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To say she is a fan would be an understatement. In fact, Jefra Bland describes herself as a diehard fanatic of “Survivor.” And when her family gathers to watch the series’ 28th season premiere tonight, as they have done since the series premiered in 2000, their anticipation will be at an all-time high.
Among the 18 castaways competing to stay on Cagayan, a province in the Philippines this season, will be Bland.
“I’m a firm believer that you can do anything you set your mind to,” Bland said.
With much encouragement from her parents, Jeff and Vicki Bland, and the rest of her family, Bland applied online and submitted a two-minute video for consideration to be on the show.
Appearing on Survivor is not Bland’s first claim to fame. In 2009, she won the title of Miss Kentucky Teen USA and later made it to the Top 15 at Miss Teen USA. This season’s theme is "Brawn vs. Brains vs. Beauty," and Bland is a member of the Beauty tribe, along with five other castaways.
She said her experience competing in pageants helped prepare her for the experience.
“Pageants are a lot of hard work,” Bland said. “A lot of people think you just show up a few hours before the competition in your pretty dress, but it’s not like that at all.”
Bland said preparing for a pageant requires months of practice and a lot of personal discipline. Polishing her interview skills also taught her the power of manipulation, a concept critical to avoiding elimination both in pageants and on the show.
“It’s the same concept with the 18 people I was out there with – to get them to feel a certain way about you,” Bland said.
However, Bland said she does not let her history in pageants define her. In her bio on the CBS website, Bland wrote that “…beauty is far more than just skin deep, and true beauty comes from the heart.”
Bland said she realizes the importance of taking off her pageant crown to hunt for food and water while also competing in various challenges. In previous seasons, rewards for winning challenges have included food, blankets and tarps, as well as securing one’s spot on the island for another week.
“Most people don’t really see me as the kind of country girl I am, but I grew up hunting, fishing and riding four wheelers,” Bland said.
She said she developed a love for the outdoors at an early age and remembers often competing with her older brother to determine who was the toughest. She incorporated these experiences when preparing for the show.
“I did a lot of physical training as far as exercise, lifting weights, swimming and running – things that I thought would help me when I got there,” Bland said.
In her bio, Bland listed the most important items that she wanted to bring with her on the island.
“A disposable toothbrush, leather journal for writing and a photo of my family because they are the toughest people I know,” she wrote.
Apart from the million-dollar prize Bland will win if she is the sole “Survivor,” a big part of Bland’s motivation for wanting to be on the show is her mother, who applied to be a contestant on the show’s second season. While ultimately her mother wasn’t picked, Bland said it’s great how “Survivor” has come full circle for her family now that she has been selected as a contestant several years later.
Despite Bland’s often-hectic schedule, she seldom missed an episode of her favorite show. Still, she made sure to re-watch all of the previous seasons she could get her hands on just to get an idea of what to expect once she got there.
“It’s funny, you do all these things to prepare yourself, but when you’re dropped off with just the clothes you’re wearing, everything goes out the window and you just have to play the game one day at a time,” Bland said.
Whether she’s the first to be voted off the island or the last “Survivor” standing, Bland said one of the greatest parts of the “Survivor” experience has been the overwhelming support she has received from the community.
“I just really hope to make Campbellsville proud,” Bland said.
The two-hour season premiere airs tonight at 8 p.m. on the CBS Television Network.