Before 2020, Ricard Foyé, of Sedro-Woolley, had never applied to be on a reality show let alone his favorite competition series, CBS’ “Survivor.”
“I had no interest in reality television and I don’t consider ‘Survivor’ to be reality TV,” says Foyé, who competes in the show’s 41st season that begins airing 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 22. “I consider it to be this game that I’ve wanted to play almost two-thirds of my life. I’ve been a fan since I was 10.”
Foyé says what drew him to the show initially was recognizing a difference within himself he saw reflected in a contestant in the first season of “Survivor.”
“I couldn’t put a word to it to tell I was gay, but I knew something was different and I knew my family was not accepting of that particular path,” says Foyé, 31, during a phone interview earlier this month. “And yet when watching ‘Survivor,’ my mom is rooting for this guy named Richard [Hatch]. He was a very gay and very naked man and it was blowing my mind because I’d never heard or seen her root for a gay person in my lifetime.” (Since Hatch’s first season of “Survivor” aired in 2000, he has run into a number of issues and nudity is no longer allowed on the show.)
Years later, Foyé’s mother would walk him down the aisle at his wedding to his husband, Andy.
Foyé was born in Atlanta and moved to Lynnwood when he was in seventh grade. A 2008 graduate of Meadowdale High School, Foyé wanted to be on the school’s cheer team, but he says boys were not allowed to participate in cheer until after he graduated.
“I was always trying to fight the norm,” he says. “I had to fight to get prom tickets for me and my boyfriend because they wouldn’t allow same-sex couples. It was frustrating having to pave the way while still being a kid.”
After high school, Foyé, a former gymnast, joined Madison Scouts Drum & Bugle Corps and toured the country spinning rifles and 6-foot flags while dancing. He also taught sign language to nonverbal youth and later became a flight attendant at age 21.
Foyé met his husband, Andy, six years ago while volunteering at Camp Ten Trees, a camp for queer youth, and they were married two months later. Andy, a trans man, gave birth to the couple’s daughter Aurelia in 2019. Son Lucia was born two weeks after Foyé returned from filming “Survivor.”
“I left my husband eight months pregnant [for ‘Survivor’],” Foyé says. “He was not the happiest, but he was ecstatic I got to live my dream.”
In addition to his job as a flight attendant for a Seattle-based company he’s not allowed to name, Foyé got his real estate license during the pandemic, though he’s yet to put it to use. He applied to “Survivor” just before the pandemic hit.
“I never felt it was the right time for me to apply with my work schedule, even though it was a dream of mine to apply.” Foyé says. He applied to “Survivor” once he had the seniority to create his own work schedule. “I was able to leave the country without my work even knowing I went on ‘Survivor.’ ”
As a fan of the game, Foyé gave a lot of thought to his game play and modeled his approach after Natalie Anderson, the winner of the “San Juan del Sur — Blood vs. Water” season that aired in 2014.
“I don’t think this was her plan — I think it happened more organically — but she came in just as a fun, loud, funny individual and then truly halfway through the season she was just this powerhouse,” Foyé says.
His plan going in was to seem weak and kind, someone who was helpful but not a strong threat, and then after the tribes merge, he’d show his true colors as “ridiculously physical and strong for my stature.”
“It was really important to me to have a strategy in place for myself, but I knew I couldn’t preplan how alliances were going to go because you can’t control other people,” he says. “But I knew I could hide my strength.”
Foyé says he’s not concerned with his “edit” — how he’ll come off once “Survivor” episodes begin to air (“I’m not ashamed of any decisions I’ve made in this game,” he says). Every time CBS releases a new image or video clip featuring him, Foyé says he’s cried out of elation.
“I’m so excited [for the premiere],” he says. “I’m taking the entire week off from work and I’ll re-watch it over and over and sob.”