Wendell Holland is one of the contestants on season 40 of Survivor. He has returned to the game for the first time since he won Survivor: Ghost Island, the 36th season of the show that aired in the spring of 2018, which makes him one of the most recent returning winners for “Winners at War.”
UPDATE: It was revealed at the end of the March 4 episode that Wendell and Michele Fitzgerald used to date. Here’s what we know about their relationship.
Here’s what you need to know about Holland in our 5 Fast Facts about him below.
1. Wendell Used to Be a Lawyer
Holland is a native of Ardmore, Pennsylvania, which is a western suburb of Philadelphia. He attended Harriton High School where he was captain of the football, basketball and track teams. He then went down south to Atlanta, Georgia, for undergrad at Morehouse College, then came home to attend the University of Pennsylvania Law School and, upon graduation, followed in his father’s footsteps and became a lawyer.
Wendell Holland Sr. played basketball for Fordham University before attending Rutgers School of Law and practicing law. He served as a judge and then the commissioner and eventually the chairman of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission before being appointed to coordinate the City of Philadelphia’s Trade Missions with China and South Africa. So Wendell Jr. had some big shoes to fill.
After graduating from law school, Holland clerked for Judge Gregory Smith, who was one of the founding members of the Philadelphia Chapter of the National Judicial Council, which is the oldest legal organization that represents the interests of attorneys of color. It was during this clerkship that Holland began making furniture as a hobby because he was “looking for a new creative challenge besides [his[ first job out of law school.” And now he is a furniture maker full time.
2. Now He’s a Furniture Maker
Hollandrevealed on his website that when he designed his first piece of furniture, which was a bed, he received “enthusiastic feedback from friends and family,” so he “decided to make a couple more beds to see if they would sell online.” They did and out of that came Wendell’s furniture company, Beve Unlimited.
“Our signature is our beds, and our specialty is custom furniture handcrafted from reclaimed wood,” writes Holland. “The company name is inspired by a childhood nickname I held close, as I hold this work in high esteem close to my heart.”
Furniture isn’t actually how Holland got started in the creative design process, however. He first started by designing, producing and selling hand-painted college apparel while he was in undergrad. In fact, he became known as “the tee-shirt guy” on campus.
A LinkedIn profile on Morehouse alums says of Holland, “At Morehouse, those students on the yard from 2002-2006 might remember Wendell as ‘the tee-shirt guy,’ the student that sold hand-painted tee shirts at Homecomings, Market Friday’s, Hump Wednesday’s, and across the AUC. Running a business out of the Suites, and having other students help make and distribute tees through undergrad was just a sign of things to come. He still found the time to graduate with magna cum laude distinction and earned membership to Phi Beta Kappa.”
3. Wendell Applied for Survivor Multiple Times
Holland reveals on his website that he became interested in Survivor during season 18, which was “Tocantins” and featured James “J.T.” Thomas as the winner. Holland became obsessed with the show and started applying year after year, going to open casting calls and sending in video after video.
But he feels like the reason he didn’t get accepted was that he wasn’t living his truth and being authentic about what he wanted to do with his life.
“It wasn’t until I fully transitioned to align my work with my passion as an entrepreneur that I felt a shift in every aspect of my life. My demeanor changed, and I felt like I was living my best and most fulfilling life. I firmly believe that this is what caught the eye of producers when I submitted that last audition video and carried me through the game down to the last vote,” writes Holland.
He went on to win Survivor: Ghost Island in the game’s first-ever jury vote that ended in a tie. When he and Domenick Abbate each received five votes, third-place finisher Laurel Johnson had to become the final member of the jury and cast the tie-breaking vote, which she gave to Holland.
4. Wendell’s Relationship Status is Unknown
Holland famously had his tribemates sing happy birthday to his girlfriend, Nicole, during “Ghost Island.” The girl in question is Nicole Santos, whom Holland wrote about on Facebook, “I don’t know what in the world I did to get someone like her!” and “She is the beautiful one, I’m just happy to be next to her!”
But the two of them haven’t been on each other’s social media since November 2016. His season of Survivor filmed in the summer of 2017 and that’s when the tribe sang happy birthday to her, but by the time he was crowned Sole Survivor, Santos was not at the live finale, which leads us to believe they broke up between the show filming and when it aired.
Currently, if Wendell is dating anyone, they are keeping things on the down-low because there are no women on his social media who look like anything more than friends or family members. So it seems like Wendell is single and ready to mingle. Unfortunately for Survivor shippers, most of the “Winners at War” ladies are married. But Michele Fitzgerald looks single, so perhaps a new Survivor showmance can blossom between Holland and Fitzgerald.
Edited to add: Apparently, Wendell and Michele kept their romance so secret that we were ‘shipping something that had already happened.
5. Wendell is Ready to Play Dirty on Winners at War
During Holland’s first season, he played a very clean game. As he tells ET Canada, he “didn’t get a lot of blood on [his] hands.” He was a well-liked, friendly guy and he made a lot of friends that season.
But will that fly on “Winners at War”? Holland’s not so sure it will.
“I didn’t do a lot of backstabbing my season, people know me as a social, friendly, nice kind of guy, maybe I can be a little dirtier this season. I’m ready to have some fun out there,” he says in a pre-show interview.
He also thinks being a recent winner could be advantageous because he’s from the “new era” of Survivor that is “more advantage-heavy and twist-heavy and Idol-heavy” and that might help him, but he does acknowledge being a recent winner is a “double-edged sword.”
“But if I’m playing with a bunch of people from the old era who are maybe intimidated by the new era and who just saw me win, it’s like alright, we know this guy Wendell, he’s a big target, let’s get him out of here early. I’m going to try to use that social game and work with the older folks,” says Holland.
Survivor: Winners at War airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.
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