Hai Giang has proven himself to be one of the most strategically dominant contestants on “Survivor 42.” While starting off on the bottom of his Vati tribe, Hai has worked his way to the top, orchestrating a number of blindsides and solidifying alliances with former adversaries like Mike Turner, alongside new tribe members who he only met after the merge.
Now, despite the absence of his former ally Lydia Meredith, 28-year-old Hai seems to be in a solid position within Kula Kula, and may end up taking home the win in this jam-packed season. So what is there to know about this “Survivor 42” powerhouse? Read on to discover the fascinating elements of Hai’s life which fans have not seen thus far:
Hai Is a Vietnamese Immigrant Who Grew up in the South
Hai’s official birthday is December 31, 1992, and he was born in Bạc Liêu, Vietnam, the capital city of the Bạc Liêu province in the southern tip of the country. He and his mother immigrated to Atlanta, Georgia as refugees in 1996, when he was three years old, while his little brother, Ryan, was later born in Atlanta in 2006. Hai has been a resident of the Southern United States ever since.
According to a TikTok video he posted in October 2021, however, Hai revealed that his actual date of birth is not December 31; that is only the date of birth the American government assigned him, as well as both of his parents, when they immigrated to the U.S. as refugees in 1996. Assigning DOB for refugees who don’t know their real birthdays as December 31 or January 1 is actually relatively common practice for the U.S. State Department, as they are the “easiest to remember.” As a result, Hai’s true birthday is actually unknown. Nevertheless, Hai says “I celebrate every day like it’s my birthday.”
In his pre-season Parade interview, Hai talks about about how the poverty which largely defined his childhood was a key element which led to his interest in “Survivor.” The show started airing in 2000, when Hai was about 7, and he started watching it the following year, when it was airing its second season, “The Australian Outback.”
Since his parents worked seven days a week, he explained, he would often be left to his own devices for extended periods of time, which often led to him watching television. “For better or worse, I was raised in front of a television screen,” Hai explained. “And ‘Survivor’ was at the forefront of my childhood development, as weird as that sounds.” Hai says that it meant a lot to him being able to see such a diverse and dynamic variety of people that existed in the world, as seen on “Survivor,” especially given the poverty-stricken circumstances he grew up in.
“It was so influential to me as a young child to be exposed to that,” Hai said. The show also allowed him “the chance to travel and see these beautiful views that I couldn’t access within the confines of our apartment,” he explained. As a result, going on the show is a “lifelong dream” of his. It’s also “fulfilling this sense of adventure that’s been instilled in me from such a young age.”
Hai’s young life wasn’t just restricted to watching “Survivor,” either. Having grown up in the U.S. with two immigrant parents who “didn’t speak a lick of English” when they first arrived, Hai also had to act as a translator for his parents a lot of the time. However, Hai used “Survivor” to his advantage even when it came to this skill. He explained that he had to “pick up the social skills” necessary to translate “very early” in his development. “And ‘Survivor’ was really helpful at doing that,” he told Parade.
Given this closeness with his family, Hai has said that, if he wins the game, he wants to use the money to make life better for his parents. In his CBS bio, he says that there is “no alternative” besides coming home with a million dollars, given his “great logical sense, a strong ability to read social situations, amazing speaking abilities, and a strong desire to better my family’s lives.”
He Is a Data Scientist
Hai currently lives in New Orleans, Louisiana, and makes his living as a data scientist at Bully Pulpit Interactive (BPI), a marketing and communications company which markets itself as progressive, and has represented a number of well-known clients, among them electric transportation company Lime, climate change activist organization Climate Power, cannabis-focused educational site Leafly, the ACLU, PBS, and the 2020 Biden-Harris presidential campaign.
According to Hai’s BPI profile, his official title is the Director of Marketing Analytics, and works for the Paid Media team, where he helps to inform “data-driven decision making.” He has been working at the company since around 2016, and focuses on “performance marketing analytics across digital marketing agencies.”
Hai’s work as a data scientist has certainly paid off financially. In his bio, Hai says he is the first person from his family to graduate college, and prides himself on having been able to purchase his first home at 24, pay off all his student debt – which totaled around $40,000 – by age 26, and became associate director of analytics at his company by age 27.
Hai’s commitment to his family once again comes through in the rest of his answer to the question of which accomplishment he is most proud of, when he declared that he is mentoring his younger brother, Ryan, to “ensure he surpasses me in all aspects.” His greatest accomplishment above all, Hai says, is “watching him make strides,” both academically and in his personal life.
He Loves to Travel, & Is a Huge Animal Lover
Hai is a man of many passions, and he is not afraid to share them with the world. During the airing of “Survivor 42,” Hai showcased his love for travel online, documenting a trip with his longtime boyfriend Caleb to Europe, namely Paris and Amsterdam.
