ARTICLE: Ashley Underwood – Survivor: Redemption Island

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I first met Ashley Underwood after Miss USA 2009, through a good friend of mine, Brooke Daniels, during her visit to Texas...

In more or less words, Ashley was baller -- literally  and figuratively! Not only was she one of the most easy going people I've met, but this pageant titleholder was a PRO basketball player!  So I am truly excited to bring you this interview with Miss Maine USA 2009 and Survivor: Redemption Island's castaway, Ashley Underwood! By the way, I am not able to post any audio or video from our interview -- per the powers that be at CBS -- however you will be able to watch Ashley on the season premiere this Wednesday, February 16th at 8pm EST on CBS.

Will: How did you get into pageants?
Ashley: I was always into sports and played basketball...and while playing overseas in Switzerland, one of my friends from my hometown was Miss Maine. I thought, oh my gosh, that's so great because she was an athlete, she always played sports growing up, and then decided to get into pageants. It kind of inspired me when I came home from Switzerland...I needed something to challenge myself because I was so used to being busy and when basketball was over I wanted something to do. So pageants came into the picture, and I never competed in pageants before and decided a few months before Miss Maine USA that I wanted to compete. So I went in blind and not knowing anything, and now I know I feel like I know a lot about pageants!

Will: What were your thoughts when you were announced Miss Maine USA 2009?
Ashley: My first thought was "what have I gotten myself into?" because honestly I didnʼt even know how to curl my hair.  I didn't even know how to use a curling iron! I didnʼt know how to do my make-up. I was basically like, I mean I showed up with no make-up on and lip gloss. I really didnʼt know what to expect and I remember being so excited and just in shock...I cried! I swore to myself before a pageant that I wasnʼt going to cry if I had won. And I cried when I won because I saw my family who had been supportive of me wanting to compete in a pageant. They could have laughed in my face and say,”what was she thinking?” But they didnʼt and I saw how excited they were and supportive, and I just felt overwhelmed and really excited.

Will: What was the highlight of your reign?
Ashley: The highlight of my reign was competing at Miss USA 2009 and meeting the three girls that I am still really good friends with: Miss Texas USA - Brooke Daniels, Miss South Carolina USA - Stephanie (Smith) Waltrip, and my roommate Jessi Pierson - Miss West Virginia USA.  Honestly, I met three of the best girls because I am still friends with them and just having gone through such an amazing experience it really binds you together for life. Itʼs so bizarre, but it's so true and so the highlight, hands down, is competing at Miss USA 2009 in a live pageant on NBC, with all the feelings that I felt at the time, and meeting all these incredible people.

Will: Tell us a little bit about playing professional basketball overseas.
Ashley: Well I played in Switzerland and I was the only American on my team, which was really difficult actually because everybody on the team spoke French including my coach. So I had to have a translator and the most difficult part was just was living alone. Itʼs just wonderful to have that experience but same time I was really lonely over there because having to entertain myself can only be fun for so long. Traveling...there's just so many beautiful things and you want to travel with somebody to be able to share that experience with. I still feel very lucky and fortunate to have the experience, but it was really difficult and my coach went along with it because he would go on and on in French, and I wouldn't know what he was saying in practice. I would just kind of be on my own little island by myself, excuse the pun!  It was very challenging but it made me grow a lot as a person.

Will: Share with us your experience growing up on a farm.
Ashley: Well I have always lived on a farm since I was zero haha. So I lived on a pig farm first -- I was really young so I donʼt really remember too much --  but then it transferred into strawberries, raspberries, and produce. It's been 15 years now of just living on farm, of straight fruits and veggies, and I love it! I mean itʼs really just my dad and my mom and they are just such hard working people. For me growing up, it really taught me the value of hard work and it gave me a lot of respect for all the farmers. I see first hand how difficult it is and how much time it takes.  I was mad at my dad at the time for making me work on the farm, but now I look back and it was just a cool experience it just kept me really grounded, down to earth, and not afraid to get my hands dirty.

Will: What made you decide to audition for Survivor?
Ashley: Well actually I auditioned for The Amazing Race with Stephanie Smith (Miss South Carolina USA 2009) and it didnʼt work out and people kept saying to try out for Survivor. So I ended up auditioning for Survivor, and now I'm just so glad that I did Survivor! This sounds really weird, but Iʼm glad things worked out it did. As much as I love The Amazing Race, I just am so obsessed with Survivor! I am so glad it all worked out.

Will: Whatʼs harder, preparing for Miss USA or preparing for Survivor?
Ashley: Well I canʼt even say they are remotely the same. Preparing for Miss USA was one of the hardest things I have ever done because I wasnʼt a pageant girl, and I didn't know how to do the basics. I didnʼt know how to use a curling iron and I didn't know how to do my make-up -- for me it was a whole new world. As far as Survivor goes, it was very hard to prepare for Survivor because of all the unknowns. I didnʼt know where we were going, I didn't what we were going to do, and all the twists they were going to throw at us. As far as workouts, preparing for Survivor was very much like preparing to play Division I basketball -- gaining weight and gaining muscle. I canʼt say which one was more difficult than the other because they're just so different. For me, the pageant world was so crazy for outsiders, but then again Survivor was equally just as hard.

Will: Prior to Survivor: Redemption Island, what is your biggest moment of redemption?
Ashley: Oh wow, I have witnessed redemption through second chances through the adoption of my little brother. My little brother was adopted when I was five and my boyfriend is adopted as well. I've talked to them both about it and just thinking about what their lives would be was kind of like a second chance for them to redeem themselves and it was their second chance at life. So I have witnessed it first hand -- their own redemption.

So find out if Ashley can outwit, outplay, and outlast the other seventeen castaways in the 22nd season of Survivor beginning this Wednesday! Special thanks to CBS, Survivor: Redemption Island, and Ashley Underwood. Transcription by Erica Cornish.

-Will the Pageant Guy

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