Latasha “Tasha” Fox enjoyed what’s considered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and she did it twice.
Fox, a 1995 Alton High School graduate, is fresh off her second stint on CBS’ hit reality series “Survivor.” After competing on “Survivor: Cagayan,” Season 28 of the show, she was brought back by a fan vote to compete on “Survivor: Second Chance in Cambodia,” the 31st season.
Fox made it to the final three contestants, with a $1 million jackpot on the line during the three-hour finale on Dec. 16 on CBS. Unfortunately, she fell a little short.
Jeremy Collins, a firefighter from Cambridge, Mass., won unanimously. Spencer Bledsoe of Chicago was the other player in the final trio.
Via telephone recently, Fox discussed her awesome experiences and her joy at being a contestant on her favorite show for a second time.
“As a fan, if I were not playing I would just say, ‘This is so fantastic,’” Fox said, chuckling. “To actually be a part of it — it was mind-blowing. I loved it. I loved it.”
Fox lasted 39 tumultuous days in Cambodia to reach the end. Through extreme temperatures, non-stop rain and at times lack of food, she made it to the end only to have to wait longer to find out if she had won the ultimate prize or not.
“It was four months from the end of filming to the finale, so it’s been a long road,” Fox said. “It’s been a long road from beginning to end, so to sit there on the stage on the finale I was just thinking, ‘Man, this is it.’ I really enjoyed it.”
Collins, who dropped the bombshell that his wife was pregnant with their third child through filming during the final speeches with a jury of their peers, won with 10 votes, while Fox and Bledsoe received none. Fox formed an alliance with the other two finalists early on and she was happy to see Collins win.
“I locked in with Jeremy on Day 1 and on Day 39 I was still locked in with him and I’m glad he won, I’m glad I helped him get there and he’s my friend,” Fox said. “I love his family and I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else, besides myself, to win so I was happy.
“When he told the story about his wife (being pregnant), I could just hear the hammer nailing the nails into the coffin. Jeremy played a great game and I was honored to be sitting next to him.”
Fox said she achieved her goal.
“My concern was making it to the end in a season where 17 other people couldn’t do it,” she said.
It wasn’t easy. “Survivor: Second Chance” included a slew of historic twists and turns for the show and took the contestants to their physical and mental limits.
At one point during an immunity challenge in the water, safety swimmers had to come to Fox’s rescue when she began to go under, due to exhaustion. Another contestant, Joe Anglim, passed out from exhaustion during an immunity challenge.
“It took its toll and you saw Joe pushing his body to the point of passing out and me, my mind telling me to swim, but my body literally wouldn’t respond,” Fox said. “It’s real. If people think ‘Survivor’ is fake and just a show on TV that’s fabricated, yeah, they’re wrong. It’s 100 percent legit.”
The contestants are split into tribes on the show, at one point having three of them, but only one getting a bag of rice for food. In previous seasons every tribe had received rice.
“I was with Angkor where we literally had nothing,” Fox said. “We went four days without eating. Just our journey to tribal and back and back and forth from challenges was very hilly and it was a pretty tumultuous hike just to get to challenges or rewards. We were already spent before we even competed.”
Fox, who has always been a super fan of “Survivor,” said she feels this season truly gave her a second chance. She got redemption for any regrets she had the first time around.
“I applied for ‘Survivor’ three times before I got on and I’ve been a fan since Season 1, so just getting the first opportunity to play was amazing,” Fox said. “I’m thinking, ‘I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.’ I was so happy, although I did have regrets. There were so many things I should have done in the game and things I should have said. I left that game thinking, ‘I could have done a lot better.’
“So when I got a second chance I said, ‘OK, I’m not going to squander this opportunity.’ And the fans voted me back which made it even more meaningful and this time I can say I have zero regrets. I feel I did everything I could to get to the end of the season.”
And now, after four months of inquisitions from friends and family, she’s ready to come home and share all her experiences with her loved ones. She said the bombardment for hints was stressful.
“Yes, including my mother. Every week she would say, ‘Are you going home tonight?’ And I’d say, ‘Mom, I’m not telling you. Just watch the season,’” Fox said, laughing. “It’s really hard when people are like, ‘Hey, how did you do, or can you just give me a little bit?’ I think it’s better when you watch it unfold and don’t have any spoilers. I’m pretty good at keeping secrets, obviously. I played ‘Survivor’ pretty well. I liked that no one knew the outcome and I can’t wait to go home to family and friends and celebrate with them.”
Fox, who now resides in St. Louis and works as an accountant, has plenty of family still in the Alton-Godfrey area, including her parents, one brother and one sister.