'Survivor: Ghost Island' Player Profile: Meet Stephanie Johnson

The second Stephanie of the season is a yoga instructor, travel writer, single mother of two, and a longtime fan of 'Survivor' with no plans to pull any punches.
Courtesy of CBS

Welcome to the Survivor: Ghost Island preseason! THR's Josh Wigler reports from his visit to the show's shooting location on 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.

The second Stephanie of the season — Chicago-based Stephanie Johnson — is a jack of many trades: She's a yoga instructor, travel enthusiast, self-professed geek, writer and a mother of two. On top of all of that, Stephanie is an enormous fan of Survivor and has been trying to get on the show for years.

"She's a mom and a triathlete, and we've been talking to her for a while," says executive producer and host Jeff Probst. "Note to future Survivor players: When we say you're not out of the mix, you're really not. Sometimes it just doesn't work, for reasons that have nothing to do with the player. I have mixed thoughts on her. I've heard a lot of people saying they love her, and I've heard other people saying she's too much. I guess that's kind of my mix, too. She's really engaging and probably a really good friend. On Survivor, there's that balance: 'OK, Stephanie. I just need a moment!' But as you know, I know nothing. You and I are sitting at a table here and they're out there on the beach living!"

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

Stephanie's status as a Survivor fan:

"I like the classics. I'm an old-school person. I like Parvati; I like Boston Rob; I like Tyson. There are some new players that I love. I really like Jay. I like some of the newer players. I'm kind of a traditional girl! I think old school is out [in terms of gameplay]. Loyalty is out the window. We're all going to go in and make fake friendships and fake alliances. You really do have to appeal to people's emotions and build genuine relationships, but they're still all fake at the end of the day. They're not my best friend! My best friend is at home having bloody marys right now!"

The first day of the game, if it goes Stephanie's way:

"I'm going to make a bamboo fire on day one. That's my goal. I want to get out there on day one and make a bomb-ass fire. I watched Zeke do it in Millennials vs. Gen X, and I heard him talk about this bamboo fire that he made. Of course I got on YouTube and I watched a guy make it. Two days before I left, I got a package from Amazon: a full-on machete, as well as two massive bamboo sticks. I'm in my backyard hacking away at these bamboo sticks, with YouTube going, and my neighbor — the crazy cat lady — goes, 'What's going on over there? Are you building something?' I was like, 'Yeah, don't worry about it! I'm building some toys for the kids!' She's watching, and I'm sitting there, and I got a spark on my first go-around. I feel really good with the machete now. I think it's my Idaho roots. The country girl in me!"

Stephanie's ethical philosophy on Survivor:

"There are no boundaries. I checked my real life at the door. I'll tell these people that they're my friends, they're like my little sister, they're like the best friend I never had. That's not true. My friend's at home drinking bloody marys right now. These aren't my people. I'll do whatever it takes. I do have two children and I was very aware of how that might be perceived. My kids are super huge Survivor fans. We've been watching the past couple of years. I hypothetically asked them one day, 'If you were on the show, what would your strategy be? What do you think about lying?' My 8-year-old said, 'If you're on there, you have to lie to them before they lie to you.' And I said, 'Absolutely!' That gave me permission to come out here and play the most reckless and fun game that I can."

How Stephanie will react if she's blindsided:

"I'm going to walk off and go, 'Oh, you bastards.' But then I'll walk off, and I'll go and eat an entire pizza, have a couple of margaritas… and after a couple of margaritas? I'll go, 'You know what? That was a damn good move.' I'd rather go out on a blindside than something silly. An easy vote." 

How Stephanie thinks she's perceived by the other castaways:

"I think people think I'm loud and I'm here to play a social game, and I'm laughing a lot and I'm going to be the biggest flirt of the season. I'm not trying to put it out there, but that's who I am. It's really hard for me to tame that. I just am! I laugh a lot, I smile, I like people. I'm extremely extroverted. I think I need to tone it down a little."

That's Stephanie in her own words. But what do the other castaways think about her? Over the course of our interviews out on 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 Stephanie.

Kellyn Bechtold (Career Counselor, Naviti Tribe): "She just seems like a darling, the life of the party. She looks like she's here to have a good time. I want to be with people here who want to have a good time, and she looks like she's a ball of energy."

Jenna Bowman (Advertising Account Executive, Malolo Tribe): "I think this girl is really nice. She's always smiling. She seems very genuine. I definitely want her on my side."

Wendell Holland (Furniture Company Owner, Naviti Tribe): "She's like a highlighter. She runs around with all these bright colors. She seems kind of fit. She has expensive workout gear. She has a lot of Lulu stuff. Maybe she runs a Lulu store. Maybe she's a yoga teacher or something like that."

Chelsea Townsend (Cheerleader and EMT, Naviti Tribe): "She seems very nice and bubbly. A very sweet girl."

Morgan Ricke (Marine Animal Trainer, Naviti Tribe): "She's so smiley and seems super bubbly and so outgoing, and I get good vibes from her. I think we'll be friends."

