If you’re wondering what it takes to make it on the hit CBS competition show Survivor, just ask Deshawn Radden (’24). The Barry University medical student and California native recently took some time away from the School of Podiatric Medicine after winning a spot on the cast of season 41, which is currently airing on Wednesdays at 8:00 p.m. ET. It’s a chance of a lifetime, and it could lead Radden to a million-dollar prize.
A self-described empath and extrovert with a history of achieving hard-fought goals, Radden is a natural fit for the high-stakes show. In each episode, you’ll find him engaged in battles of physical and mental fortitude as he works to build trust and forge alliances with his competitors. Though the show takes place on a far-flung island of Fiji, Radden’s strategy draws from many of the same strengths that have enabled him to excel right here at Barry, particularly his passion, drive, and ability to think and act quickly under extreme pressure. For the affable podiatry student, staying true to himself and his talents—even as he plays a ruthless game—is essential; and, in the cutthroat world of Survivor, authenticity can be a major advantage.
Only five episodes have been released since Survivor 41 launched in late September, but Radden has already cemented himself as a core member of the Luvu Tribe, one of three teams to begin the competition. He has also become a fan favorite and, according to several Survivor prediction websites, the player to beat.
So what’s to come over the course of the season? Radden isn’t revealing any spoilers, but he did take time to answer a few of our questions about competing on the show and why so many viewers are betting on him to win.
What made you want to be on Survivor?
I’ve loved the concept of Survivor ever since I first watched back in 2018. It’s a game that strips you all the way down and forces you to answer the question: What are you made of when you are pushed to your limits? I wanted to figure that out for myself!
What aspect of your audition do you think set you apart from the thousands of people who tried to get on the show?
Honestly, I think being authentic is what landed me a spot on the cast. With Survivor, producers were looking for people who are transparent and willing to be vulnerable and play the game with passion. It’s hard to do that if you are not being 100% yourself, and so I think they noticed that authenticity in me and became intrigued. I did not use any facades or heavy bravado in the casting process; I was just being me. They love people from all different walks of life, so I encourage anyone who loves the show to apply and to do so as their full, amazing selves.
How did you find out you'd made the cast?
I found out I made the cast after a rough start to 2021, actually. I had taken a leave of absence from school, gotten into a car accident, and was figuring out some personal things all during the early part of the year. Maybe a month after this time, my casting producer called and said that I would be cast on the first season back from the COVID hiatus! I was so excited and it felt like fate considering the start of my year. I remember being in my room in shock at the fact that I was going on this show that I love.
What excited you most: Filming in Fiji or meeting all your fellow competitors?
Listen, I loved both! Going to Fiji was amazing as it was my very first time traveling internationally. I actually got my passport for this very experience. Having my first time out of the country be in such a beautiful place with such beautiful people for such a beautiful experience was astounding. Meeting my cast was great too because you know these are going to be the people who you will be bonded with for life through this experience. And so it was like meeting a new cohort of siblings really. I loved it!
What can viewers expect to see from you as the season unfolds?
Viewers can expect very exciting, nail-biting gameplay as the season unfolds. They may see me as a bit cutthroat, but just know I have a big heart outside the game! This was an experience for a $1,000,000 prize, and so viewers should expect to see me do anything in my power to get it.
A lot of die-hard fans are counting you among the favorites to win. Why do you think so many people have connected with you and believe in your ability to succeed on the show?
I don’t know, to be honest. But I’m so thankful for that reception. If I had to guess, it would probably be a personality thing. Since the game is so social, those who have some level of social finesse are usually looked at as potential favorites. But I’m just happy that the fans are excited to watch me play.
How does the challenge of Survivor 41 compare to the challenge of medical school at Barry?
Medical school at Barry compares to Survivor in way I would’ve never expected. Being a student in a professional program will always be challenging. And the level of expertise you are expected to have in medical school is next level. It requires you to always cross your t’s and dot your i’s so to speak. This was the same for Survivor. You have to be on top of everything. Every social relationship needs your attention, every conversation you have needs to be remembered, and you always need to be thinking with foresight in order to succeed. Medical school has required this same level of attention to detail and thought. Luckily in school though, we have some great advisors (shoutout to all the amazing faculty) who help us along the way!