Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 12 / 22 March 2018

Gay Survivor contestant receives surprise donation from singer Sia

Tai Trang is surprised by singer Sia during the Survivor finale show hosted by Jeff Probst.

Tai Trang is surprised by singer Sia during the Survivor finale show hosted by Jeff Probst.

He may not have been named the “Sole Survivor,” but gay San Francisco resident Tai Trang did walk away a winner from Wednesday night’s season finale of the hit CBS reality show.

The singer Sia surprised him, and show host Jeff Probst, with a $50,000 donation to Trang and said she would donate another $50,000 to an animal rights charity of his choosing.

Trang, a vegetarian who protected a chicken he had dubbed Mark from the boiling pot and brought with him to the last tribal council of the season, appeared stunned.

“I’m speechless,” stammered Trang as Sia, cloaked behind her signature black and blonde wig to mask her identity, hugged him on stage.

This morning, in a radio interview with Entertainment Weekly, Trang was asked about the surprise move by the Australian singer, whose full name is Sia Kate Isobelle Furler.

“Oh my God, it was amazing, I was in shock,” he said. “I said, ‘What’s happening? I’m still answering.’ And then Sia was on. It’s just crazy. I didn’t recognize who she was, but I know her music. And I so appreciate it, and she gave me $50,000 for the animals. I said, ‘Yes, that’s good, to bring awareness to the animals, and all life really, awareness of not being so human-centric.’ And she said, ‘I’ve been watching the show, I’m a huge fan,’ and that I’m one of her favorites because of who I am. I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is crazy.'”

Trang, who was 51 when he taped the show, is a gardener for the Port of San Francisco. He was a fan favorite of the 32nd installment of the show, which this season saw 18 contestants battle it out for the $1 million dollar prize on the islands of Cambodia.

Armed with an immunity idol and an extra vote he could use to axe a fellow Survivor: Kaoh Rong competitor, Trang was among the trio that made it to the end. But having played a key role in voting out most of the seven-member jury, tasked with deciding who would be the winner, Trang ended up in third place.

Michele Fitzgerald, 24, beat out Aubry Bracco, 29, to be named the winner.

Trang’s being on the show was somewhat of a fluke, as he explained in an interview last month with the Bay Area Reporter. In the summer of 2014, he and his partner, Mark Philpot, 56, who works as a nurse in the Tenderloin for the city’s public health department, had applied to be contestants on another CBS competition show, The Amazing Race.

Although the couple wasn’t picked, Trang caught the eye of a casting director, who recommended he think about applying for Survivor. He sent in an audition tape, was picked, and left in March of last year to tape the show.

His next challenge will be completing next month’s AIDS/LifeCycle ride that benefits the Los Angeles LGBT Community Center and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. Trang has been a participant of the fundraiser the past 13 years.


— Matthew S. Bajko, May 19, 2016 @ 12:22 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

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