Jemila "Jem" Hussain-Adams
Jemila "Jem" Hussain-Adams is the definition of a go-getter. After spending nearly 20 years in Guyana, she immigrated to America, becoming a seasonal associate at Victoria's Secret. That was the foot in the door she needed, as, over a decade later, the 32-year-old is now an international brand mentor. Jem comes into Survivor with plenty of experience to be a provider (though she wants to play beyond the label) and the sales skills to handle people. But despite her "see what happens" mindset, she has a few hard and fast rules, namely, never playing an idol on another player.
Read on for my interview with Jem, and check in with Parade.com daily for interviews with this season's contestants and other tidbits. Survivor 46 premieres on February 28 with a two-hour premiere on CBS.
Related: Meet the Full Cast of Survivor 46
Interview with Jem from Survivor 46
To start, give me your name, age, and occupation.
My name is Jem Hussain-Adams. I am 31 years old, and I am a retail manager. I'm in charge of two lingerie stores that produce annually about 10 million.
So, did you work your way up from sales associate?
Oh, try seasonal associate.
Wow! So you worked your way up from only being there for a couple of months to being the big boss.
Well, I've been with the company for about 11 years altogether. So I worked my way up. I was a seasonal associate. And then they had commission-based sales. And so I was their number one selling associate in the US and Canada for three consecutive years. Really great sales. [Laughs.] And then I worked my way up from manager to store manager.
And do you like being able to mentor other sales associates to follow in your footsteps now?
Absolutely. I mean, it is my passion; I'm actually going on a stretch assignment next month to Israel for six months as a brand mentor. So funny that you said mentor. I think I have a passion for what I do. And I want to just teach how to do it and get anyone who's interested. I'm big on mentoring people and having your group of people and watch them go from nothing to these amazing positions in the company. And so I think this is my passion, and I get to do it.
That sounds like Survivor, starting from nothing and building your way up to hopefully a million dollars. So, that being said, what brings you in front of me today? What made you decide, after climbing up the corporate ladder, to climb back down and start as an associate in the Survivor store?
It's funny that you said climbing down the ladder. I'm originally from Guyana, South America. I lived 19 years there. And the environment in Fiji is exactly what I grew up in. Growing up, I had a tough upbringing. I lived in a shelter with five siblings and my mom, and it was basically a shack. We hardly have any food to eat. But that's the card that I've been dealt with. And this is my opportunity to come back, knowing that I've done that, but how can I use that to my advantage? So that's why I'm in Fiji.
What prompted you to immigrate to the United States?
I mean, honestly, I'm a go-getter. The sky's the limit for me. I don't believe your education or where you're from defines who you are. I think that's a barrier that I broke through that years ago. And so I figured, you know what? I'm gonna apply to Survivor. And my husband is a super fan. He introduced me to Survivor during the pandemic. He applied multiple times, but never got called. And then we applied together and I got called.
Define "applied together." Did you sit in the same frame?
We are in the same frame. We're like, "Hey, cast us as a couple."
Trying to manifest another Blood vs. Water season!
Literally, Survivor does all this crazy stuff. We're like, "We could go undercover. Play against one another, then together." And then they emailed back, and they're like, "Hey, we want you." And I was like, "Great!' He's still supportive, though. He's like, "Go live it. Have as much fun as you can." And that's why I'm here.
Do you remember one particular season, player, or moment that got you hooked on Survivor?
Oh, yeah. I forgot what season it was. But it was a season with Parvati. And my second episode, I was like, "I can do that. I can do this. I'm good. I need to be on Survivor." And then I was like, "Okay, I need to not watch every season for it. But I need to go backward." And I literally rewatched every season, because I wanted to see. And then after 40, to change up the whole game so it's brand new. This is our moment to define the game, and to set new barriers and new rules. And I think that's what got me hooked. And I was like, "Okay, I'm gonna apply."
