Bikinis, Body Shaming and Survivor

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Hannah Gough from Survivor New Zealand wears Lady Voluptuous Lyra Art Deco Flamingo Dress / Photo: Doug Peters, Ambient Light

Hannah wears Lady Voluptuous Lyra Dress / Photo: Doug Peters, Ambient Light

Survivor New Zealand kicked off a couple of weeks ago and my girl Hannah Gough (aka Glam) has been on there repping for the plus size Kiwi babes. She’s a power lifter, a plus size model and a kindergarten teacher, and this pinup is no princess when it comes to roughing it. I caught up with her to ask her a few questions about body shaming, bikinis and being on Survivor New Zealand.

What made you decide to apply for Survivor New Zealand?

My agent is getting some slack for this, but it was all him. He didn’t tell me until after he’d put my application in, and said we had to shoot a video. I was like, “What for?” When he told me I laughed and told him, “Bro, you’re so fired!” But then the more I thought about it I thought, “Hell yes I’m going to do this, I want to prove to New Zealand that there is more to people than appearance.” Yes, I am curvy girl with pink hair who loves to put on a pretty dress, but I am hella strong at the same time. I live by a motto of fit, healthy and strong at any size.

Thanks to my six years as a roller derby gal, I have the mental toughness that I put into my training as a powerlifter. I step into the gym with determination to prove society wrong. As I chalk up my hands and step onto the platform and lift weight that is 30kg (or more) heavier than my bodyweight, I remind myself that beauty and strength comes in all shapes and sizes.

This is why I am doing Survivor. I want to prove that you are not defined by a number!

Did you have any outdoor/survival experience before the show?

Don’t let the love of makeup and pretty dresses fool you, I have a fair bit of outdoor experience. During high school we would often go hiking around New Zealand. I remember staying on top of Mt Cook and having to camp there for a couple of days because we got snowed in. I think I have hiked around every volcano in the North Island, more than once! I also did OPC during high school.

Hannah Gough Survivor New Zealand / Photo: Scott McAulay

This powerlifting pinup is not to be underestimated / Photo: Scott McAulay

How did you prepare for Survivor New Zealand?

Cardio – all of the cardio! Being a powerlifter I was like, “Mehhh, cardio? That stuff is horrible, just let me lift all the heavy things!” but I knew that I needed to step up the cardio training. I would do two cycles of tabata (high impact cardio training) five times a week.

Mentally, I knew it was going to be tough because people are going to judge me on my appearance, so I made an aspiration wall to remind myself of why I was going to do this crazy thing. I also binge watched Survivor episodes, to the point I was freaking myself out, so I stopped.

Did you have a game plan going in? What was your strategy?

My game plan was to prove that I was an asset from the very first moment. I knew I was going to be judged on appearance, it’s Survivor. I mean, when I turned up at the airport I was like, “Okay, I’m the only curvy girl. Fuck, I’m going to have to play a really smart game here.”

I could tell people in Survivor weren’t taking me seriously, so my game plan became a social one – it was all about numbers. Finding people that I could really build trust with, build an alliance with. I also tried to show my physical side by doing everything around the camp – to prove to the Tribe I was an asset they needed to keep around.

Mogoton Tribe on Survivor New Zealand / Photo: Scott McAulay

Hannah with her Mogoton Tribe teammates / Photo: Scott McAulay

Do you think the other contestants underestimated you?

From the moment I met them. I mean, I’m not silly, I’m a teacher – I can read body language and facials. Here I am: a curvy girl, in a 50’s style dress, hair done and a full face of makeup. It wasn’t until I made alliances with people and mentioned powerlifting and roller derby that I could see people starting to change their opinion of me. I have lived my entire life being underestimated. Never underestimate the power of the Glam!

A few comments have been made about your decision to mostly wear just a bikini on the show, saying that you should have covered up. What made you decide to wear a bikini? Side note – where are your bikinis from? A lot of people loved them!

My motto in life is “I am not defined by a number!”

Five years ago was the first time I wore a swimsuit in public, so to wear one on national television is a pretty big deal. But you know what? Everybody has a bikini body. So what if your body doesn’t look like the model in the photo. Your body is something you should be proud of and you should never feel like you can’t wear that because you might ‘look fat’.

I am proud of my body. I am strong, I am beautiful, I have scars, I have stretch marks, I have cellulite but that is me and I am proud of who I am. I know I will get backlash and will most likely face fat shaming because of my appearance, but I have worked hard to achieve this body. It’s a canvas of my journey in life and I am proud of it!

I had two bikinis that I rocked with pride on the show, both were from City Chic. Because we were only allowed one change of clothes, I actually used my bikini tops as bras as they had an underwire – I had to think strategically!

Hannah and Dee at Redemption Island on Survivor New Zealand / Photo: Scott McAulay

Hannah and Dee at Redemption Island / Photo: Scott McAulay

A lot of viewers were pretty surprised by the amount of body shaming that was evident on the show, especially in the decision to vote you out. How did that affect you and do you have anything to say in response to the people who made those comments and those judgements?

