Warren alum calls 'Survivor' the ultimate challenge

DOWNEY - Alina Wilson has always been sporty and adventurous.She says her claim to fame is finishing a six-day, 30-mile hike in the Sierra Nevada Mountains even after almost having her finger bitten off by a dog on the first night. "No stitches. No emergency room," she said leisurely. Nevertheless, despite Wilson's history of athletic prowess, nothing could prepare her for the intense, summer-long experience she would encounter as a contestant on "Survivor: Nicaragua," which premiered this week on CBS. "I've always loved the show, I've watched it since season nine - I'm hooked on it," said Wilson, 23. "I thought I'd try it and see how far I could get...I figured I'd be perfect on it." For Wilson, a lifelong resident of Downey, the choice to audition for "Survivor," now in its 21st season, was motivated by a desire to push beyond what she or anyone else thought she could handle. "I love trying new things and challenging myself at new levels," Wilson said. "I didn't want to continue challenging myself in the same ways. I wanted a new arena to test myself and "Survivor" is the ultimate challenge." Taped this summer, "Survivor: Nicaragua," similar to previous seasons of the show, sets two tribes against each other in an exotic location where contestants must outwit, outplay and outlast their opponents through a series of competitions. While Wilson acknowledges that both the physical and mental aspects of the show are taxing, she maintains that the vital preparation prior to the show proved the most difficult. "I prepared like crazy. I trained seven days a week and watched all of the seasons just to get ready for what's out there," she said. "In terms of the physical aspect, it's definitely hard - you're in tough conditions. But there wasn't just one specific aspect. It was the social, mental and physical aspects - everything all together is what makes it a difficult experience." Interestingly enough, Wilson is the third Downey resident to experience "Survivor." In 2007, Alex Angarita was a contestant on "Survivor: Fiji" and made it to Week 12. The following year, Paloma Soto-Castillo was voted out in Week 3 of "Survivor: Gabon." "I guess they grow us well in Downey," said Wilson who attended Downey schools and graduated from Warren High School. Currently, Wilson is an illustration major at Cal State Fullerton with one last class to complete before she receives her degree. In addition to showcasing her original artwork on the side, Wilson hopes to move into the field of art direction for television and movie productions. "I don't think I'm the type of person that is going to stick to one thing all my life," said Wilson with a laugh. Although unable to share any specific details regarding the show itself, Wilson did reveal that the biggest lessons she learned on the show were personal. "You learn a lot about yourself," she said. "I didn't think I could do something like that - you'll all on your own out there. But I now have the confidence to take anything on. Especially at age 23 - with this being the first thing I do after graduation - I know that I don't need to freak out about what's ahead…what ever comes my way, I'll be able to handle it." Wilson could not disclose whether she won the million dollar prize or not, but if by chance she did win, Wilson promises she won't splurge. "My sister is a huge part of my life. She just had a baby so I'd like to pay off her house," she said. "I'd also love to start my own art gallery and an athletic training facility - I'm going to make the money my own nest egg." Since finishing "Survivor," Wilson said she just might return to Nicaragua one day. "It was awesome," she said. "It's indescribable, but definitely it's in the top five best experiences of my life." "Survivor: Nicaragua" airs every Wednesday night on CBS.

********** Published: September 16, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 22