‘Survivor’ Superfan Sia Nears $1 Million in Contestant Giveaways

2020 Billboard Music Awards - Show - Credit: Kevin Winter/BBMA2020/Getty Images for dcp
2020 Billboard Music Awards - Show - Credit: Kevin Winter/BBMA2020/Getty Images for dcp

Sia is about to hit a major milestone in her Survivor fandom. In 2016, after appearing on a reunion special for the reality show, the singer started giving money to its contestants. She told contestant Tai Trang she would donate $50,000 to him personally and another $50,000 to a charity of his choice — and she has continued the habit since.

In a recent Howard Stern interview, Survivor host Jeff Probst, who is friends with Sia, confirmed that she has been so generous that she has given away nearly $1 million.

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“Next season, if she continues with her Sia prize, she will break a million dollars in personal money that she has given to players over the years,” Probst explained. “Her thought is this: I make a lot of money. I’ve been really lucky, and I want to share it with the people who entertain me and bring me joy. And one of those shows is Survivor.”

Earlier this year, Sia rewarded recent cast members Carolyn Wiger (the season’s second runner-up) with $100,000, Carson Garrett (who placed just after Wiger) with $15,000, and Lauren Harpe (who followed Garrett) with $15,000.

Video posted to PopCrave’s Twitter showed Harpe’s reaction to Sia’s unexpected largesse. She looked positively weirded out when Sia, who appeared to be off-camera, started the call in a funny voice before identifying herself. Then Harpe’s eyes jumped out of her skull as she pulled a Kevin McCallister scream face while Sia praised her.

“I wanted to tell you that you’re awesome, and I really felt the struggle for you and your kids and stuff,” Sia said. “I wanted to give you not the biggest prize, but I wanted to give you 15 grand just to say, ‘I love you’ and, ‘Keep going.’”

“It is a tax-free gift, so that’s good,” Sia explained. “That means, I pay the taxes on it; you don’t. That’s the most I could give you tax-free. But I just love you so much, and I’m sorry that you missed out right at the end. I really thought you played a good game. … You are rad.”

Sia started gifting contestants who didn’t win the show’s $1 million prize their own money after season 33, Survivor: Kaoh Rong. Traditionally, she has told each “Sia Award” recipient what she has found special about them.

She works with the show’s host, Jeff Probst, on getting the money to the contestants. “Back when we did the live reunion shows, she would either be sitting in the audience or in my dressing room,” he told Entertainment Weekly last year. “She would watch the finale and then let me know who she wanted to receive the Sia Award. The players would find out immediately. It was very powerful to see it go down.” He said that one year, she wrote personal checks right there for the chosen few.

“She gets a lot of joy from watching Survivor players take on such a personal and often vulnerable life adventure,” he added. “And she has been incredibly fortunate in her own career and wants to share some of that fortune with others.”

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