The 28-year-old educator, artist, and Philadelphia native is playing as the final item on her late mother's bucket list.
Morriah Young is a teacher and artist whose personality is as colorful as the art she creates (as well as her style). The 28-year-old grew up watching Survivor from the very beginning and is here to check one final thing off the bucket list of her late mother. But she feels the rawness of that experience has prepared her for the perseverance the game requires, and hopes to leave the island brighter than when she entered it.
Read on for my interview with Morriah, 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
Why are you here on Survivor?
I'm on Survivor to play to win! And to change the game. I want to make Survivor history and leave with the title of sole survivor and win a million.
What's your history with watching Survivor?
So I've been watching Survivor for as long as I can remember, from when it came out in 2000. I was six, maybe seven years old. And I grew up watching it with my mom. It was her favorite show. We would watch it religiously with my sisters. We would get on the couch with the remote and the popcorn. The only person in my house who didn't watch it was my dad. We're working on that; he has no choice now. (Laughs.) But we will watch it every single season. And so I just grew up with it all the way back from Rupert to Cochran to Christian, every generation of Survivor. I've seen every season and every episode. So really big history with watching it. (Laughs.)
Give me one Survivor winner and one non-winner you identify with the most.
I'm gonna juice it up a little bit. Even though they're still currently playing, I'm only labeling and labeling them a non-winner because they haven't won yet. So I'm going to say Maryanne, in hopes that she does win. Because she's one of my top picks to win, but she hasn't won yet. So I will make her a non-winner. And the reason why is because of just the way she sees life, how excited she is about everything, and her outlook on living. Every little thing brings her joy. She finds the joy in every day, and she kind of uses that as ammunition in her social game and to build relationships and connections with people. So I definitely find myself identifying with her.
And then, in terms of a winner, I'm gonna take it back for this one. Let me go old school and think of some winners from the past. I'd say this is going to be really different and interesting. But I'd say Kim. The reason why is because in her season when she won, one of the reasons why she won is because she had such a strong social game, and she was able to connect with every single player. Even at the end, during her jury speech, everyone was just talking about how they were so captivated by her when they had conversations with her, and how it was just so easy to trust her.
I think that I have the ability to connect with people on such a deep level that they find it easy to trust me. And so while we're probably polar opposites in personality, because Kim is so cool, calm and collected and poised, and I'm like this powerhouse of energy and excitement, I think in terms of our ability to connect with people and make those authentic and genuine connections, I would relate to her.
What's your favorite moment in Survivor history?
Oh, there are so many! Just one? (Laughs.) I'd say one of the top moments is Erik giving up his immunity necklace. (Laughs.) That's just so iconic and hilarious. It was just such an impossible thing to happen. The fact that that woman's alliance… there's no power on Earth like the ability that women have to convince men to do some things. And so the fact that they were able to convince him to give up his immunity necklace when he was safe is still at the very top of the list. And I don't quite know if anything can beat that moment.
What's one life experience you feel has prepared you most for the game?
I think the biggest life experience that has prepared me for this game has been losing my mom. It's a huge part of the reason why I'm playing, because it was one of her favorite shows. And in life, my mom always wanted to do three things. She wanted to be the best teacher she could be, she wanted to go to Hawaii, and she wanted to play Survivor. And so when my mom passed away, I went to Hawaii and scattered her ashes because I knew that's where she always wanted to go. The same year she passed away, I became a teacher, and I never got a chance to tell her. So this is the last thing on my bucket list that I need to check off.
But losing a parent, and especially losing a mom, in my opinion, that's one of the most difficult losses you can ever go through. And Survivor's such a raw experience and game where everything is taken away from you. All of your possessions that make you feel comfortable and make you feel warm and at home, those things are stripped away from you, and you're on this bare island. And that's kind of how I felt when I lost my mom; I felt like everything was stripped away from me. And so I feel like if I can go through losing a parent and still come out resilient and persevering and find a way to still thrive in life with that biggest loss, then I can definitely go to 26 days and come out winning.
What excites you the most about the new era of Survivor?
I feel like in earlier seasons of Survivor, you had the ability to have that time to get to know people where you were able to study how they would react to certain situations or how they would play. You had that time. Now you don't have that time. You have to make a snap decision. And that makes the game so much more intriguing because sometimes you don't even know how you're going to play. So I think that that just adds a whole other element to it. Which is why I'm happy I'm in Fiji! (Laughs.) Because some people get Africa, Guatemala, the Australian Outback, I get Fiji. So the game is moving faster. But at least the elements aren't as tough. (Laughs.)
What do you think people will perceive you as?
I think people are going to perceive me in a number of different ways. But I'd like to think that people would perceive me as someone who is colorful, joyful, full of life, and always bringing the energy and the positivity. Even when times get rough and when times get dark, just being that person who can uplift and inspire. Initially, is that how they may think of me? Probably not! (Laughs.) It might be, "Whoa, this girl's a lot," or, "Wow, she's really naive." But I think as time passes on, people can begin to see that my personality is just a big part of me wanting to leave every space I enter more bright and more colorful than I found it. And I think that that is going to inspire people. Or at least, I hope.
Next, check out our interview with Survivor 43 contestant Mike Gabler.