For most Survivor players, reality TV is the first taste of fame. While some become famous public figures because of a series of competitions, others go into oblivion after fifteen minutes of fame through various confessions in their episode with shoes.
However, there were a few Survivor players who actually achieved fame long before their participation in the show, although they usually tried to hide it from their competitors. Being a successful athlete or actor can damage a participant’s game, as it usually convinces the jury not to vote for him and makes him richer.
Gary Hogebum (Season 11)
Despite not taking home the million dollar prize, Gary Hogebum found the first idol with hidden immunity in Survivor history in season 11, Guatemala.
Gary was also the first former professional sports player to appear on Survivor while playing in the NFL for ten years. Despite being an athlete, Gary lied to his teammates about his last name and occupation, claiming to be Gary Hawkins, a landscape designer. Some of his fellow prisoners knew better and tried to get him to confess.
Ashley Massaro (Season 15)
Ashley Massaro became a target at the beginning of Survivor: China due to her illness at the beginning of the game, resulting in her becoming a weaker member of the tribe, which led to several defeats in the trials. Back home, Ashley was known for her strength as a professional wrestler.
Ashley has had a successful career as a WWE star, winning the WWE Diva Search contest in 2005. She became a radio host, model and actress, diversifying her talents in the entertainment industry. Unfortunately, Ashley passed away in 2017, shortly after returning to the wrestling scene as a manager.
Ron Clark (season 38)
Ron Clark is best known for his motivational speaking, teaching, and founding the Ron Clark Academy. Many of his tribesmen did not recognize him on the island, but in fact he was quite famous in the world of education, and in 2006 they even made a film about him, in which Matthew Perry starred.
Ron was a funny character in “On the Verge of Extinction”, often getting on the nerves of his fellow prisoners and causing chaos in the tribal council. In real life, Ron was better known for his strength as a teacher working with students from disadvantaged families.
Mari Takahashi (season 33)
Mari Takahashi managed to go far in the 33rd season of Survivor, but her millennial allies knocked her out early just a few days after the game started. Although her time on the show was short, her vote led to the success of her fellow contestant Hannah Shapiro this season.
After joining the game, Marie became famous for her YouTube channel and participation in the comedy group Smosh. Marie’s popularity on YouTube was initially linked to her gaming content. After the show, Marie took up acting and became a co-debtor of Space Station Gaming.
Whitney Duncan (Season 23)
Whitney Duncan was part of a subtle failed show on Survivor: South Pacific, where she met her current husband Keith Tolkerson while playing with legends like Coach Wade and Ozzy Lust.
Survivor is not Whitney’s only claim to fame, as she earns a living as a country music star. Prior to participating in Survivor, she was a participant in another reality show Nashville Star, where she took fifth place. Whitney has three studio albums, and her latest EP Heartbreaker was released in 2021.
John (Hennigan) Morrison (season 37)
John Hennigan, also known as John Morrison in the WWE world, is one of the most popular Survivor contestants on social media. He was also the victim of epic dazzle in Survivor: David Vs Goliath.
John made a successful career as a professional wrestler, consistently performing from 2002 to 2011 and briefly returning to WWE from 2019 to 2021. His wrestling career was more successful than his time at Survivor, although he was fired due to budget cuts.
Taj Johnson-George (Season 18)
Taj Johnson-George was a threat to win Survivor: Tocantins, and that’s why her two closest allies Steven and JT knocked her out of the final four. Her sunny personality and maternal energy made her a million dollar contender, as she was liked by all her peers.
Long before she married athlete Eddie George, gave birth to a son and took part in the Survivor show, Taj made a name for herself as a pop star. She made up a third of the vocal trio Sisters With Voices, a very successful R&B group of the 90s.
Jonathan Penner (Seasons 13, 16, 25)
Jonathan Penner was a fan favorite when he participated in Survivor: Cook Islands, so he was invited not once, but twice as a returning player. Jonathan has never won a game, but he has had great acclaim and a strong presence in every season he has participated in.