Meet the 'Survivor 45' Cast! Dee Valladares Comes in With a Lifetime of Sales Experience

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

In her own words, Dee Valladares is already "thriving" on the island. The 26-year-old has a background in psychology and years of sales before starting her own backpack company. With enough skills to fill one of her own products, she is playing with her family in mind in the hopes that she'll be able to pay them back for their struggles in immigrating from Cuba with a million-dollar check.

Read on for my interview with Dee, and check in with every day for interviews with this season's contestants and other tidbits. Survivor 45 premieres on September 27 with a 90-minute premiere on CBS.

Related: Meet the Full Cast of Survivor 45

Interview with Dee from Survivor 45

Hi, Dee! How are you doing today?
I'm thriving. I'm excited to start.

That is such an interesting word to use, "thriving." Why is that? Does the tropical weather remind you of Florida?
Honestly, a little bit of everything. I feel like I'm at home here. You know, it's the humidity, the palm trees, the water. I love being next to the ocean. To me, it's like a meditation. Like, it's my form of meditation, working out, and being next to the water. [Laughs.] So that's how I'm thriving. Yeah, I feel good here.

Let's get into your career. I know you're an entrepreneur. What do you specialize in?
So, I've dabbled in a lot of different things growing up. I went to school for psychology. But then I found out they didn't make much money. So I'm like, "I gotta do something else." [Laughs.] I did retail sales my entire life. Then, I went into pharmaceutical sales. Then, I went into tech sales. And then, I started my own business, my own backpack company, because I love to travel. So it's just that niche of the travel community.

Clearly, you have a lot of sales experience. Is that something you plan to bring into the game?
Yeah, definitely. It's something that I don't plan on telling people that I've done in the past. I'm just gonna say that I have my backpack company because it is not a lie. But anytime you hear the word "sales" or "sell," people just automatically turn off, and I don't want that to happen. I think, in life in general, you're just selling yourself at every opportunity. So that's how I'm gonna play the game. Just gonna sell myself. [Laughs.]

So what did Survivor sell you to make you feel like you could come on and win?
I started watching Survivor in 2020. I can't say I started watching it from day number one. Well, obviously, I wasn't born yet. In 2020, my best friend was like, "You should watch the show; you'd really like it." I just started binge-watching everything. And I became a superfan. I started then going back to the older episodes. And I'm like, "Oh, this is who Boston Rob is. This is who Sandra is." Then I just started watching everything. I started just getting attached, to be honest.

And I remember when I first saw the first season, I would cry. I would literally cry when I would see the family visits because I knew I would be on Survivor before I knew I would be on Survivor, if that makes sense. I knew it innately; I felt it. And that's why I'm here. I want to take care of my family first of all, and obviously, we all want to win the million dollars. So, I want my family to be taken care of, and I also want to inspire people to go out there and do things that scare them. And this scares me! If someone says this doesn't scare them, they're lying. [Laughs.]

>>> Sign up for Parade's Daily newsletter and get the scoop on the latest TV news and celebrity interviews delivered right to your inbox <<<

You've watched a lot of the show in the past few years. Give me one Survivor winner and one non-winner who you identify with the most.
I love Sandra. She's Puerto Rican; I'm Cuban. She has a little hustle and a little feistiness in her. She also has an "I don't give a shit" attitude, which I love and I need to get better at. Looking at that thing about her, I'm like, "Damn, I want that." I see that a little bit in me, but I have to tweak it a little bit. As far as non-winner, I'll say one of the most recent ones, Jesse. I love Jesse. I was rooting for Jesse. When he lost at fire, that was so sad. And I think I relate to him a lot because his reason why he came on the show is because of his family. And throughout the show, you just watch him be himself, be just a cool dude. Very normal, chill, cool dude. And you can tell, every episode, his family was in mind, and that's how I'm gonna go into the game. And that's why I feel like I relate to both of them in those ways.

You mentioned your love of the family visits before. Would you say those are your favorite Survivor moments?
Oh, my God, of course! The family visit to me is number one. I feel like it's one thing to watch the show. And it's another thing to be sitting here getting interviewed by you. Honestly, it feels surreal. And to imagine one of my family members coming, it's just like…man. For my parents, they left everything behind in Cuba to bring my brother and me to the United States for a better future. It's like, "Man, this is the moment. This is why you guys left everything, the familiarity of their culture, their language, everything." They came to the United States not knowing English, had to hustle multiple jobs just to have a plate of food on the table for my brother and me. And my brother and I are so grateful for that. And it just feels like I'm giving back to them in a sense. I know that they're proud of me no matter what. But just to have them travel to Fiji, to be like, "Mom, you're here in Fiji!" [Laughs.]

What has your prep been like for the Survivor experience?
Initially, when I got the email back of like, "Hey, send in your submission," I started prepping right then and there. I did not wait for them to tell me, "You're in." I was like, "I'm in already. [Laughs.] I got the email. I'm gonna do my best in every interview, and I'm gonna go on Survivor." But luckily, my prep physically, it's a lifestyle. I love to do CrossFit. And I love to work out and just be in the outdoors. We don't have mountains in Miami, obviously. So I'll do CrossFit, wake surf, skates. So, physically, it's been a lifestyle already.

But I think my prep has been more mental than anything else. Obviously, I've prepped for fire. I never started a fire before in my life. [Laughs.] But I know how to do that. Now, I did not prep for fishing because I'm like, "Somebody will know how to fish," and obviously, survival instincts will kick in. [Laughs.] I'll learn then. I like the smell of fish anyway. But I think more than anything else, it's just been mental. I've been researching Rob Has a Podcast, every podcast on Spotify I've listened to. I've also listened to a lot of winners' interviews and learning from their mistakes. Obviously, it's been 23 years of Survivor; the people that have played are the people that have the best advice, the people that have already been through what I'm about to go through. So that's been my biggest prep.

