read of the girl who goes mid-jury, never did a thing, and holds onto the other popular guys. I could be totally wrong, but she just seems a little…not very observant. Along for the ride."

Wendell Holland (Furniture Company Owner, Naviti Tribe): "I don't think she's a gamer. I've seen her doing a lot of coloring, if I'm not mistaken. You could work with her as a goat maybe, or maybe not."

Michael Yerger (Real Estate Agent, Malolo Tribe): "She seems a little ditzy, but a nice girl."

Donathan Hurley (Caretaker, Malolo Tribe): "A typical blonde. I haven't gotten a vibe from her."

Brendan Shapiro (Physical Education Teacher, Malolo Tribe): "I don't know what to make of her, to be honest with you. She's a little bit aloof, compared with the rest of us. I'll be really interested to see what happens once we start talking."

Chelsea Townsend (Cheerleader and EMT, Naviti Tribe): "I'm not sure on her yet. Again, she's a little to herself. She doesn't come off super-friendly at first. I don't know if it's just because we can't talk to each other yet and it's awkward, or if she's actually a little bit standoffish. I'm not sure yet. Hard to read."

Chris Noble (Male Model, Naviti Tribe): "I'm having a tough read with her. Part of me feels she's going to be really sneaky. I'm not sure how talkative she'll be. She might be one of the ones on the outs of things. I could see her being a flipper. I think she would be one of the more athletic women. She might even be in the fitness industry. If she is, maybe for a Tribal or two, I could get her on my side. I don't think she's someone I'll be running with the whole time."

Desiree Afuye (Student, Naviti Tribe): "She has resting bitch face. It's bad. It's bad! I know, because I suffer from it, too. I just constantly tell myself you need to smile and look happy, but hers? It's detrimental. I think once I can get past the resting bitch face, I can see who she really is, and maybe I can work with her."

Jacob Derwin (Music Teacher, Malolo Tribe): "She scares me. She's kind of intimidating. I don't want to call it 'resting bitch face,' because that's not nice, but she has this expression on her where she looks like she's ready to pounce at any second. When I saw her the first time, she was wearing a jacket or a shirt that had a dragon on it — so I've been referring to her as 'Daughter of Coach.' She scares me a little! She doesn't seem like the kind of person I'll immediately get along with. Not very expressive. I don't think she's really connecting with anybody."

Kellyn Bechtold (Career Counselor, Naviti Tribe): "She's interesting. If there's one person I would choose to not play with, just from spending time looking around, I would be worried about us not getting along, and I don't know why. It's not even fair. She seems flippant in her actions and very confident in who she is. That's a good thing and is awesome for her. I like to work with people and to help people, and when someone doesn't need me, it makes me very uncomfortable. She acts like she doesn't give a shit about anyone else. That makes me nervous. I don't know how I'll get in."

Laurel Johnson (Financial Consultant, Malolo Tribe): "She swings on the hammock a lot. I feel like she's a hammock hog at Ponderosa. Every time we're able to disperse, she's the first one to the hammock, and she stays there all day. I don't like it! I just want to be in the hammock! I haven't been able to get into the hammock yet! I feel like she feels like she owns it. I want the hammock!"

Libby Vincek (Social Media Strategist, Malolo Tribe): "She reminds me of some of the girls back in high school who were bullies to me, but I don't know her! She's full force, all the time. She walks around in her sports bra, sits down and doesn't seem like anyone's going to care. That's the vibe. I don't know. Ideally, I don't think I'd want to work with her…because flashbacks! She might be an angel. Who knows?"

Stephanie Gonzalez (Graphic Sales, Malolo Tribe): "That's Ms. Dominant Walk! Very dominant presence. Walks like she runs the place. I think it's going to hurt her game. Or I could be wrong and she's going to be great! At this point, my perception of her is that she's going to be very dominant and try to play a kick-ass, super-aggressive game, and it'll hurt her. She probably won't keep her mouth shut, from what I can see in her attitude. She's very sassy."

Morgan Ricke (Marine Animal Trainer, Naviti Tribe): "She reminds me of a girl on another reality show: Stassi from Vanderpump Rules. She looks just like her. I'm staring at that girl all the time. And I like Stassi on the show! Stassi is not very liked on the show by many people. She's not afraid to speak her mind. She doesn't care if you're friends with her. She wants everyone to be friends with her. She just doesn't put out that vibe."

Domenick Abbate (Construction Supervisor, Naviti Tribe): "Sweet girl. I don't have much on her. Once in a while, you get a reaction out of her."

James Lim (Business Analyst, Malolo Tribe): "I don't think she looks like her that much, but I'm getting Baylor from Blood vs. Water vibes. I would guess she's an athlete, maybe soccer. I'm kind of good at this, because I was an athlete myself. She has a soccer physique. I think she's definitely getting excited."

Sebastian Noel (Fishing Guide, Naviti Tribe): "Immediate attraction. She gets me, and I get her. I feel like we could work well, as far as we can go, without trying to be flirtatious. I'm not here to fall in love or anything like that, but the attraction is there for both of us, I can tell. It's going to be hard to not show that."

Stephanie Johnson (Yoga Instructor, Malolo Tribe): "I love her. She's one of the girls I want to work with. I can tell she's a girl's girl. It would be fun to team up with her and take out all of these big-ass guys and get to the end. I would love to see the ladies take this one. It takes a real girl's girl to do that, and I'm a girl's girl to the bone. Not all girls are like that. You have to find them. If I can do that, and get a little cluster of us? Yeah, let's take out the boys and party it up at the final ten."

 

Keep up with all of our preseason interviews:

• Angela Perkins
• Bradley Kleihege
• Brendan Shapiro
• Chelsea Townsend
• Chris Noble
• Desiree Afuye
• Domenick Abbate
• Donathan Hurley
• Jacob Derwin
• James Lim
• Jenna Bowman
• Kellyn Bechtold
• Laurel Johnson
• Libby Vincek
• Michael Yerger
• Morgan Ricke
• Sebastian Noel
• Stephanie Gonzalez
• Stephanie Johnson
• Wendell Holland

What's your read on Jenna? Sound off with your predictions in the comments section below, and keep checking THR.com/Survivor for more interviews with the Survivor: Ghost Island cast.