Is your Facebook page worth a million bucks? That might be the case for Provo resident Angie Layton, who's about to be beamed into living rooms across America on the newest season of "Survivor," the long-running, survival-themed reality game show on CBS. The 20-year-old Layton is one of 18 "castaways" who will compete to win the $1 million prize on "Survivor: Philippines," the long-lived show's 25th season.
The "Survivor" casting team, Layton said, "found me on Facebook and asked if I would be interested in applying to be on the show. I was like, 'I would love to!' "
A sometime model, student at The Art Institute of Salt Lake City and recent graduate of Snow College (in 2011) and Manti High School (2010) in Sanpete County, Layton is in good company as a Utahn on "Survivor." Sushi chef Jonas Otsuji of Lehi competed last season ("Survivor: One World"), while Brigham Young University professor Dawn Meehan and rancher (and Provo native) Rick Nelson were on the season ("Survivor: South Pacific") before that.
"When I got home, they all reached out to me," Layton said. "I'm actually really good friends with Rick and Jonas. It's kind of like a little 'Survivor' family."
And that's to say nothing of Utah contestants from further back in the show's run: Todd Herzog of Pleasant Grove won Season 15 ("Survivor: China"), Neleh Dennis of Sandy finished second on Season 4 ("Survivor: Marquesas"), and Heber City's Tyson Apostol appeared on both Season 18 ("Survivor: Tocantins") and Season 20 ("Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains").
To seal the deal with the show's producers, Layton (who, like all of the other past Utah contestants, is Mormon) demonstrated a few survival skills on her audition video, including shooting guns, hunting and starting a fire using flint and steel. "I just wanted to show that I was well rounded," she said.
Perhaps that's because Layton realized that a lot of people would tend to fixate on her most obvious dimension: beauty queen. A former Miss Utah Teen USA in 2010, Layton eventually became third-runner-up to Miss Teen USA Kamie Crawford of Maryland.
Does a pageant princess have what it takes to "outwit, outlast and outplay" her competition on the show? Some observers have Layton pegged for an early exit. When the entertainment website That Guy with the Glasses posted its initial "Survivor: Philippines" Power Rankings, the site ranked Layton 14th out of 15 first-time players.
(In addition to having celebrity contestants Lisa Whelchel of "The Facts of Life" and former baseball star Jeff Kent in the mix, "Survivor: Philippines" will feature three returning castaways who were medically evacuated from previous seasons.)
That Guy blogger Inky McInkerson "guaranteed" that Layton will be out of the game before the opposing tribes are merged -- roughly the halfway point of most seasons -- adding that, "I don't know anything about the pageant world, but I know one thing is for sure -- Angie will not last long in 'Survivor.' " (The only player That Guy rated lower is former Major League Baseball MVP Kent, whose famously explosive temper is viewed by many as a probable "Survivor" Achilles heel.)
On the other hand, there are plenty of people pulling for Layton, including at her old school in Manti. "Angie was a very pleasant girl here," said Manti High School guidance counselor Connie Good. "She was always bubbly and cute and had a gorgeous smile." In addition to being a three-year cheerleader at the school, Good said, Layton participated in the school newspaper and was a peer tutor for students with disabilities.
"There are several of the staff who are planning to watch and see how she does," Good said.
They won't be the only ones expecting big things from Layton and her castmates. Longtime "Survivor" host Jeff Probst said after the show's most recent season that "Survivor: One World" had been "a bit of a letdown." Don't expect the same thing this time around. " 'Survivor: Philippines' has a rockin' great group of people," Probst recently tweeted. "I feel very confident you will enjoy this season! A lot!"
In Her Own Words
The Daily Herald talked to Provo resident Angie Layton about competing on the upcoming season of "Survivor" on CBS. Since the season hasn't started airing yet, Layton couldn't talk about what happened in the game itself. Here's what she had to say about getting ready to play the game, the (overall) sensation of competing on "Survivor," and a handful of other topics.
On her past experience with island living: "The only time I've really been to the beach was for Miss Teen USA in the Bahamas. This was absolutely something completely different than what I'd ever done."
On whether she enjoys roughing it: "My dad is huge into camping. It wasn't my favorite thing to do growing up, but I do have experience in camping."
On the frequent "Survivor" necessity of lying to other players: "I'm not a good liar. I don't like lying to people. People who know me can tell that I'm lying. I knew it was a game, but I wanted to stay true to myself. It's not really who I am as a person."
On the actual level of day-to-day difficulty of being on "Survivor:" "It's definitely harder than I had expected. When you watch the show, you see them on a beach: it's sunny, it's beautiful. I thought, 'I can do that.' "
On whether any of what's shown is scripted or staged: "Nothing is staged. It's all exactly what you see."
On her people skills: "I get along with everybody. I'm very friendly, very nice. That was one of my strategies going in. I wanted to work hard, be a friend and be myself."
On interacting with longtime "Survivor" host Jeff Probst: "It was awesome. He's actually shorter than I thought. He was so nice. He was really nice to me."
On learning from her "Survivor" experience: "What I got out of it was just appreciating my life back at home: taking a shower, sleeping in a bed. Every day on 'Survivor,' I just appreciated that so much."
On preparing for the physical intensity of "Survivor" after being cast: "I worked out every single day. I wanted to really get in shape and get some muscle on me."
On whether she's good at solving puzzles (a "Survivor" mainstay): "No, I absolutely hate puzzles. I don't do puzzles. That was my weakness. That's the only thing I worried about going in."
On drawing on her past experience in beauty pageants: "There are girls who are completely fake to you. They're nice to your face, but behind your back they're against you. It's kind of the same thing on 'Survivor.' "