“Survivor ”Season 46 Winner Kenzie Talks Season 50 Cast Wish List, Jury Votes, Q-Skirt and 'Mermaid Dragon' (Exclusive)

Kenzie Petty also tells PEOPLE about Bhanu's apology, Ben’s panic attacks, Liz’s edit and a blooper involving Charlie’s "family jewels"

<p>CBS</p> The finale three on


The finale three on 'Survivor 46' consisted of Charlie, Kenzie and Ben

“Mermaid Dragon” Kenzie Petty, whose fire-making moment in the May 22 Survivor finale helped her secure the title of Sole Survivor, is “relieved” she can finally discuss winning season 46.

The salon owner, 29, kept her victory a secret for almost a year — from when the season filmed in June 2023 to when the finale aired.

Kenzie, who delayed her June wedding to compete on season 46 and got married after she returned, is expecting her first baby in September, but is returning to Survivor in the future also in the cards, potentially for the milestone 50th season of all returning players?

Related: 'Survivor' Finale Recap: How Kenzie Petty Won Season 46

“Never say never,” Kenzie tells PEOPLE. “But at the same time I have a very, very full cup of Survivor. I hit all of my bucket list items, I got the letters, I got the friends, I got the win, I got the bad days, I got the good days, I blindsided, I flirted with [host Jeff Probst], I did it all. I'm very satisfied and very content with the whole journey. If Jeff calls it's kind of hard to say no.”

<p>CBS</p> Kenzie earned five of the eight jury votes to win 'Survivor' season 46


Kenzie earned five of the eight jury votes to win 'Survivor' season 46

Probst recently confirmed that season 50 will feature a full cast of returning players for the first time since season 40’s all-winners cast.

“Oh my gosh, I would love to see all of season 46 go back,” Kenzie says before naming three castmates. “But if I had to pick a few, I would say Tiffany. I think Tiff is just so good and I would love to see her give it another shot. I would love to see Hunter give it another shot. Obviously Q is great television. I hate to say it, but I would love to watch it.”

Below, Kenzie also tells PEOPLE about Maria’s surprise jury vote, Liz’s “weird edit,” Bhanu’s apology over giving her the “Mermaid Dragon” nickname, Ben’s strength in handling his panic attacks, the Q-skirt and an unaired blooper involving Charlie’s “family jewels.”

Related: 6 Survivor Showmances That Lasted — and Whether Each Couple Wants to Play a Season Together Now (Exclusive)

PEOPLE: Congrats on becoming the Sole Survivor and your recent baby announcement. Huge week for you. How do you feel right now, the day after your winning episode aired?

Kenzie: Oh my gosh. I am all the good things. I am relieved that we could finally talk about it. I’ve been sitting on this information for a long time. I'm so excited. I'm so grateful, I'm so proud, just surrounded by love and joy.

How hard or easy was it to keep it a secret since last year?

Both. [laughs]  It was hard because you want to share your life experiences. I'm a very open book, like that's what I do, but easy because I wanted everyone to go through the journey with me, you know? You sign a big NDA so I was like, “Survivor? What? Survivor? Who?”

You and season 44 winner Yam Yam are both salon owners from purple tribes that didn’t do so well early in their seasons. Have you two bonded or talked about those similarities? 

Yeah. I didn't tell anybody I won in the alumni community at all. So he actually just found out I won last night. We bonded because I met him actually and I was like, “We watched you win.” And then the next night we flew out and I thought the odds were stacked against me. There's no way they're gonna let another purple tribe salon owner get to the end. And then we started doing so bad and there were three of us and I was like, it’s like the Tika three all over again. … But it worked out. [laughs]

Yeah, I saw some tweets saying, oh, if there's another salon owner in the future from a purple tribe, vote them out immediately.

[laughs] We're like the new lawyers. It's like salon owners are the dangerous ones.

