Beyond "Survivor":

An Interview with Christy Smith

Hands & Voices recently had the opportunity to converse with Christy Smith, the now famous Deaf contestant on the CBS show, "Survivor" about her life after the show.

Hands & Voices: What have you been up to since 'Survivor' ended?

Christy:   I have been traveling, doing speeches for different groups of deaf people....

Hands & Voices: One of the reasons you went on 'Survivor' was to raise awareness about deaf issues. Have you been able to do that?  How?

Christy:   I was able to raise deaf awareness during my participation on 'Survivor'. Maybe not so much with ASL, because I chose not to sign during the show.  But what did come through on the TV show, were the everyday challenges a deaf person goes through.... Like me not a being able to step up as a leader (only because I wasn't always aware of what was happening).  Also,  I would sleep good at night because there was no light...etc

Hands & Voices: What is the most common question you get asked since the airing of the show?

Christy:   A lot of the comments I get are how much people were rooting for me. The question I get a lot, is, "How come you were chosen to be on the show?"...(as if they were surprised I was given the opportunity).

 Hands & Voices: What kind of response have you had from the Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities about your appearance on the show? What kind of response have you had from the "hearing" world? 

Christy:  The Deaf community has been supportive. However, a lot of them felt I should have signed more... My response has been,  "If you go to France,  would  you sign to a French person?" Hearing people are very proud of what I accomplished. They think it took a lot of guts to do something like that.  They have often said to me, "If I was on the show, I wouldn't have treated you like they did..." (speaking of the other contestants on the show)

Hands & Voices: What are the experiences in your life that helped you feel prepared to last so long on the show?

Christy:   Good question!  The biggest experience that helped prepare me for the show was participating in Outward Bound for 50 days with hearing people in Alaska. I also gained a lot of confidence during my time at Gallaudet University. During my other traveling experiences over the years, I have constantly stepped out of my comfort zone. And of course, my friends and family have given me good support.

Hands & Voices: You chose to attend a deaf high school, why?

Christy:  I felt like if I wanted to succeed in this world, I needed to merge into the deaf world and in high school I was ready to make that change...

Hands & Voices:  Has your hearing loss ever been a barrier or kept you from achieving a goal?

Christy:   I think my hearing loss has put up a lot of barriers in my life.  But I won't accept those barriers with an attitude of, "So I guess can't do this".. It will be me breaking those barriers down....

Hands & Voices: Is it hard to be Deaf in a hearing world?

Christy:   YES its hard...

Hands & Voices: What are your plans for the future?

Christy:   I am planning on airing a children's TV show on PBS which will incorporate hearing and deaf children in the outdoors.. Now the dirty work is finding the funding, creating the "scripts" and finding kids etc...

Hands & Voices:  What advice would you give to parents who've just found out their baby is deaf?

Christy:   This is a hard question to answer.  Your baby is going to need love, and a language.... Please research the different resources that are around you in helping to find the best way to communicate with your child...

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