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Name: Artis Silvester
Home: Terry Town, LA
Occupation: Computer Engineer
Awesome Fact: Artis overcame stage-four cancer.
Gordon Holmes: Now, I understand that you kicked stage-four cancer’s butt? Is that accurate?
Artis Silverster: (Laughs) Yes, it is. The way they found it was totally ironic. I used to look like an NFL linebacker. I was huge. Then I got a pain in my shoulder and I thought it just wasn’t healing right. And, I had a little bump on my chin that just wasn’t healing right. One day at the gym I get under this weight that I can normal put up. Blind, deaf, and dumb I can put this weight up. I take it off the bar and it comes crashing down on my chest. I decide I need to get this bump looked at. They couldn’t figure out what it was. They figured it was a cyst. They go to remove it, the doctor says they saw the bump protruding through my neck muscles. So they peeled back the muscles and a mass plopped out the size of a Roman tomato. They sent it for testing, it came back cancerous. They say do you smoke? No. Do you drink? No. Do you lay out in the sun? No. Are you white? No. We don’t understand how you got it.
Holmes: Whoa…hold the phone. You’re not white?
Silvester. I know! It was like, we don’t understand how you got it, but you got it. You should play the lottery. Only an act of God could’ve given me this thing.
Holmes: How did it affect you physically?
Silvester: I went from being able to bench almost 400 pounds to not being able to lift the bar off of the rack.
Holmes: The bar’s what…45 pounds?
Holmes: That must’ve been devastating. I’ve heard stories of bodybuilders who are forced to quit steroids. They can literally see themselves getting smaller and it’s too much for them to deal with.
Silverster: Yeah. I literally laid there and cried in the middle of the gym for about an hour. It sent me into a deep depressive state.
Holmes: And now?
Silvester: I’m not as strong as I was, but I beat my doctor’s expectations.
Holmes: What are your plans for the next thirty nine days?
Silvester: The thing is, I have an ability to create a comfort zone around myself. When you look at me, if I’m not smiling or talking, it looks like I’m about ready to take your head off.
Holmes: Let’s test this out; stop smiling.
(Artis stops smiling.)
Holmes: OK, knock it off, you’re freaking me out.
Silvester: (Laughs) With this group, when I walked in I thought, “Oh man, I’m the biggest thing here. That is not going to fare well.” We can’t talk, so I’m sitting there not saying anything. They probably think I’m the biggest (expletive deleted) going. Or, they think I’m going to run over anybody. I can’t do anything until I’m with my tribe, but I need to create a comfort zone to ensure my survival for the first few rounds. After that, I’ve got them. Once we get to the merge I know that I can win every single immunity challenge. But, I’ll have a couple of girls on my side, so I won’t need to win every challenge.
Holmes: What are your first impressions of the cast?
Silvester: They’re incredible. I’ve enjoyed every single aspect. I’ve been playing the game since we got here. I’ve been figuring out who I want on my tribe, who I don’t want on my tribe. Who I can work with. I’ve got all of this worked out. The only thing that’s missing is the twist that evens up the men and the women.
Holmes: Are you a “Survivor” fan?
Silvester: I’ve probably applied to be on this show more than any person in “Survivor” history.
Holmes: How many times.
Silvester: At least 15 or 17.
Holmes: I know Gillian (Larson) from Gabon applied a lot. But you might have her beat.
Silvester: The only seasons I missed applying were because of being sick.
Holmes: I’m going to read directly from your bio, “Pet Peeves: Know-it-all people, bullies, people who prey on weaker people.” I’m betting you’re going to run into some of that in the next thirty nine days.
Holmes: Can you internalize and keep your cool around these people?
Silvester: No. (Laughs) I will confront a bully. I will confront them head on because they’re just weak. They pick on people they know are scared of them. I’ll show you you can be dominated just as well. If it costs me, it costs me.
Holmes: Will you lie to get ahead?
Silvester: Yes. People lie to get themselves out of situations. It may not be part of their demeanor in everyday life. But we’ll do something out of character to help ourselves.
Holmes: Are you prepared to flirt to get ahead?
Silvester: I don’t think I’m going to have to. I really don’t. This is something that I will not tell anybody out there; I’m probably twice the age of those people. But there are at least two women who are going to try to get ahead by flirting.
Holmes: Who are those two?
Silvester: One will be the girl with the hooker pumps and the dress. She’s changed swimsuits three or four times since we’ve been here today. Barbie may have to flirt, but she’s so young and naïve that she might fall for someone who’ll bring her along.
Holmes: If you could align with any former “Survivor” player, who would it be and why?
Silvester: “Boston” Rob, because he’s not a survivalist, but he’s an expert manipulator of people. His people skills are what got him the win. The ability to make people believe that he cares for them. Nobody can take them deeper than him.
Holmes: You’re not worried about him playing you?
Silvester: He’s got to play me. I know that. It has to happen at some point in time. If you believe that you can align with someone who will never play you, you are foolish.
Holmes: OK, when you conquer “Survivor: Philippines” in much the same way you conquered cancer, what are your plans for the money?
Silvester: There are so many people that have supported me. I have not been able to repay them. So a portion of that money would go back to repaying those people. Naturally, you’re going to take care of your family. Believe it or not, my ex-wife, who I’m still emphatically in love with and trying to hopefully some how get back together. And my little stepdaughter who is the apple of my eye. As far as she is concerned, I am her daddy. I told her I’ll always be her daddy, I’ll never, ever leave her.
Holmes: Why aren’t you and your ex-wife still together?
Silvester: We ended…and it was my fault. It had zero to do with infidelity, but it had to do with me not allowing her to trust me. It was a trust issue. That’s my fault. I don’t think I understood what it took to be a husband. I love her. I’m always going to be there, if she ever opens that door.
Don’t miss the premiere of “Survivor: Philippines” – Wednesday, September 19, 2012 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.