<p><a href="https://karaperryphoto.com/" data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-type="externalLink" data-ordinal="1" rel="nofollow">Kara Perry</a></p> Kenzie and Jackson Petty are expecting a baby

Kara Perry

Kenzie and Jackson Petty are expecting a baby

Related: Survivor Season 46 Breaks the Record — Again — for Most Players Voted Out with Idols In a Single Season

You delayed your wedding to compete on Survivor 46. What was your thought process when deciding whether or not to push back your wedding date to be on Survivor

Yeah, so we had planned our wedding for June 2023. Survivor called me and they were like, “Are you doing anything this summer?” And I was like, “No.” [laughs] And I came inside and I told my [now] husband and I was like, “Um, Survivor called.” And it was really him who was the driving force in moving [the wedding date]. … He believed in me and rightfully so. He inspired me to believe in myself that I could bring it home and I did.

You did. And what are your thoughts on naming your baby something inspired by the Survivor journey? Has that come to mind?

Um, no it has not. I love my Survivor journey, but a name is very special. I am paying homage by making his nursery jungle themed — the jungle paid for the baby to be born so he has a jungle themed nursery.

What's something producers didn't show that you wish they had? 

Oh my goodness. It's hard to say because there's so much that gets shown. This is just like a funny blooper moment, but I really wanted to try fishing and never had a chance because we were all always scrambling and fighting for our lives. And then on the last day, I had a chance to go fishing and I didn't know how to use a Hawaiian sling because we never had one on Yanu, obviously.

[laughs] So, Charlie was like, don't worry, I'll show you how to use it. And Charlie goes to show me how to do it and it flung right back and hit him right in the family jewels. Oh my gosh. And it's fine. He was fine. But it was so funny. It felt like a cartoon, like, it was just too perfect of a moment. [laughs] I wish it had just made the cut because it was just such a silly moment on such a silly season. I loved it.

Maybe the producers can send it to you.

It was very funny. I mean there was also one more. When we were on the Siga beach, Hunter and I had a fun afternoon of looking for flowers and it was just such an interesting juxtaposition because Hunter is way taller than me. I really wanted to make a flower crown, and he just started making me a flower crown, like so dainty. We just had such a fun day on the Siga beach, Hunter and I, and I wish they would've shown that a little more.

Bhanu described you as the “Mermaid Dragon” early in the season. What do you think of that nickname, especially after winning the final four fire-making? 

Oh my gosh, I loved it! Are you kidding? I thought it was amazing. I hope I made him proud. Bhanu called me to apologize for saying it. He was like, “I called you something mean — I called you a Mermaid Dragon.” And I was like, “Bhanu, that is the coolest thing I've ever been called in my life. And you were right. Like you called it.”

<p>CBS</p> Kenzie and Liz compete in fire-making during the May 22 finale


Kenzie and Liz compete in fire-making during the May 22 finale

Related: Starving Survivor Contestant Yells at Another Player After Losing Applebee’s Reward Feast: ‘I’m Pissed!’

Now, what do you have to say to viewers who didn’t like Liz helping you win the immunity challenge by grabbing the plank for you?

Well, they weren't on this season, so it doesn't matter what they think. [laughs] I think if they don't like it then they don't like creativity because there are no rules on Survivor. That's what's so cool about it. Every group comes up with their own rules and we didn't plan that. That was Liz's quick thinking. We had a common goal and we got it done. It was ingenuity and creative thinking on Liz's part. So the next immunity challenge, Jeff was like, “Y'all are playing your own game. Don't help each other.” [laughs] That's what you have to do in Survivor is get your goal however you're gonna get it and think creatively, find a loophole, make it happen.

That's maybe how you make it to a Game Changers 2-type season.

Yeah, exactly.

Would you ever wear or buy a Q-skirt? 

No. No. [laughs] I love Q, but no, I didn't wear it out there at the fashion show. I'm not wearing it at home. I love him and I respect the hustle, let me be clear.

Yeah, it doesn't look very cute. [laughs]

You said it. To be honest, it’s not a cute skirt, it's a Q-skirt. [laughs] So, yeah, it was a really funny bit though, honestly, like it did make me laugh out there. That's why it works is because he knows it's a bit. That's what's great about Q in general. He's very good at playing it up, he's very good at making a thing happen, even if it is just a hoodie. It was funny.

You did bring fashion moments to tribal council, which was really fun to see. Did you have a favorite fashion moment?

The palm-frond scrunchie and the buff bow. I forgot I was doing that. I was very proud and impressed. And that just goes to show how kind of boring it is out there sometimes. Is that all you have to do is fashion island accessories? [laughs] I was like, “I'm here to serve. OK, I am here to slay.”