As viewers of “Survivor” likely know, Hai is vegan, as well as an avowed animal lover. As of April 2022, he has adopted four animals – three dogs and a cat – from rescue shelters, crediting the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. In an August 2020 Instagram post, he celebrated the one year anniversary of having adopted his dog Lucy by saying that she has “changed my life.”
In addition, Hai’s love for progressive European cities, as well as his affiliation with a company that calls itself progressive and has represented a number of left-leaning clients, is unsurprising, given that he himself has been a vocal advocate for progressive causes. Not only is he naturally a vocal support of gay rights and the LGBT community – of which he is a part – but he has also voiced support for Stacey Abrams’s 2018 gubernatorial campaign in Georgia, as well as for the second impeachment of former President Donald J. Trump in February 2021.
Recently, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade being leaked to the press in May 2022, Hai tweeted a number of times in support of women’s rights, including by retweeting Senator Elizabeth Warren’s calls to end the filibuster and codify Roe into law.
“We are truly living in dark and regressive times,” he wrote shortly after the news was released. “American women, I am so sorry.” The following day, he added that “If this [news] doesn’t get you fired up to vote during midterms, nothing will.”
Hai Is Looking for His Grandfather
Ever since the start of his appearance on “Survivor,” Hai has been vociferously advocating on TikTok for Americans who had fathers or grandfathers who served in the Vietnam War to take DNA tests, because there is a “good chance” they could discover some long-lost relatives they didn’t know about.
The reason Hai has become such an advocate for this cause is because it affects him personally. As he explained in one February video, his father, a Vietnamese orphan, was conceived during the Vietnam War, and was the product of an American service member and a Vietnamese woman. His mother died shortly after childbirth, so Hai now hopes to discover the identity of his grandfather through genealogy tests.
He explained that he took at least two tests “in the hopes that there’s a match in their DNA database, and that we can potentially find more relatives,” adding that “I have a very small family here in the U.S., and my goal is to help my father find his father.”
Describing it as a “huge shot in the dark,” he implores anyone who might know the identity of any of the men in this photo (the man in the middle is his grandfather) to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As Hai explained in another video, this phenomenon of American soldiers impregnating Vietnamese women during the war was relatively common. This is why he encourages others who had relatives who served in the Vietnam War to take online genealogy tests, as they could always discover new distant (or not-so-distant) family members. “It could be me!” he added humorously.
Hai, a ‘Survivor’ Superfan, Thinks of Himself Like ‘Strategic Mastermind’ Aubry, & Looked up to Yul as a Boy
In his introductory video, Hai explained how “Survivor: Cook Islands” winner Yul Kwon was an idol of his growing up. “Yul showed that Asian men can be confident, successful, and sexy!” he explained. “And watching that as, like, a 12-year-old, was empowering!” “Survivor: Cook Islands” aired in the fall 2006 season, meaning that Hai was indeed around 13 when the season broadcast.
However, when it comes to which players Hai expects to be playing the game most like, he gave some different answers. In his bio, he referenced Parvati Shallow, the so-called “master” of the “flirt” strategy, but said that he was neither as “hot nor charming.” “Realistically,” he said, he will be more similar to season 32 runner-up, Aubry Bracco. “She was just a strategic mastermind,” he explained. “She understood social rankings and was able to strategize across very nuanced alliances.”
He added that he is similar to Aubry in that they would both come off as “non-threatening,” and that his plan was to use other social and physical threats around him “to ensure myself a shield.” Hai added that Aubry was “not afraid to cross-alliance lines and work with people who could further her game. Don’t rule anyone out.”
When it came to a winning game, Hai highlighted that of Natalie Anderson, of season 29, “San Juan del Sur,” who he called his “favorite winner,” and a “very strong, empathetic woman,” in Parade. He said that her game was a “slow burn game,” which increased in intensity near the end:
She sat there meticulously … and made these interpersonal connections and then understood how they all worked within her entire tribe. And then she made her attack. She sat there and planned her attack when the numbers were right. And she played such a fun, fascinating endgame. To me, her physicality, her quiet demeanor, it all just radiates with strength, and I love her.
At this point, Hai has made it to the final 8, largely by playing a strategically dominant, but relatively under-the-radar game. He lost his top ally in Lydia Meredith at the “fake merge” in episode 7, and now that the majority alliance of “eight” has pruned down to six, and with limited allies, Hai may soon find himself in hot water. However, he is still in possession of the Advantage Amulet, and has proven to be adept at repositioning himself from the bottom to the top before.
Will Hai indeed have what it takes to outwit, outplay, and outlast all the rest in “Survivor 42”? Tune in Wednesdays at 8 p.m. Eastern on CBS to find out. The three-hour finale will air Wednesday, May 25, 2022.