Give me one Survivor winner and one non-winner who you identify with the most. Was Parvati your winner based on what hooked you on the show?
No, Tony for winner! I like Parvati. And I like the way she played. But Tony is more me. I love the scheming. I love that he got along with everybody at camp. I love that he actually worked for everything that he achieved in the game. He never got dragged by everybody else. He made his moves, and he was bold about it. And I think that's what drew me to him. And I love that he won two seasons. [Laughs.] So, I think whatever he did worked. And I think the [non-winner] that I identified the most with is Naseer. We have exactly copy and paste background. We grew up the exact same way. Except that I think I'd probably play a little bit more of a social and strategic game than Naseer. I don't want to be everybody's provider, if that makes sense.
You're not going to climb up a tree chopping down coconuts or anything like that.
I know how to climb a coconut tree. I did that when I was younger. That's how I grew up. But now, I think maybe depending [on] if people get voted off, and there's no way for us to get food. And then I have to show that part of me. I can fish, and I can climb coconut trees to get food. So then I'll probably come out. But I don't plan on being a provider.
That is so interesting. So you have the skills to be a provider but don't want to show them because it could paint you as a threat?
Not even that I don't want to paint a target on myself. I don't want to repeat mistakes that I've already seen happen. So, for Naseer, he is categorized as a provider from the viewers' perspective. And it probably is different in the game. But I don't want to be the provider. I want to play a badass game. And I want to go there, and I want to rewrite. This season should be different. I don't want to do what anybody in the past seasons did. I want a game-changing moment. I want brand new moves; I want things that you would probably never imagine. I just want to do those things.
Do you have any ideas about how to do that? Or is it more of a mentality thing?
It's the mentality. I think Survivor's an ever-changing game. And I think the one thing about it is that you have to be adaptable enough to make sure that you are going with the flow. But at the same time, you're kind of getting your way by having people do what you want them to do. But you're not making all the big moves. You're kind of helping with the big moves, and it's your idea, but you have other people kind of work it out for you. So, at least, at the end, if you get to the Final Three, you can say, "Okay, that was my idea. I had you go through with that. And here I am sitting!
How do you think you'll be perceived in this game?
Honestly, it's a thing that I've been thinking [about] a lot. One person is going to be the winner, and 17 of us are [not]. Do you want to play a mediocre game? Or do you want to go balls to the wall? It doesn't matter how people perceive me; I think I'm going in with a genuine heart, and I'm going in with a mentality of just having fun. And I think if I have strong alliances, I'm very loyal. So if I have my alliances, when I say the word, "I trust you," I'm that person that, no matter what, it's not going to break. My words are all I have. So I feel like other people that are probably not in my close group, I don't care how they perceive me. Because, at the end of the day, it is a game. And if you're okay with talking your way out of it at the end, I think it doesn't matter. A lot of people get caught up at the Final Three talking their way out of it. And people can perceive it if you don't explain it in a different light.
Do you plan on telling people your job out here? Obviously, there's a connotation between retail and sales, the latter of which is considered taboo in the game.
I would probably say that I'm in visual merchandising. I'm going to keep it into the retail world, and visual merchandising is all about the eyes and all about the fine detailing. It's nothing to do [with] interacting with people. I've thought about that before since I'm such a strong salesperson. With sales comes all this crazy stuff that people think. And then, in the sales world, you don't want to be desperate. Sellers are usually desperate. So if you're coming into a store, and immediately as you walk in, someone's like, "Hey, welcome in," and you're like, "Okay, I just want to look around." From the get-go, that's desperation. You probably won't interact with that person again. But if you let that person look and come off, and if they're touching something and being like, "I love that," it's an immediate bond. And so you don't want to come off as a salesperson. I think it's desperation.
How much overlap do you think there is between Survivor and retail? Selling a shirt versus selling a blindside?