You did serve and slay.

Thank you!

<p>Robert Voets/CBS</p> Maria cast her jury vote for Kenzie to win 'Survivor' season 46

Robert Voets/CBS

Maria cast her jury vote for Kenzie to win 'Survivor' season 46

Related: Where to Watch Every Season of Survivor

Some viewers are surprised Maria gave her jury vote to you instead of Charlie. Were you surprised by earning Maria’s vote? 

I was very surprised by Maria's vote. My jaw hit the floor. It just goes to show that as a player, you can try and cater to the jury, but you don't really know who's gonna appreciate what. So all you can do at the end of the day is own your game, sell your game and speak from the heart. And I'm just grateful that that resonated with not only Maria, but everyone who voted for me.

Going back a few tribal councils prior to this one, do you think Ben actually accidentally wrote your name down instead of Venus's name?

[laughs] I do. I stand by it. It's so much harder than anyone can imagine, especially when you're going through something like what Ben was with the panic attacks. It's so hard to get your bearings straight when you're in that state. You're starved, you're sleep-deprived, you're alone.

So is it a big mistake? Yes. Is it understandable if you're out there? Yes. Sitting on the couch, people were like, “No way!” And I was like, “Well, yeah, you're wrapped up in a blanket and eating five kinds of snacks.” I remember what it was like out there, especially for how long we had been out there and I put myself back in that spot, I'm like, “Yeah, I wasn't thinking clearly. I couldn't, neither was he.” So Ben is strong to make it as far as he did. So everyone saying he wasn't playing his needs to go play because it's so much harder than you think.

<p>CBS</p> Ben, Kenzie and Maria hang out on a beach in Fiji


Ben, Kenzie and Maria hang out on a beach in Fiji

Speaking of Ben, producers showed your efforts to support Ben through his anxiety and night terrors. He said, “She’s been my No. 1 through my panic attacks. She’s been a sweetheart.” How do you feel about showing those scenes to bring awareness to mental health? 

It's near and dear to my heart because that's something so personal and to be so vulnerable on television is terrifying. And I have a lot of respect for Ben for the way he's handled all of it. I have respect for the way he handled it out there. I think there should be more focus on Ben's strength getting through all of that than there should be on my compassion. He is really the one who got himself through it and I was just there to support. So, I'm happy that the show is using its platform to be, like, it is hard out here and it's OK to go through a hard thing.

You became a clear social threat early on, and Venus even described your social game as “brilliant” during the finale. Was that your strategy going into the game?

Yeah, I knew that my social prowess was gonna be what got me far. Then, especially once I was terrible at challenges, I was like, oh, this is all I got. Granted I won two but the rest were a little questionable. I've gotta rely on my talents and my career is personable and social that it's very natural to me. I love people, I love getting to know people. So I was just gonna ride that wave and I got lucky enough to ride it all the way to the end.

Anything else you would like to add that I didn't ask?

Liz Wilcox got a weird edit. Liz is a great person, and I will fight that fight until the end of my days. Anyone who has anything mean to say about Liz can come through me. She's way more level-headed. Please keep in mind that people on your television are people, and there's a lot more that you don't see, and people are complex and multidimensional. Be nice to each other.

“Be nice” is great. Did you have Applebee’s since filming?

I have. I have had Applebee's with Liz since filming, so it's even better.

<p>CBS</p> The jury, which votes for the winner, included Applebee’s lover Liz (top right)


The jury, which votes for the winner, included Applebee’s lover Liz (top right)

Related: Survivor Season 46: Who Has Been Voted Off and Who Hasn't Been Eliminated Yet

How was Applebee’s with Liz?

Oh, it was wonderful. It was great. It was a Wednesday and season 45 was on. We were together and I was like, “What are we doing tonight?” And she was like, “We're going to Applebee's.” And I was like, “Oh, you really do that?” [laughs] I thought it was a bit for a second, but no that's exactly what she does on Wednesdays.

What did you order?

I don't remember what I got. I was just so excited to see her. This was soon after we got home from filming. She got the burger so all the prophecy was fulfilled. That's all that matters is that Liz got the burger. [laughs]

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