James Lim (Business Analyst, Malolo Tribe): "She's definitely the quirky one. She's the most smiley out of everyone here, very bubbly, hopping and skipping around Ponderosa. I think she will not be a villain type. She's going to want to work with everyone. Happy and joyous. Not a bad person to have around!"

Angela Perkins (Army Veteran, Naviti Tribe): "She's really sweet and bubbly. A little over the top. Her clothing speaks to that as well. We're not supposed to talk, and she's definitely a rule breaker. She laughs and she tries to make eye contact, and she gets in trouble so much. I'm OK with that! But she's definitely testing the boundaries. She's going to be a wild player. She may be a loose cannon at times. A few people are already turned off by that. Aligning with her could be dangerous to me."

Stephanie Gonzalez (Graphic Sales, Malolo Tribe): "Super friendly girl. Extremely friendly girl. It's probably going to get her out of the game. She's friendly with everyone. She's buttering everybody up. Lots of eye contact. Lots of smiles. Very bubbly personality. I think she's a runner, judging by her calves, which are built. Those endurance challenges? She's going to kick ass. I'm a little nervous about that, because towards the end, I don't want anyone to win immunity except for me."

Domenick Abbate (Construction Supervisor, Naviti Tribe): "Bubbly. I'm totally confused by her. She seems bubbly and she comes off pretty aggressive. She wants to play. Very bubbly. I don't know if she's going to have a nastiness to her or if she's going to be a straight shooter. Once I hear her speak, I'll know."

Desiree Afuye (Student, Naviti Tribe): "That's another sneaky one. She smiles way too much to be trustworthy. When you're smiling while you're eating, you're smiling while you're in the sun and half of your face is sunburned? When every time I see you, you're smiling? It's kind of scary! You're about to backstab and lie to all of these people, and you're smiling?"

Sebastian Noel (Fishing Guide, Naviti Tribe): "She will not stop staring at me. Another one I'll work with, but she's off the deep end. I love the colors, but she's definitely off her rocker a little bit. From what I've seen on Survivor, those people don't last long."

Laurel Johnson (Financial Consultant, Malolo Tribe): "She seems like she's a little afraid to be here. She seems a little unsure of herself. I think she'll be easy to lead in the game. I'm hoping I can work with her and lead her in an alliance."

Jacob Derwin (Music Teacher, Malolo Tribe): "I adore her. You can feel the energy coming off of her. I think we might be hair friends. Hers is wilder than mine, but similar bird nests when we don't have our shampoo. She seems really cool and really energized and jazzed about being here. I hope she doesn't isolate herself out here. Sometimes people come out here and isolate themselves because they're a little too much. I know I'll have to pull back. I'm aware of that. I'm not sure she's aware of it. If she is? I'll be happy to work with her."

Donathan Hurley (Caretaker, Malolo Tribe): "She's pretty. She seems like she's going to be the life of the party. She has instant smiles. That's what attracts me. If someone's looking at me with a big smile on their face, I'm right there with you."

Brendan Shapiro (Physical Education Teacher, Malolo Tribe): "I think she'll be very social and up in everybody's faces, making relationships straight away."

Chris Noble (Male Model, Naviti Tribe): "Big-time flirt. She'll be another one where she'll probably be able to bring something to the challenges. I think she may even be in the fitness industry. I think she's definitely going to flirt with guys to make her way a little bit. I'm not saying any of that is wrong, but it's real life and it's Survivor. They're going to try and be charming. I'm going to do the same. It's strategy, to keep bonds close. Between her and [Libby], I don't see a cutthroat mentality of blindsiding, but I wouldn't have thought that about Parvati either — and after seeing her play over the years, she's done it as well. Who's to say it couldn't be the same with them either?"

Libby Vincek (Social Media Strategist, Malolo Tribe): "She reminds me of Kelly from Saved by the Bell. She flips her hair all the time. She looks pretty athletic. She always wears her athletic clothes and is always so excited. I feel like she might be someone I accidentally align with, because we have somewhat of the same personalities, but she's someone I'll have to keep watch of and doesn't slide ahead of me. I'll have to be one step ahead of her, for sure."

Michael Yerger (Real Estate Agent, Malolo Tribe): "Very sweet and friendly. Probably the most friendly person of the group so far. She smiles at everybody. She seems like she's very easy to get along with. I don't know if she knows the game or is super smart, so it might be the friendships that get her through."

Bradley Kleihege (Law Student, Naviti Tribe): "She was trying to do a cannonball in the pool [at Ponderosa] the other day, which you cannot do. You can walk around the pool, but you cannot swim in the pool. She was [going to do it], but she didn't."

Josh Wigler (Reporter, THR): "But you appreciated the effort?" 

Kleihege (Law Student, Naviti Tribe): "I appreciated the humor.… We've all been staring at each other for like five days now. All we want to do is tell jokes with each other and laugh. She's been able to provide humor, which could be very helpful when there is absolutely nothing to do."

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 Stephanie? 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.

 

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