New York-based lawyer is latest openly gay contestant on CBS' long-running reality series 'Survivor', taped in Gabon
By Ross Forman
Herschel (2nd from left) and other cast of Survivor:Gabon
Herschel, 29, a lawyer from New York City, is one of 18 new castaways on Survivor: Gabon (CBS; Thursdays, 8 p.m. ET) debuting its 17th season on Sept. 25. He is the only openly gay participant.
"It’s a bit overwhelming since I’ve been a fan of Survivor forever," said Herschel, who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. "I never thought I’d be accepted [to participate on the show]. Being accepted [onto the show] felt like I won the lottery.
"My strategy going into the game was that I (was going to be) a balanced player. Being a marathon runner, I clearly thought I was going to be able to participate effectively in the challenges. I didn’t think people would want to vote me off because I helped the team win challenges, and, at the same time, I wouldn’t be viewed as that big of a physical threat, someone who is too strong."
Herschel has completed seven marathons and his best-ever marathon time is 3 hours, 12 minutes. It’s quite an accomplishment, considering the fact that 12 years ago he couldn’t even complete the one-mile run in high school for the fitness test.
"(Finishing) my first marathon definitely was the biggest achievement of my life; that was the Philadelphia Marathon, where I went to college," he said. Herschel also has completed a marathon in Washington, D.C.
"Growing up, I did not play sports at all. I started getting in shape and lost a ton of weight by running, which I started when I was 19 years old."
He was on a non-competitive swim team in college and also is on a non-competitive team now at his New York City gym.
"Slowly I’ve become more athletic in my 20s," he said, laughing.
"Swimming is a great alternative to running, and it also is good if you have a running injury. I have a bicycle and enjoy riding but don’t race. Still, I want to get into triathlons, and before I’m 40 I want to do an Ironman, but that’s a very long-term goal.
"A lot of the challenges on past Survivors have been endurance-based, so I thought my history with marathons and my ability to endure long periods of athletic pain definitely would enhance my ability to compete in the challenges. I knew my swimming would help me on Survivor."
Herschel came out at 19. Todd Herzog and Richard Hatch are the only gay Survivor winners, but being gay was not the reason either won, Herschel said.
"I don’t think the fact that they won had anything to do with their sexuality, and it’s not really surprising given how many people in America are in fact gay," Herschel said. "The great thing about Survivor is, it’s such a cross-section of society. I don’t think being gay [makes] winning any easier."
Herschel is single.