Season 36 of Survivor in 2018 marked a significant change for the long-running reality series. Not because of any notable changes to the game itself. But because all of a sudden, the show stopped providing bathing suits to the contestants. It likely went under the radar of many fans, but one former participant is trying to bring attention to a surprisingly serious issue.
Survivor fans will likely recognize Parvati Shallow. She has been a contestant on four different seasons of the show. However, during her most recent stint on Survivor 40, the producers told her she couldn’t wear a bathing suit anymore.
“People need to get bathing suits. I put up a huge fight. I was like, ‘I just had a baby, I can’t be out here in my underwear.’ It was a whole era of Survivor where it was bathing suits, and then all of a sudden, they switched to underwear,” said Shallow.
For Shallow, bathing suits would provide a degree of dignity to the contestants who are now limited to wearing underwear for the duration of the weeks-long game.
The Survivor audience likely doesn’t give the contestants’ wardrobe a second thought. The show has been on since 2000, and the only image that seems to stick in our heads is that of shirtless, scantily clad men and women trying to exist on tropical islands for more than a month.
What if we told you that making the contestants compete in their underwear instead of bathing suits was not only a conscious choice by the producers but also may have been a change proposed by famed director, writer, and actor Tyler Perry? It sounds random, we know. But there’s a good bit of evidence to support it.
The Story Behind the Controversial Underwear Decision and Why It’s a Bad Idea
Tyler Perry, the mind behind the Madea movies and shows like House of Payne, is apparently a big Survivor fan. As the story goes, Perry suggested that the contestants ditch the bathing suits for underwear that would get progressively filthier and worn out as the season stretched on.
“Next season, we aren’t giving them swimming suits at all, just a sewing kit. Another one of his ideas,” Probst told THR in 2018.
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the contestants haven’t exactly enjoyed the wardrobe change over the past few years. Some, like Karishma Patel, have spoken out against it before Parvati Shallow.
Why is it a bad idea? Take Patel’s situation, for example. She developed an infection as a result of her unhygienic attire. And she’s not alone. According to Insider, multiple contestants have complained of severe urinary tract infections and embarrassment stemming from the underwear.