I think it would probably overlap a lot. And I planned on doing it. But, like I said, I want to be able to sell through other people. So I'm a manager. I manage people; it's what I do. So I want to manage people by telling them the plan and have them kind of go through with it rather than I'm like, "Oh, let's vote him out." I don't want that to come out of my mouth. Instead saying, "Hey, what do you think of this person? Do you think they're strong? Would you see them beating us at the end ever?" And so kind of just feeding information and have someone else execute.
Talking about the idea that your word is your bond, what are you looking for in an alliance? Are you looking for a ride-or-die?
I really am. One thing that I loved about 44 is that Carson, Carolyn, and Yam Yam, no matter what, they stuck it out. Even though they knew one another [was] a threat, they let fire be the decision to take one of them out. And I think for me, I'm looking for trust. I genuinely want to trust people. I often get told that I trust too easily. And that's something that I have to be careful with. Because, like I said, I'm loyal. So the minute I feel like someone comes to me, and they're like, "Hey, you want to be friends?" I'm like, "Yes! Let's be friends. We're best friends." And then I trust. But I need to be mindful of that. But at the same time, trust is something that I'm looking for, and loyalty from my alliances.
That being said, would you ever want to cut that ride-or-die if it got in the way of you winning the game?
I think at the end of the day, there is a time and place for everything. For instance, if I know you're going to beat me, if we get to the end, and we're best friends, I have to vote you out. That's where it comes to, "Hey, we're gonna mend this after Survivor." But we all know what we're here for. And I think just making sure that, in the end, explaining, "I knew you weren't gonna beat me. You were my biggest threat. If I didn't take you out, you would have won." And so I think that should at least hold some ground. Who knows? We'll see.
Related: Everything to Know About Survivor 46
Are you picking up any good vibes from anyone in the preseason?
Oh, yeah. I have my eyes on a few people that I think would jive really well. In my notebook, I penciled in, "Best friends forever?" [Laughs.] I am that psychotic person that's like, "Okay, this will be my friend." But again, we have to make sure that that person is on my tribe. And there are a few people that have been a little standoffish, who are just, you know, like very neutral facial expressions.
Give some descriptions of your possible new BFFs!
One of them has red hair, lots of tattoos. Love her. The other one has a red tank top with some shorts, dark black hair, straight hair. And then there's this guy, he looks like Thor. You might see him. And then there's this other girl with a colorful top and long braids. Those are the people that's been giving me really good vibes; we can really vibe with each other. And then there are a few people that are just like blank facial expressions. I think it's just because they don't want to give off too much. And that's probably their gameplay, but we'll see.
What's your approach when it comes to advantages? Are you thinking, "Idol sale, everything must go"?
I definitely want to find one. Maybe two, maybe three, all the idols I can find. [Laughs.] I think I'll go idol hunting for sure. I want to find it. I think it's a key part of playing Survivor, if you don't find an idol, were you even on Survivor? [Laughs.] Did you even play? But I'm definitely idol hunting and making sure, if I find one, nobody sees that I found it. Nobody's gonna know. I am not telling anybody. And you bet your ass I'm not playing it for anybody.
Even going back to trying to find that ride-or-die ally, you still wouldn't tell them if you had an idol?
I still wouldn't tell them. Because it might come to the Final Five, and my closest ally tries to vote me out. You always have to think about the long term. And when you're in the moment, you get caught up. So, I made a list of everything that I will and won't do. And I cram that. I was like, "I'm not doing that."
How long is that list?
Probably a few each. And we've seen people play idols for other people. And it's really good gameplay in the moment. But then you turn around, and you vote them out two episodes later. And it's like, "Why did you even play your idol? Why didn't you keep it?" And I just want to make sure that my idol is my idol and nobody else's.
Let's say a boat shows up at your camp on Day 2, asking one person to go on a journey. How would you approach the situation?
