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Denise Martin — Her Life Since Survivor

October 03, 2008 05:00 PM by Ryan Haidet

Denise Martin with Todd Herzog and Jason Siska.

She became known as the “lunch lady from Survivor: China” who made it all the way to the final four. RealityTVMagazine’s Ryan Haidet had the opportunity to chat with Denise Martin this summer to discuss what has been happening with her life since the show. She talked about handling the controversy where people accused her of lying about losing her job after the show and an interesting collection she’s been building since her childhood.

RealityTVMagazine:

What’s been going on since Survivor?

Denise Martin:

You know, I’m pretty much back to my normal life. People still recognize me every single day, it’s crazy. It’s just amazing, everybody’s like, “You’re just a normal person and I come to you and talk to you and you’re just like me.” I get a lot of older people coming up, I get a lot of kids coming up. It’s insane.

RTVMAG:

Are you still a fan of Survivor?

Denise:

I am. I was watching last season when the did the Fans/Favorites. It was an amazing show. I couldn’t believe how many people quit and got medevaced out of there. You kidding me? If I was on there, I wouldn’t have quit. It’s ridiculous.

RTVMAG:

Who were you rooting for?

Denise:

I wasn’t sure, but I didn’t want Amanda to win. I was rooting for James in the beginning. I loved when Joel smacked Chet into that (wood), oh my God, that clunk I could hear it on the TV. I couldn’t even imagine what it was like in real life. I think he should’ve thrown him on his shoulder and just ran him through the course.

RTVMAG:

So why not Amanda?

Denise:

I still got that knife in my back, you know, it’s all good though. We’re still friends now, but it just took a while.

RTVMAG:

Are you still doing the lunch lady deal?

Denise:

No, I never got the lunch lady job back. There was a whole big scandal. The way I said it was the truth and the way they didn’t want it to be. They kept saying that the job was not available. I asked for my job in August, they hired someone in September. And then when the live show came on in December they were like, “You know, there’s no job available for you now.” Well obviously, but when I did ask for it, there was a job. But, I mean, that’s all water under the bridge. There’s nothing I can do. So I’m a janitor, I’m in a union. I work nights and the summer I switch to the day shift then switch back to the night shift. But, I gotta do it, you know.

RTVMAG:

I remember when that happened, all of a sudden it was big news everywhere and a lot of people were wondering what had happened, so you’re saying it’s completely true on your side…

Denise:

When I was talking about it on the show, I said “my job.” If I had said “my old job,” everything would have been fine. But because I missed a word, everybody jumped on me. They were like getting death threats, people were calling the school, people were coming up there and vandalizing stuff. So I just tried to straighten it all out. On my part, I told them what I was gonna say and everything. And I got on the Good Morning Show and they knew what I was gonna say, and they just cut me off and they wouldn’t let me tell my side of the story.

RTVMAG:

So why did the school act so negatively toward you?

Denise:

They don’t like any bad publicity in town, so they were just trying to sweep it under the rug and all that. I’m on gag order at school now, all the teachers are on gag order, the kids are on gag order, noone can talk about it. It’s crazy. We went from everybody in the school was so excited and everything, and nothing because of one person. That’s what happens when you believe administrators and nobody knows me, but I did the best I could on the show. I was as honest as I could be the entire time and I wouldn’t mess that up at the end just because, I mean, that’s just not me.

RTVMAG:

It’s good to hear your side of the story.

Denise:

It’s the truth to the matter. I mean, everything I said was the truth. If I had said “my old job,” it would have been fine. But because it was live TV, I was a little nervous, I consider the lunch lady job “my job.” And, you know, these things happen.

China winner Todd Herzog.

RTVMAG:

How long did you do the lunch lady job?

Denise:

I was a lunch lady for 4 and a half years. I was a janitor for one month. At that point.

RTVMAG:

So when you came back there was no lunch lady job at all?

Denise:

There was actually. When I asked for my job back in August, everybody was on sabbatical. So when they come back in September, they hired a person September 11. I asked for my job back August 5. And then in December, they were like, “There’s no job available.” Well because they filled it on September 11 after I had already asked for it back in August.

RTVMAG:

Why would they do that?

Denise:

I really have no idea why they jumped on it like that. They knew the truth. They didn’t ask anybody, they didn’t ask the story…..When I got back, I’m asked them, “Are you gonna find out the truth, you gonna ask people?” And they said, “No.” And I was like, “Are you kidding me?” And on the TV they were like, “Oh yeah, if you’re good to your employees, your employees will be good to you.” They had no intention on following through on any of that stuff.

RTVMAG:

So how did Mark Burnett react to this?

Denise:

I never actually got a chance to talk to Mark. Um, Jeff Probst called me. And he was like, “You lied, we’re not gonna give you the money.” It’s like, “I didn’t lie.” He’s like, “Yeah you did.” He saw the interview on Good Morning America, he’s like, “That didn’t look good for you.” It’s like, “I know because I was in the middle of my story and they cut me off. If you cut me off, how you gonna know the truth?”

RTVMAG:

This is Probst?

Denise:

Yeah. And for him to say that to me, I was like, “You know what Jeff, just keep your money. Just give it to charity. You know, I worked hard for it. If you think I deserve it, give it to me. If you don’t think I deserve it, give it to charity. There are many more people out there a lot less fortunate than me. So I mean, I’d rather have the Glaser Foundation have some extra cash — I would love to have it myself — but you know what, it’s not worth it for my reputation.

RTVMAG:

So what was your defining moment on Survivor?

Denise:

You know, I mean, I’m just like a regular person and everything I did was so spectacular from sleeping on the Great Wall of China… — it was amazing. To talk to my kids after we won the reward challenge on the boat, I couldn’t believe I missed them so much. I didn’t want the people that were there to see that side of me, but once I picked up the phone it all just leaked out.

RTVMAG:

Are you still doing karate?

Denise:

I am actually teaching. I have six students — private students. And I’m teaching kick boxing during the day for ladies.

RTVMAG:

So you’re super busy.

Denise:

I’m always doing something. I have to, I can’t sit still.

RTVMAG:

Any unusual facts about yourself or something interesting about you that fans might not know?

Denise:

When I was a kid I used to collect baseball cards. I have over 750,000 baseball cards.

RTVMAG:

Do you still have them?

Denise:

I do. I actually sleep with them in my room.

RTVMAG:

Which is your most prized card?

Denise:

I have a Pee Wee Reese card. I think it’s a 1952 Pee Wee Reese card. It’s a color shot and he’s like jumping up throwing the ball to first base. It’s like a watercolor — it’s an amazing picture.

RTVMAG:

Are you still collecting or is this something you’ve just kept from your childhood?

Denise:

Every once in a while I still get the itch and I go inside stores and I buy them, but it’s mostly like a kid thing.

Images provided by Bret Sohl.

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Topics: Survivor |

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