“Bronze isn’t bad”
Survivor: Vanuatu completed its run December 12 with resident matriarch Scout Cloud Lee finishing in third place. This makes Lee, who turned 60 last month, the highest-placing out lesbian player in the show’s history, as well as one of the few older contestants to get that far in the game. Her original tribemate and onetime alliance partner, lesbian Ami Cusack, finished sixth—in part due to Lee’s smiling machinations. Lee played a key role all along, first as a decision-maker helping to form a women’s alliance and later in willingly deviating from that strategy. Ultimately, the "women power” game plan crumbled—even with Sunday’s million-dollar vote, which rewarded the last man standing. Still, that final tally revealed an interesting trait: Lee and Cusack, first allies, then enemies, ended up sharing a perspective at the game’s conclusion. Congratulations on your fine finish.Thank you so much. A bronze medal in the Olympics isn’t all bad.So how’s the Survivor celebrity ride treating you?You know what? People really are possessed by Survivor, so the fans have got to be the greatest fans in the world. I think they really value the fact that you had the guts and the persistence to put yourself through that to entertain them.So how has the reaction been among people who already know you, back in Oklahoma?Oh, man. Hometown pride in Stillwater, Okla., is amazing. And Perkins—you know I have a ranch down in Perkins, which is close by and much smaller. People have been 100% supportive: “Go girl. You go, girl!”Were any of your townspeople surprised to discover they were living near lesbians?I don’t think so. Annie and I, everybody knows we’re always together and we love each other, so I don’t think there’s any surprises. I think most people are like, “So what?”Was it important to you from a philosophical standpoint to have a women’s alliance? Or was that just strategy and practicality?Well, first of all, it’s just basic strategy, because we were a women’s tribe competing against a men’s tribe. Philosophically, I came into this game with a question. I’ve watched this game over the last many years, and women simply don’t seem to be able to stick together. They keep selling out to men. So my question was: What would happen if a women’s alliance formed and stayed true?I had that opportunity to live out that question. I think I’m the only person who remained true to a women’s alliance all the way to the end of the game. My alliance shrunk—only Twila remained in it [at the end], which is the nature of the game.But you brought a man, Chris, into an alliance, and put him ahead of other women.But I continued to stick with the alliance I had until that alliance shifted. In terms of taking it through the end of the game, Ami and myself, Leann and Twila, and ultimately Lisa really said, “Let’s stick together.” There was a little shift for me when Ami choreographed Lisa getting voted out. That was, I thought, the first breach of the alliance...I was forced to shift, and what remained of our women’s alliance was me and Twila.In the final vote to win the million dollars, Chris defeated Twila, 5–2. It’s interesting that you and Ami were the only ones who voted for Twila; all the other women chose Chris.Yes. There you have it. Our alliance did stick. To that extent.How is your relationship with Ami now?It’s good. You know, Ami and I are both mature enough. You’ve got to let things go. Ami was angry because she was sure that she and Leann would go to the end of the game, and when that didn’t happen, she demonstrated her anger out there pretty significantly. But she let go of it—in fact, when she came this time [to the reunion], she came bearing gifts for everybody.She must have let go of the anger before the final tribal council, because she voted for Twila [to win].Yes, her vote surprised me. I thought she had remained mad, and it really was endearing to me to see that she voted for Twila. That was great.Do you suppose it has anything to do with the fact that you’re both lesbian, that you both voted for a woman at the end?You know, I didn’t even think about that until it was all over. I think it’s definitely interesting.Did you ever perceive any homophobia on the island from any other players?Absolutely not. I heard that Lisa and Dolly—well, they both are very Christian-oriented, and they had some religious upbringing that would cause them to be homophobic. But I didn’t experience any of it, nothing. They were adorable.There’s been some talk about the way CBS and [producer] Mark Burnett handled the episode when your loved ones visited the island. We never got to see you and Annie kiss when you reunited.We did kiss. Everybody kissed. But I didn’t see anybody kiss [on the show] with the editing. I heard that Mark Burnett had not wanted to air a [lesbian] kiss at 8 o’clock; he thought that might be a little bit of a push on a family show. What they did show—and I’m so, so pleased with this—is they showed the love. Boy, if you couldn’t see that Annie and I love each other, wow. That’s what counts.How long have you been together?Annie and I have been best friends for 26, coming up on 27 years.How much money do you win for coming in third?Got it in my pocket.How much is it?Well, you know how much second place wins?Yes. I believe it’s $100,000.Right. Well, third place isn’t far behind. I got a big ol’ fat check.Anything else you’d like to comment on?Well, I want to thank you. The work you guys do, the gay and lesbian media—you know, I think we’re in a situation in our country where this work is more important than it’s ever been. Equal rights for all people, equal benefits. To any extent that I can advance that cause, then I’m here for it.