One of the most well-known reality game series to ever air on primetime television is Survivor. The show has been aired since 2000, and approximately 500 people have played Survivor over the years.
While “Survivor” began as a show about a bunch of strangers who had never met before the game, things have shifted a bit in the years afterward. Starting with ex-NFL quarterback Gary Hogeboom in Season 11 (“Guatemala”), the reality TV show has featured noteworthy figures from sports and entertainment, some of whom are recognized by other castaways on the island with them. Among them, a few celebrities have attempted to outwit, outplay, and outlast the others in order to be declared the single Survivor.
View our gallery of the 10 celebrity cast members that were famous previous to appearing on “Survivor.” Which ones were you familiar with before their seasons aired?
#1 Lisa Whelchel (Season 25)
Lisa Whelchel may have reached the Final Tribal Council on the 25th season of Survivor, but she is better known for her role as Blair Warner on The Facts Of Life.
Lisa portrayed Blair on syndicated television for nine years and also appeared on The Mickey Mouse Club. She hoped that no one would recognize her from her time on her favorite game show when she competed. Her efforts were ultimately foiled when teammate Johnathan Penner recognized her from his television screen and allowed her to describe her career as a child actress in front of the jury.
#2 Mike White (Season 37)
Mike White is not just a Survivor: David Vs. Goliath finalist, but also a critically regarded playwright, director, and actor. Mike was previously recognized for his appearances in School Of Rock and Chuck & Buck, and after the show, he produced the beloved HBO series The White Lotus.
Mike’s success in the entertainment sector may have contributed to his demise in the season 37 finale. While his previous tribemates generally admired his performance, they couldn’t bring themselves to offer him a million dollars since he was already the richest of the final three.
#3 Jonathan Penner (Seasons 13, 16, 25)
When Jonathan Penner competed on Survivor: Cook Islands, he was a fan favorite, which is why he was called back not once, but twice as a returning competitor. Jonathan never won the game, but he had outstanding narrating confessionals and a strong presence in every season in which he appeared.
Before his numerous efforts at Survivor, he worked as an actor in several prominent films and television episodes. His credits include The Nanny, Arrested Development, Seinfeld, and films such as The Last Supper.
#4 Taj Johnson-George (Season 18)
Taj Johnson-George was a threat to win Survivor: the Tocantins, which is why her two closest friends, Stephen and JT, eliminated her in the final four. Because she was so well-liked by her peers, her beam of sunshine demeanor and maternal energy made her a shoo-in to win the million dollars.
Taj developed a name for herself as a popstar before marrying sportsman Eddie George, having their son, and competing on Survivor. Sisters With Voices, a hugely successful R&B group in the 1990s, included her as one-third of the vocal trio.
#5 John (Hennigan) Morrison (Season 37)
On social media, John Hennigan, better known as John Morrison in the WWE world, is one of the most followed Survivor participants. On Survivor: David Vs. Goliath was also the victim of an epic blindside.
John had a great career as a professional wrestler, appearing regularly from 2002 to 2011 and then temporarily from 2019 to 2021. Though he was laid off owing to budget cuts, his wrestling career was more successful than his tenure on Survivor.
#6 Whitney Duncan (Season 23)
Whitney Duncan was a part of a subtle failed showmance on Survivor: South Pacific, when she met her now-husband Keith Tolkerson while competing against legends such as Coach Wade and Ozzy Lusth.
Whitney is also a country music star, so Survivor isn’t her only claim to fame. She had previously competed on another reality television show, Nashville Star, where she finished fifth. Whitney has three studio albums to her credit, with her most recent EP, Heartbreaker, published in 2021.
#7 Mari Takahashi (Season 33)
Mari Takahashi was expected to go far on the 33rd season of Survivor, but she was eliminated early by her millennial allies just a few days in. Despite her brief appearance on the show, her vote-out contributed to the success of her tribemate Hannah Shapiro.
Mari was well-known before entering the game due to her YouTube channel and participation in the Smosh comedy troupe. Mari’s success on YouTube began with her gaming content. Mari has since taken up acting and co-owns Space Station Gaming.
#8 Ron Clark (Season 38)
Ron Clark is most recognized for his motivational speaking, teaching, and the establishment of the Ron Clark Academy. Many of his tribemates didn’t recognize him when he was on the island, but he was well-known in the field of education and even had a movie made about him starring Matthew Perry in 2006.
Ron was a hilarious character on The Edge Of Extinction, regularly grating on the nerves of his fellow castaways and causing havoc at the tribal council. In real life, Ron was known for his abilities as an educator who worked with impoverished youngsters.
#9 Ashley Massaro (Season 15)
Ashley Massaro has targeted early on in Survivor: China because of her illness, which caused her to be a weaker member of the tribe and resulted in multiple challenge defeats. Ashley was well-known in her home country for her strength as a professional wrestler.
Ashley had a successful WWE career, having won the WWE Diva Search in 2005. She went on to work as a radio broadcaster, model, and actor, broadening her skills in the entertainment world. Ashley tragically died in 2017 shortly after returning to the wrestling world as a manager.
#10 Gary Hogeboom (Season 11)
Gary Hogeboom discovered the first secret immunity idol in Survivor history on season 11, Guatemala, despite not winning the million-dollar prize.
Gary was also the first former professional athlete to appear on Survivor, having spent ten years in the NFL. Despite his athletic background, Gary lied to his teammates about his last name and occupation, pretending to be Gary Hawkins, a landscaper. Some of his fellow castaways knew better and tried to persuade him to tell the truth.