Survivor's Hayley reveals how return to show affected her wedding

The 2021 winner spills on her upcoming return.

She won Australian Survivor: Brains V Brawn in 2021, and now Hayley Leake is hoping to become the franchise’s first two-time winner when she returns for Heroes V Villains this month.

The pain researcher is one of the many memorable players returning for season eight who are divided into tribes based on how they previously played the game, with Hayley being labelled a ‘hero’.

Survivor winner Hayley Leake.
Survivor winner Hayley Leake is returning to the show for Heroes V Villains. Photo: Channel 10

She tells Yahoo Lifestyle that despite the fact she knew she had the biggest target on her back competing for a second time, there’s no way she could’ve turned down the offer to come back.

“I couldn't say no to the chance to play again because I'm just too much of a fan, and it's perfect timing for me in my life,” she says. “To be honest, I want to have kids and so this feels like the gap in my life where I have a chance to play again. And if I got asked at any other time I might not be able to say yes.”


What wasn’t perfect, however, is the fact that the dates the show was being filmed clashed with her wedding to her fiancé Jimmy.

“We pushed the wedding back a bit because I was going to be in Samoa when the wedding was on, or just back from it depending on how long I lasted,” she explains.

“So we're actually getting married in April. Not long now, only a few more months! But I'm super excited. We’re in the depths of wedding planning here in Adelaide and I cannot wait.”

She adds that Jimmy “couldn’t have been more supportive” of her return to Survivor and had no issues moving the wedding.

“He was like, ‘Go do it again! It worked so well the first time honey, go back! Another $500,000 would be great!’,” she laughs.

Survivor winner Hayley Leake and her fiancé Jimmy.
Hayley says she and her fiancé Jimmy had to push their wedding back because of Survivor. Photos: Instagram/hayleyleake_

'Really difficult'

While former winners Shane Gould and Jericho Malabonga didn’t achieve the same success when they returned for a second season, Hayley says she had a strategy going into Heroes V Villains to prevent this from happening to her.

“Shane and Jericho are great players, but no returning winner has lasted further than their first tribal council,” she shares. “And knowing that they may feel very nervous entering this game again.

“Australians like tall poppy syndrome, we don't want people to succeed who have done it before, so I really had to think about adapting my game when entering. And really, I think it's finding the people who might seek value in you. So what can I offer? I'm a pretty big target. And if you feel like you need a target to hide behind, here I am. So I kind of feel like my greatest strength is really my greatest weakness.”

Hayley went on to say that one of the biggest differences between her two seasons is the location, with the show returning to Samoa for the first time in six years.

“In some ways, it's harder because it rained in Samoa and it didn't rain in the Australian Outback, and to not be dry is really difficult for the morale,” she details. “I've heard people talk about how Samoa was really difficult, and they’re not wrong.

“Also, I was unknown last time. I was just this person that everyone could really put their trust in quite easily because I just didn't seem very threatening and no one knew who I was. And this time everybody knew who I was, so I really had to work differently and do things very differently to try to make it work in this game.”


As for what fans can expect from the Heroes V Villains theme, which is arguably one of the most beloved seasons on the US franchise, Hayley teases that it’s going to be an “iconic” season.

“I think viewers are going to enjoy seeing some of their old favourites in a game together and now competing against each other with some history behind them, and seeing how that unfolds. So if you've watched all the seasons before you're really going to enjoy watching this.

“And the theme is fun! Seeing heroes trying to be heroes and villains trying to be villains and maybe certain heroes trying to be villains, it’s a really fun theme and I think that will be interesting to watch.”

Australian Survivor: Heroes V Villains premieres 7:30pm Monday, January 30 on 10 and 10 Play.

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