Over the last 10 weeks, Jonathan Young has proven himself to be one of the most popular players of “Survivor 42,” largely because of his physical prowess and tough-guy likability.
A core member of the Taku 4, Jonathan has made it to the final six, and may have even set himself up in a good position to win heading into the finale. However, there is a lot more to the 29-year-old’s life than may have met the eye, even given his popularity on the hit reality show.
Here’s everything you need to know about the “Survivor 42” powerhouse and fan favorite:
Jonathan Was ‘Raised on the Beach’ in Alabama
Jonathan was born in the small coastal town of Gulf Shores, Alabama, on January 13, 1993. During his teenage years, he was homeschooled by his mother, and soon decided to open up his own beach rental business in the area. He has been managing it ever since. The company, iBeachService, offers rentals for canopies, beach chairs, volleyball equipment, and other beachy items.
In his pre-season Parade interview, Jonathan spoke about how practically being “raised” on the beach has prepared him for “Survivor.” “I’ve been raised on the beach,” he explained. “I’ve trained pretty much for this moment … And once I knew that I was getting on ‘Survivor,’ I changed the way that I worked and worked out … So my lifestyle is going to be very adaptable to the game of ‘Survivor;’ I think that’s going to help me a lot.”
According to his company’s website, Jonathan began attending the University of Alabama at age 20, where he received a scholarship for swimming. He swam for six months on their team and became one of their fastest swimmers. Swimming at the University of Alabama taught Jonathan discipline, his website states, as well as “how to train with world class athletes and coaches.”
Unsurprising considering his appearance on “Survivor,” Jonathan weighs in at 250 lbs. and 6’4”, and his physical strength and athleticism has played a large role in his life, as well as his time on “Survivor.”
It is no surprise, then, that in his CBS bio, he described his three best traits as “Endurance, devoted and [being] mentally strong.” He also said that one of his pet peeves was “wearing shirts.” The main reason he believed he would be Sole Survivor is because of his athleticism, which he said would “help me greatly in the challenges.”
However, Jonathan is not all brawn. He also said that his “wit and charm” will help him in the social aspect of the game. This seems to be the case, as, despite his occasional social faux-pas, his fellow contestants seem to appreciate him as a genuinely kind and well-meaning person. Of their brief spat in the famous episode 9 Tribal Council, Drea Wheeler told EW, “In the moment, I kind of just was like, ‘he doesn’t understand.’ Jonathan and I had very heart-to-heart conversations at camp. I had social connections with most people at camp … So when I said to him “No, it’s not you. I love you. We’re friends” — this was a genuine moment.”
Of course, whether Jonathan’s social game will be enough to take him to the end, and secure the votes required to win, is another question.
Jonathan Has Broken Several World Records
What many “Survivor” fans may not know is that Jonathan has actually broken a number of Guinness World Records. Unsurprisingly, they are very much related to his physical acumen.
Jonathan currently holds the Guinness World Record for most amount of pull-ups done with 100 pounds on his back in under a minute, at 17. He later tried to augment this record in 2019, at the age of 26, by attempting to break the record of pull-ups done in under a minute with 60 pounds on his back. The record to break was 26, but he wasn’t able to do it at the time, finishing just short at 23 pull-ups. However, he was determined not to let that deter him from persisting.
Indeed, he later broke another world record – that of most amount of chin-ups done with 100 lbs. on his back in under a minute – a minor distinction, but an entirely different record, and a more challenging one at that. He broke this record in October 2021, at the age of 28, totaling 15 chin-ups, beating the previous record of 12 by 3. Interestingly, this took place after “Survivor 42” was shot, but months before it aired, and was documented at the time by a local Fox affiliate station.
“If I get any sort of fame from things that are coming up, or from this,” he said at the time, “I want to pay it forward, and help other people realize their talents, so that they can in turn keep paying it forward.”
Jonathan’s physical prowess began when he was a mere toddler. Fans may remember the brief rundown of Jonathan’s onerous childhood given by him in a confessional in episode 4, but he went more into detail in his audition video (below).
“It started when I was 3 years old,” Jonathan explained. “My dad used to wake my brother and I up, he’d take us outside, and he’d say, ‘You gotta run up that mountain, and if you stop, you gotta do it three more times.’ And then we’d go inside and he would feed us proverbs for breakfast.”
Of his rigorous childhood, Jonathan said that “that’s where our discipline came from.” Well, at least in the game of “Survivor,” there is no doubt it has paid off for him, as well as his tribe. He has already won two individual immunity challenges thus far, and famously almost single-handedly secured a first-place finish for his Taku tribe in a challenge where the other two tribes couldn’t even get through the water stage.
