By Taylour Nelson
March 30, 2004
In October of 2003, Christy Smith sat at tribal council in the middle of the Amazon. She awaited votes to reveal who would be voted off "Survivor 6: The Amazon."
She had lasted 33 days on the reality show and as her name was repeatedly called, she became increasingly more upset.
Monday night Smith, a native of Aspen, signed with an interpreter, to over 150 people about her experience on "Survivor" in the east ballroom of the Lory Student Center as the keynote speaker for Disability Awareness Days.
Being born deaf and three months premature, Smith's parents called her a survivor baby.
"I kind of started my life as a survivor,' she said.
Her family never learned to sign and Smith grew up in what she called the hearing world.
"I didn't have an interpreter, I didn't have any sign language at all," she said. "I had to learn how to speak."
Smith went to public school in Aspen and in 11th grade went to a deaf school, where she had to learn sign language. She went on to Galaudet University, a college for deaf people, majoring in sociology and criminal justice.
Smith went on an outward-bound trip to Alaska her senior year, and Costa Rica after graduation.
Smith then returned to Aspen in 2002 to work in a camp for hearing and hearing impaired children, where she led groups of children with interpreters and signing and groups without those tools.
Her father, being a big "Survivor" fan, urged her to apply for season six as a Father's Day present. She had never heard of the show, but applied anyway.
She got a callback, and after several interviews was selected as one of 16 people for the sixth season of the reality show.
"I thought 'where is my deaf role model?'" Smith said. "And then I thought maybe I could be the deaf role model, they never had one that had been on 'Survivor' before."
Smith joined the "Survivor" cast and said without an interpreter, she felt she couldn't connect with the other people.
"I don't think I really had a bond with any of these people," she said. "I was trying to read lips but I only got what was going on 30 percent of the time."
When she left the show she was upset, feeling betrayed for being an honest person.
"I was so mad, I thought I was an honest girl and having people lie, backstab and cut me down was a bad experience."
She kept in contact with the show's psychologist for four months and has since recovered from all injuries, both physical and emotional.
She will see her "Survivor" co-stars in New York this May, and said she is excited to visit the cast with an interpreter.
Smith is planning to start a children's television show titled "Christy's Kids." She hopes the show will create awareness about the deaf people.