I won't volunteer myself. That's that. Everybody knows that you volunteer yourself, and you're the first person going home. Because everybody always thinks, "Okay, there is something there." We've seen all the episodes. There's the chance to get an idol. And if you come back, you have to disclose that you have an idol. If you don't know when you lost your vote, then you're [expletive]. You're basically going home. So, if they volunteer me, I'll be like, "Okay, I'll go." And I think then, that's Survivor, whether you tell it all or you kind of go with the flow and read people's vibes a little and see what to disclose.
How have you been preparing for Survivor?
I've been swimming a lot. I recently learned how to swim about a year ago. I drowned when I was younger, eight years old, in quicksand. It was just crazy.
Not even on water?!
No! [Laughs.] Yeah, I know. But I never really tried to learn how to swim after. But after I applied the first time, I couldn't swim. And so that was a blocker, and I didn't get to go further. So that's last year. And then I reapplied, and I took swimming classes. My husband taught me how to swim. And every single day before or after work, I go and I swim. I learned how to jump into an eight-foot pool without freaking out, which is great. I was like, "It's gonna happen there. I don't want to be a global embarrassment." Because I told someone "national," and they said, "Try global." And I was like, "Great!" [Laughs.] I don't want to be a global embarrassment. I've been going to the gym some. And I think mentally, just having fun. I haven't thought of anything mentally. I'm a person. When it happens, that happens. And my husband hates it when I say that. If it happens, it happens. When it happens, I'll deal with it. I'm that kind of person. Because I think if you put a lot stored, you go crazy in the brain. If it happens, it happens.
That's especially prevalent in the new era. You never know what's thrown at you, so you must be light on your feet.
I just want to have fun. Eight thousand people apply for Survivor. I'm one of 18, and that alone is winning. I mean, everything else would be great. But you have to come in with the mentality of, if you think about the money, you'll go crazy. You have to think about all the fun you'll have. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you don't really get to do. So I'm just going in with that mentality.
To your point of "if it happens, it happens," are you usually someone who makes decisions based on their gut?
I'm a gut person. I'm one with my intuition. I always say that. If I close my eyes, I can see the answer. That's how one I am with my intuition. So I feel like I can't force it. If something is not happening, I need to read that. And I think that is one thing that I need to remind myself, to just go with your intuition and don't get like swayed by anything or anyone.
What is your hottest Survivor take?
I don't know. I'm big on the idol thing. And people play their idol for other people, or if they have their idol in their pocket. I think that's a big one. And they're kind of on the edge of their seat, like, "Should I play my idol? Should I not?" And they don't play their idol, and they go home. I think one thing that's overlooked is, Heidi, last season, she played her idol. And everybody–even I–thought at first, "Why did she play her idol? She didn't have to play her idol." But when you think back to it, she wasn't in on a lot of the votes. And that was a pivotal moment in time. And she was like, "You know what, [expletive] it. I'm gonna play my idol, or I'm probably gonna go home with it in my pocket." So I think just go with your gut. And, if you have an idol, play it if you think you're in jeopardy.
What celebrity or fictional character would you want to come out for a Loved Ones visit?
That's a tough one. I don't know. I'd probably say Michelle Obama. I love her. She's a Wonder Woman. Yeah, I would love for her to be my loved one visit. Sorry, babe. You did not read that. [Laughs.]
[Laughs.] Maybe he'll be in the competition alongside you!
Finally, what's your emotional cocktail right now? How are you feeling as the big day gets closer and closer?
The emotional cocktail is, let's say, a little bit of nerves. A lot of like, "Can I play already?" And then a little bit of like, "Okay, if this person is on my tribe, where do I see myself with them?" So it's a lot of guessing games at this moment. And, genuinely, I'm just excited to get on the beach and start playing. Because I feel like once I see who's on my tribe, that will define my whole gameplay. Because I kind of have these small ideas of who people are and their personalities in trying to read their body language. But when I know who's on my team, I know what I can control.
Next, check out our interview with Survivor 46 contestant Charlie Davis.