What's one life experience you feel has prepared you most for the game?
I'll definitely say starting my business with my business partner three years ago has prepared me. First of all, I've learned a lot about myself and how to be a better business partner and, how I say things, how I approach things, what I like in somebody else to tell me how to do things. When you're in a partnership, you've gotta be on the same page all the time. You have to have the same vision, be on the same page, and then you can have disagreements. It's taught me how to not take things personally. Nothing is ever personal. People don't do things as a "screw you," but rather, more like a "pro me."

And I've just learned how to connect with people. I feel like I've already had that innately, but just learning how to sell this backpack that we have. How can we sell this to people? How can we use our story to get it out there and sell? And once we do sell it, how can we make them appreciate the fact that they spent their hard-earned money on our product? So, it's a lot of little things that I would say that definitely prepared me to be here on Survivor.

Speaking of business partners, are you planning to find one out here strategically speaking? What do you seek in an alliance?
I would definitely say I gravitate towards people that I feel are just authentically themselves and are honest. I've said it before, you don't get far in this game by yourself. You need alliance partners, and I want someone who stays true to their word. And I know it's hard to say because we're on Survivor, and you're not always going to stay true to your word. But someone that, in the beginning, stays true to their word to get you to a certain point. And then once that happens, we'll cross the line then. But someone that I can read, obviously. If there's someone that's too erratic, here and there, and just running around, I can't trust someone like that, because obviously I can't read them.

Related: Meet the Full Cast of Survivor 45 

Well, let's turn that reading onto you. How do you think people will perceive you in this game?
Being from Miami, I think people will perceive me as this prissy, pretty face that doesn't like to get dirty and likes to party. When you first hear Miami, that's the first thing you think about. Don't get me wrong. I do like to party sometimes. [Laughs.] But they'll be shocked by how much substance I can bring. And just because I'm from a city everyone knows, and all the rappers rap about, I'm really not like that stereotype of Miami women. But I think people will perceive me as someone that just doesn't get dirty. [Laughs.] But I don't care. I'm not here to be clean. I'm not here to look pretty. I'm here to win the million dollars.

When it comes to perceptions, is there anyone at this time before the season that you're eyeballing as people you do or don't want to work with?
The person who obviously stands out is Bruce because he's back. So it makes me think, "Alright, he's likable. They asked him to come back for a reason. What is that reason?" I want to get to know him. And he also has a calming presence about him. He reminds me a lot of my dad. I turned Bruce into my uncle, and he doesn't even know it yet. [Laughs.] So, I definitely say Bruce is one of them. I also like the dude with the long hair. He has his button-down open. I don't know if he has it open in the interviews. But he seems like such a funny guy that I can relate to. Even though, obviously, we haven't spoken, but he just seems like a laid-back dude who doesn't care about much. And then someone that stands out to me as someone that is a red flag, I would definitely say the tall, skinny white guy, the tallest person here. But I don't say it because of my perception of him. I think it's more of the energy that I got from him because he still hasn't looked me directly in the eyes. [Laughs.]

That might be a height thing.
No, I swear I've tried! I've been like, "Look at me!" [Looks around.] And it's not personal. He doesn't do it just to me. I've looked around, and he doesn't make eye contact with anyone. But I think those are the people you need to watch out for because they're so introverted that it's hard to like get things out of them. And you never know what their next move will be. I don't know if they're not having fun or they're just nervous, but gotta let that go. [Laughs.]

Let's say a boat shows up to your camp on Day 2, asking for one person to go on a journey. How would you approach the situation?
I think in the beginning, I will not volunteer. The beginning stages are so crucial in your game. You need to be around people because it's obvious you know what happens then. I won't throw anyone under the bus because that puts a target on my back. I would never want to throw anyone under the bus and have them feel resentment towards me. And that might be the only thing that they say, "I want to get her out because she feels like she couldn't have me here."

I will not volunteer. I would step back and let someone else lead in that moment. I can date back to elementary school, where I remember we would get lined up to be line leaders. But it was alphabetically, and I was always in the back of the line because my last name started with a V. And I remember back then I'd be like, "Damn, why am I in the back of the line? I want to be a line leader." And I see myself as a leader, but I also see in moments like that, it's okay to step back and let somebody else lead. So, in that moment, I won't go to the island, not at first.

How much, in general, do you plan on incorporating advantages into your game?
I'm definitely going to hunt and seek them out. I think you have to take risks in Survivor, whether it's in the beginning or at the end. And for advantages for me, I'll be a little bit more risky because I can keep that to myself. Going to another island, I can't keep that to myself. Everyone knows I'm going to the other island, and then they know that I may come back lying. But advantages, I can find it, and I can keep it to myself. And I'm okay risking that and going out and searching for that.

I want to put you in your favorite Survivor situation: The loved ones challenge. What celebrity or fictional character would you want to come out for a Loved Ones visit?
I would pick Dwayne Johnson. I grew up watching WWE with my brother. I've known him for years since I was so little. My brother would press slam me onto his bed. [Laughs.] I'd pick The Rock because he's one of the top-tier celebrities, and he's so humble. There's something about The Rock that people just gravitated towards. And you'll see him doing videos all the time where he meets fans. He walks into the room, and he dominates with his presence, obviously because he's big as hell. I just love him. I think he does a lot for the community. And you can tell he is such a family man. I would love to meet The Rock. That'd be so cool. I would love to give him a hug and be so small next to him.

Next, check out our Survivor 45 interview with contestant Austin Li Coon.