Interview With Ami Cusack

Tonight on the premiere of CBS’ Survivor: Micronesia, Vanuatu veteran Ami Cusack, who became known during that season as the leader of the women’s alliance, is back in the game. In 2004, Cusack, along with Scout Cloud Lee, were the first two openly lesbian/bi women to appear on Survivor; they remain the only two out lesbian/bi contestants on the series to date.

This season, Survivor‘s
16th, pits a tribe comprised of “favorites,” or former contestants
(including Cusack), against a tribe of “fans.” Last week I spoke with
Cusack, 34, over the phone from Denver,
where she lives and works as a barista and nanny. She was good-natured and just
as direct as she was during Vanuatu
while answering questions about being characterized as a “man-hater,”
her sexual orientation, and why she’s actually a “delicate flower.” In a
lot of the press coverage about you during Survivor:
, they often described you as being man-hating and arrogant. I guess
I just thought you were a strong player who was finally sticking up for the
women in that show. How did you feel about being characterized like that?

Ami Cusack: It didn’t bother me
really, because the people who know me know that I’m not a man-hater and know
that I’m not arrogant. I just — I got to a point in the game where I really
thought I was going to win, and it was my confidence that lost me the game
really, because I was so sure that I was going to win, and that could have
definitely been mistaken for arrogance. But I felt like I played a pretty
strong game, and yeah, it doesn’t bother me that they portrayed me that way.
Not a big deal. I can handle it.

AE: So in the end of Vanuatu, during the last episode,
only you and Scout stuck with the women’s alliance and were the only two who
voted for Twila. How did you feel about that?

AC: I really thought that Twila
deserved it. She’d really worked hard, and even though she did vote against me,
I vowed to stick with her [to] the very end, and my word was just that. I
didn’t change from it. Even though my game changed, I didn’t want what I had
said during the game to change, so I was happy with the way I voted.

AE: What did you
learn from that experience that you’ve decided to bring with you to Micronesia?

AC: Well, Micronesia
was just a completely different game for me — this is a completely different
game for me. Right now in my life, I’m going through just a different way of
being. I think the pendulum has swung, and I’ve really learned to be a lot more
sensitive and a lot more feminine, a lot more — I don’t know, I feel more like
a delicate flower now, so it’s definitely going to play differently, and we’ll
have to see how it goes.