By David Reese, Montana Living
From the mountains of Montana, to the fashion runways of New York City, Amanda Kimmel has learned a few things about survival.
Self reliance. Determination. Perseverance.
All of those traits helped when the former Miss Montana was chosen to participate in the CBS reality TV series “Survivor: China.”
Kimmel, 23, made it nearly through the entire series before taking third place — missing out on the first place prize of $1 million. She was, however, selected to participate on the current Survivor series: Survivor: Micronesia.
Kimmel moved to Los Angeles in fall of 2006 to pursue a career in fashion design. That’s a far cry from her former job as a waitress at Red’s Wines and Blues, a Kalispell restaurant. Before that, she worked at the cosmetics counter at Herbergers department store in Kalispell. She was chosen to audition for “Survivor: China” and won the part.
In the China series, Kimmel had to rely on her instincts and survival skills, things she picked up on living in Montana. “I was used to the outdoors, camping and hiking,” Kimmel said in a phone interview from an L.A. coffee shop. “I wasn’t terrified of being left alone in the wilderness, and it helped my confidence in the game because I’d done similar things before.”
But, she adds, “I knew people would underestimate me because of my beauty pageant background.”
The Survivor series is based on 15 castaways fulfilling challenges and winning “immunity” from being voted off the show. The participants that remain in the game, along with those who have been voted off, compose the “tribal council,” which decides who gets to stay.
The show, says Kimmel, is real. Although there are cameras following the participants around, the players are not given assistance. “It’s definitely real,” she said. “Everything that happens on the show … happens.
It was at Kimmel’s final tribal council where she broke down and was voted off the show. “I did a horrible job of defending myself,” she said, “The emotional part caught up to me in the end. I felt bad about voting people out, and double-crossing people. It takes a toll on you, and I wasn’t expecting it.”
Having made it through nearly to the end of the series, Kimmel said “I really thought I was going to win. I just ran out of energy and motivation. I pretty much was at my breaking point.”
In “Survivor: Micronesia,” things might be a bit easier. The participants have food. Coconuts. “In China, we had no food,” Kimmel said.
Competing on “Survivor” showed Kimmel what a person can really accomplish in life when they remove fear from their lives. She’s now working on a line of clothing and is hoping to play host on an upcoming “Survivor” series.
“It was one of those experiences that changes you and your life,” she said. “You learn so much about yourself, how you feel under pressure, and what you're made of.
“It’s given me a no-fear attitude about going out and making something happen. It’s put me back into society with a feeling that ‘I've done things harder than this.’”