Survivor’s Phil on the ‘uphill battle’ to defy Asian and gay stereotypes

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Survivor Australia has officially returned for 2021, including all the familiarities of brutal challenges, shocking twists and upsetting blindsides.

Despite being the first eliminated contestant, 28-year-old Phil Ferguson has gained a legion of fans for their quirky persona and the surprising turn of events that lead to their exit.

Survivor star Phil smiling.
Phil was the youngest contestant on the Brains tribe, as well as the only non-binary contestant and one of two POC. Photo: Channel 10

Unfortunately for the artist, their fate fell in the hands of 31-year-old George Mladenov when he played a hidden advantage at tribal council.

George was able to alter the course of the game by saving himself and five other contestants from elimination, which also prevented them from casting votes.

Chatting with Yahoo Lifestyle, Phil - who is the show’s first non-binary cast member - spoke about the mood at tribal council after George revealed his big move which they weren’t included in.

“I seriously don't even think the show represented how shocked we were,” they admitted.

“Once the six of them left, I knew I was done. I knew that strength was where the others were prioritising and I just knew the target was on me.”

Survivor star Phil getting eliminated.
When the tribe was split in half, everyone chose to vote out Phil. Photo: Instagram/survivorau

Without George’s advantage, Phil believes that the tribe would’ve voted unanimously for best-selling author Wai Chim due to her poor performance in the challenge.

Because of this, fans quickly took to social media to slam the reality series for repeatedly voting out people of minorities early in the season.

“Their first choice was to eliminate a POC woman and when that fell through they eliminated the non-binary person,” one follower tweeted.

A second added: “Why was I surprised that Survivor voted out a queer POC first? My expectations should have been lower.”


Speaking about the backlash, Phil acknowledges it didn’t come across well that Wai and themselves were the team’s two main targets in the first episode.

“If I was just a fan and I had witnessed that, I would also be like, oh that was a bit questionable,” they said.

“But I wouldn't necessarily say that the guys who did vote me out were consciously making that decision in that way.”

Survivor star Wai.
The tribe originally wanted to vote out Wai, but she was saved by George’s advantage. Photo: Channel 10

The Melburnian also confesses that they knew it would be a challenge coming into the show as they had to defy stereotypes.

“I was expecting it to be an uphill battle in terms of being a double minority,” they revealed. “I was trying to be as social as possible to counter that and prove myself in challenges and all that sort of thing.

“I was scared that I was going to be the only person of colour and the only gay person. And so being in a tribe of three gay people and two Asians, I was a bit like, ‘Oh I’ve got a bit of buffer room!’

“But when you remove them all and it's back to square one, I just wasn't able to climb back from it.”

Phil says that the fan support has felt extremely good as they were “dreading” how they would come across on screen.

“I did go into the game being very conscious of who I was representing,” they said. “And I'm not surprised, but also very surprised, that a lot of the guys playing the game wouldn't think in that way because I guess they're not in positions where they think about who they're representing.

“Seeing the fans really get on my side and really support me, and especially supporting Wai as well, it’s actually been very nice.”

Watch Australian Survivor: Brains V Brawn on Sunday – Tuesday at 7:30pm on 10 and 10 play on demand

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