Natalie Anderson is a veteran reality TV champ. She won Survivor: San Juan del Sur: Blood vs. Water and then returned to the show six years later to compete on “Winners at War,” finishing runner-up to winner Tony Vlachos.
Now she is embarking on a new “challenge” when she takes on MTV’s long-running competition show The Challenge. In season 36, Anderson is considered a rookie because she’s new to the game, though make no mistake — underestimate a Survivor champ and a CrossFit competitor at your own peril.
Ahead of The Challenge: Double Agents premiere on Wednesday, December 9, here’s what you need to know about this competitor.
1.Natalie is An Identical Twin
Anderson, 34, first appeared on Survivor in its 29th season, subtitled “San Juan del Sur: Blood vs. Water,” which aired in the fall of 2014. What you may not remember is that she competed on the show with her identical twin sister, Nadiya Anderson.
The reason fans may not remember Nadiya is that she was the first person voted out, which is kind of crazy — one twin got voted out first and one won the whole thing. People always ask Anderson if she split her money with her sister. She told the Hartford Courant in 2015 that she wanted to but for financial reasons, it made more sense to give her sister money periodically.
“After I won, I talked to my finance guy, and I can’t just split it with her, but I give her an allowance each year. So she has to be nice to me. I’m kidding. … I did take my family to Las Vegas on vacation. That was a big splurge,” said Anderson.
Her Instagram is also peppered with photos of Natalie being the world’s best aunt. Nadiya gave birth to a baby girl named Trinity in November 2018, and Anderson says on Instagram she didn’t think she could love anybody as much as she loves Nadiya until Trinity was born.
She also recently started dating real estate broker Devin Perez. Anderson made them “Instagram official” in November 2020 when they took a trip to Tulum, Mexico and she posted photos of them together.
2. Natalie and Nadiya Also Competed on Two Seasons of The Amazing Race
Natalie and Nadiya didn’t actually get their reality TV start on Survivor. They were first cast on fellow CBS reality competition show The Amazing Race, competing first on season 21 where they finished in fourth place, and then again on season 24, which was an all-star season, where they were the first team eliminated.
In a post-show Q&A with fans on CBS.com, they were asked about being eliminated due to their constant bickering, but they insisted that was not the reason they were eliminated first.
“The order of finding the clue basically secured us in a last-place finish. It was a very linear leg with little room to catch up or overtake teams. We fought Leg 1 in China our first season the entire time but came in fourth. Nad yelled at me and we fought the entire time I was playing ping pong. I think it was a combination of bad luck, bad timing and that unfamiliar feeling of racing in the back of the pack that was the reason we lost!” said Anderson at the time.
Anderson also revealed in the Hartford Courant interview that VH1 approached her and Nadiya about doing a reality show for their channel after the twins’ contract was up with CBS but nothing must have come of it because that show never aired.
3. Natalie is A Former Three-Sport Athlete and Current Cross Fit Trainer
Anderson was pretty fit the first time she competed on Survivor, but that may not hold a candle to the kind of physical shape she’s in now. She currently works as a Cross Fit Trainer and is a former three-sport athlete.
“We were big into sports [in high school],” Anderson told the Hartford Courant. “We ran track, and I was captain of the swim team. We were just all about sports then.”
Anderson went on to play rugby for Fordham University and has carried this love of physical activity into her adult life. She even thought about using her Survivor winnings to try to open a CrossFit business in Sri Lanka, which is where she grew up.
4. She Lost 35 Pounds the First Time She Was On Survivor
In the Hartford Courant interview, Anderson details just what goes into playing Survivor, like how you really are thrown into it with only the clothes on your back.
“You can’t bring anything but the clothes on your back. My life was school at the time, so I had to wear a stupid dress, but I had on Nike compression shorts and a sports bra underneath,” she said, adding, “We don’t get to choose our bathing suits. You request what you want but wardrobe hands you what the show wants you to wear.”
She also says she lost nearly all of her muscle mass while competing on the show.
“I lost 35 pounds on the show and my hair was falling out,” said Anderson at the time. “We would get two teaspoons of rice for breakfast. That was it. My sister and I are both CrossFit trainers but as a result of the show, my muscles were gone and I am still working on trying to get that tone back. My sister knew I must have gone far into the show when she saw me because of all the weight I had lost. The living conditions during the show are way worse than what you see on TV. And a lot of the contestants pick up stomach parasites.”
But despite how hard Survivor is, Anderson still brought her A-game. Not only as a social player but also a challenge winner. She still holds the record for most challenges won by a female Sole Survivor, which is 13.
5. Natalie Needs To Be Careful About Head Injuries, Though
Anderson has a history of concussions, which means she needs to be especially cautious on The Challenge. Her first concussion happened in 2007 while playing rugby for Fordham. It left her feeling “hazy, sluggish and with headaches,” according to an interview she did with the podcast Heads n Tales.
Her second concussion happened in 2013 when she slammed a car trunk closed, forgetting there was a bike rack attached to it; the rack hit her hard in the head. She then sustained concussion No. 3 a few years later when working out, straightening up into a racked barbell after bending down to adjust her knee brace.
It was this third concussion that actually kept Anderson from competing on Survivor: Game Changers, the 34th season of the show. She had to be replaced before filming began by Sierra Dawn Thomas because she wasn’t medically cleared to play at that point.
If she’s on The Challenge, Anderson must have been medically cleared to take part in its brutal competitions, so hopefully, concussions will not be a problem for her moving forward.
The Challenge: Double Agents airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on MTV.