The 43-year-old pharmacist was born and raised in Nigeria, discovering the show through her children.
Pharmacist Nneka Ejere hopes she has the proper prescription to become a Survivor winner. The 43-year-old has experience with literal big moves, having immigrated from Nigeria with two children and a third on the way. As the oldest woman on the season, she hopes her experience with resilience and community building will give her a shot to play her preferred style, where she hopes to challenge the usual lying and backstabbing.
Read on for my interview with Nneka, and make sure to check in with Parade.com every day for interviews with this season's contestants and other tidbits. Survivor 43 premieres on September 21 with a special two-hour premiere on CBS.
Related: Meet the Full Cast of Survivor 43
Interview with Nneka from Survivor 43
Why are you here on Survivor?
I'm here on Survivor because it was it's literally a bucket list item and a dream come true. It was a result of getting all into the show during the lockdown period and becoming an acute superfan of the show. And when auditions opened, I sent in a video. And it was to not just convince myself that I can do the hard things, but to be able to put myself in a place where everything's out of my control and to see how well I thrive.
What's your history with watching Survivor?
We started watching Survivor during the lockdown. My daughter started on the show and got the whole family into it. So it became a thing that really bonded us during the lockdown period. We will sit and watch episodes and episodes and seasons upon seasons. And my whole family ended up becoming super fans of the show. And here we are! (Laughs.)
Give me one Survivor winner and one non-winner you identify with the most.
The winner is Denise. I identify with her the most because of how she was able to stay calm and build trust, and take trusted relationships, and that got her to the end. And the non-winner, Cirie. She just plays an excellent social game and builds strong relationships. When she's playing, it doesn't even seem like she's playing, but she is. So I do resonate very strongly with those two and look forward to combining both qualities in my game.
What's your favorite moment in Survivor history?
There are quite a few. Even up until the last season, season 41, just watching that seconds-apart fire challenge between Heather and Deshawn. That had all of us just standing and screaming at the TV. There are so many moments like that. Those ones just get your adrenaline flowing, and you want to be in there and live it out. (Laughs.) So I have a ton of favorite moments, but I think that'd be one of the more recent ones.
What's one life experience you feel has prepared you most for the game?
I wouldn't say a life experience, more like life values. Experience-wise, I have a pretty interesting background, born and raised in Nigeria and then moved to the States with two toddlers and pregnant for the third one with my husband. It's been an accumulation of experiences. But I would think of the values that have kept me going, which are just a very high sense of resilience, never settling for less than excellent—and also understanding the value of community and relationships. I think those will take me far in this game. Even though the game is one where people very easily resort to lying and cheating and backstabbing, I see myself challenging how that is played and going with the opposite of that. And we'll see how that works out.
What excites you the most about the new era of Survivor?
What excites me the most is [that] it's continuing to evolve. The show has not become redundant at all. And I think that's cool. That makes you stay glued and interested, especially in this era, where people have the attention spans of a gnat. So the fact that Survivor has continued to evolve and reinvent itself is awesome.
Because it's a social game, we're actually taking what's going on socially or in the culture and reflecting it in the game and opening up discourse. I think that's important. I'm glad that that's become a part of the game. And how it's also tried to, especially in the last couple of seasons, involve younger players, like the "Game Within the Game." Because those are fans that are being groomed for the future! (Laughs.) It makes me think of how my seven-year-old niece is already a fan of Survivor and dreams of being on Survivor when she grows up.
What do you think people will perceive you as?
(Laughs.) I think the initial perception will be because I smile a lot, "Hey, she's all fun and games." Without understanding that behind the smile and laughter, there's a lot of observing and learning. I stay very curious. Also, knowing that I'm one of the older players this season, they'll be underestimating how strong I might be and how I might show up in challenges. So we'll see how that plays out.
What type of player are you looking for in an alliance?
You always need more than one! (Laughs.) But I'll be looking for someone who builds trust, to build deep relationships. I see the relationships built on Survivor going beyond the game. So, yes, I'll be looking to build some deep, trusted relationships with a person or persons that, you know, while understanding the game is dynamic, and people change, there will be a stronger foundation that will be able to take us to the end.
Next, check out our interview with Survivor 43 contestant Justine Brennan.