He Runs a Business & a Nonprofit
Not only has Jonathan owned his beach rental business in Gulf Shores since the age of 17, but he also runs another organization, Young Strength. Young Strength is a nonprofit which seeks to help people find their inner strength. Their website states that the organization is about “refusing to be average. To push yourself in everything you do, without fear of the world’s opinion. To use the gifts you have to look for opportunities to help others and to stand up for what is right.”
Young Strength also sells workout gear such as bags, hats, and t-shirts, and plans on selling some form of dietary supplements in the near future. Those who are interested in getting involved with Young Strength can email them at email@example.com, where they will reply with the potential opportunities they have to offer.
Young Strength is also greatly rooted in Jonathan’s Christian values. Its website explains that it was started “to help guide others in finding their God given purpose,” and furthermore, that 25% of the money it earns goes to Christian missions around the world. Those who wish to read about Jonathan’s nonprofit can do so on the website’s about page, and can even donate to Young Strength if they so choose.
Apart from his jobs running iBeachService and Young Strength, Jonathan has used his strength to obtain a number of physically-oriented jobs over the years. This included working as a bodyguard for Alabama judge Roy Moore during his unsuccessful 2017 run for Senator, as revealed in his audition video.
He Has Been on Another Reality Show
Jonathan’s appearance on “Survivor 42” is not the first time he has competed on reality TV, nor the first time he journeyed to Fiji to do so. In the summer of 2007, when Jonathan was 14 years old, he competed in Discovery’s “Endurance,” a show which was widely described as a “Survivor”-style show for teenagers.
As part of the show, Jonathan was paired with 14-year-old Hannah Gross of West Bloomfield, Michigan, where they ended up placing in third out of six. Some of the attributes of Jonathan’s personality which were evident on “Survivor” could also be seen in his appearance on “Endurance,” 14 years prior.
One notable scene consisted of Jonathan and Hannah bickering with one another over their performance in a challenge, leading to Hannah storming out in a huff. It is hard not to notice a similarity here with some of his behavior on “Survivor,” most notably in episode 5, when he was so fed up with his female tribemates – Maryanne Oketch and Lindsay Dolashewich – that he ended up getting into a heated argument with them as well. His temper re-emerged in episode 9, during a discussion with Maryanne and Drea about race, in which he called Drea “aggressive,” and even in the most recent episode, when he got into an argument with Drea over his fishing technique. However, as Drea revealed in exit interviews, they made up over that too.
His time on “Endurance,” in fact, is what encouraged him to apply for “Survivor” in the first place. Before “Survivor 42” began filming, Jonathan told Parade that “Endurance” gave him a “taste of what ‘Survivor’ would be like.” As soon as he got home, he said, “I immediately was like, ‘I want to do ‘Survivor.’ I want to do the real thing. I want to see how hard it is. I want the challenge’.”
Recently, a Reddit user online revealed that the 14-year-old Jonathan even saved their baby cousin from drowning one day while filming. “My baby cousin … had fallen into the pool/ was in the pool with the potential of drowning,” the user shared. “Johnathan was the one that saw her and saved her … From everything I’ve heard he and his family were very kind.”
A Superfan, He Has Been Auditioning for ‘Survivor’ for Years
Jonathan has been open about the fact that, like most other contestants of “Survivor 41” and “42,” he is a superfan of the show, and has even been applying since at least 2018, when he was 25. As he said in his introductory video, being on “Survivor” is something “for 14 years I’ve been planning on.”
Recognizing his physical strength, Jonathan also said in his intro video that he wanted to win more individual immunities than any contestant ever. Unfortunately for him, however, it seems as though that feat did not happen. Given that he only has won two individual immunities thus far and there are likely three more to go, the best he could do is win every immunity from here on out and tie the record for five. That would still be a huge achievement, however – in fact, it’s already quite an achievement to have made it so deep in the game despite his threatening status.
Even if Jonathan doesn’t happen to tie that record, he will still go down as one of the toughest “Survivor” beasts in the history of the game, leading his Taku tribe to victory almost single-handedly on a number of occasions pre-merge. Furthermore, he has made it at least to the final 6, and ended up making a huge impression on the game and the audience. Near the beginning of the season, Jonathan won Inside Survivor’s Player of the Week (a public poll in which fans get to choose their favorite player of each episode) for episode 3 – the episode in which he carried his tribe on his back out of the water during a challenge – at 52%, with Hai Giang coming in a distance second at 36%.
Even if Jonathan doesn’t pull out a victory in “Survivor 42,” he has certainly made his mark in the game. If there is to be another returning players season in the future, fans should definitely expect Jonathan to be one of the first asked back.
“Survivor 42” airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. Eastern on CBS. The three-hour finale airs Wednesday, May 25, 2022.