I mean, nobody wants to be voted out. To be voted out because my team underestimated me and thought I was too big and would slow them down at challenges is devastating. It goes against everything that I believe in. I think that even though my journey on Survivor New Zealand has ended, I have still raised a talking point that body shaming and fat shaming is still a massive issue when it really shouldn’t be.

To every person that has stood beside me and to all the media who have blogged and posted about me – thank you! When I read that I had been labelled “a damn treasure for body positivity” I couldn’t help but let out a sigh of relief which was then followed by a massive smile. Because this is why is I agreed to do this show: to be a positive role model to women and prove that people aren’t defined by a number.

What qualities do you think that the members of your tribe overlooked because they were so quick to judge you for your size?

I think they overlooked my determination and fight. Every day I push boundaries to defy odds and prove assumptions wrong. If someone tells me I can’t do something, I will work my ass off until I can do it and prove them wrong!

Like that first challenge on the beach, my Tribe had to sit there and watch me dominate that challenge. Why? Because I wanted to prove a point to them that I can do this. Determination is one of my key attributes.

I would like to say here though, if anyone in my Tribe reads this, it’s okay and I forgive you. Since that episode aired, I have had four Tribe members reach out to me, asking for forgiveness. I mean, that’s a big step for some of them. I don’t hold grudges. Yes it sucked and it hurt, but it’s a game. However, I feel that these four members have been quick to realise that they messed up, and I hope that in future they remember and learn from what has happened. I too have learned so much from this experience.

Hannah digging in the first challenge on Survivor New Zealand / Photo: Scott McAulay

Hannah digging in the first challenge / Photo: Scott McAulay

There has been a lot of support for you online, calling out the body shaming that occurred. Is this kind of judgement something that you experience in your day-to-day life, and how do you deal with that?

Being a plus size model, I receive a lot! Good thing my curves provide me with thick skin. I am pretty good at not taking things too personally, because I have so much history with keyboard warriors.

I get the most body shaming because I promote healthy, fitness and strength at any size. People have this image of what healthy looks like, so when Miss Glam comes along with her thick thighs and serious squat booty, that pushes the norm and challenges perceptions; people get offended and body shame me. I would have to say that Instagram is the worst. People have said online that my weight isn’t healthy, yet I don’t have any weight related heath issues.

However, hand on my heart right now, my friends are my lifelines. They keep me grounded, they are my drive, my comfort and my support. If I get a really nasty message or something has happened, I know I can pick up the phone and ring someone and talk about it.

I also have a inspiration wall in my bedroom. Every morning I wake up and look at it, it’s filled with my photos of derby, my medals from my powerlifting comps, notes from some of my kids, and little things that are important to me. It reminds me of where I have come from. On the other side are my aspirations and dreams, I look at them and remember why I do this, why I put myself out there.

Do you have any advice for other people who deal with criticism about their body and their size?

Talk about it! Don’t bottle it up. But I want to remind you, that you are truly beautiful the way you are. That number on your pants, it doesn’t define who you are as a person. Other people don’t know who you are, or your journey through life. Please see your self worth! You are unique. There is only one of you and you have something to offer in this world. Your body is something to be proud of. Never hide it away, embrace your body because it tells your story.

To the body shamers and the keyboard warriors: Just remember, for every action there is a consequence. You might not see the consequences but your bullying and judgement has the power to be the life or death of someone. It’s all good sitting behind a screen, or coming back and saying sorry to make yourself feel better, but our actions and words can leave a everlasting impact.

What did you find the biggest challenge during your time on Survivor New Zealand?

My biggest challenge was being by myself, I am a very social person. I was visited a couple of times a day, but being alone with all the spiders, snakes and scorpions in the dead of night in a jungle on the other side of the world was hard.

Hannah during her duel with Tony at Redemption Island on Survivor New Zealand / Photo: Scott McAulay

Hannah fighting to stay on Redemption Island / Photo: Scott McAulay

What did you do to pass the time on Redemption Island?

It was hard, as I had so much time to reflect and think. I spent time each day lifting accessories (I didn’t want to lose all my gains), so I did squats and my weird version of a press up. For lunges and overhead squats, I used logs.

I started to get sick the day before Tony joined me on the island, so I spent most of my time trying to sleep and save energy. It got to a point where Tony had to look after me because I couldn’t keep food or water down, so I became super dehydrated and not a happy Glam. But not once did I give up, I knew I had to keep pushing and fighting, I had something to prove.

Who do you think are the contenders to watch now?

Avi. I love that dude! He’s so great and I feel he is genuine. I think if I’d have been around longer we could have made a powerful alliance, as he was looking for the same things as me – trust. Avi and I had this amazing talk just before tribal (I know he said those things about my size slowing me down), I let my walls down and told him a few things and I really felt we made a connection. I think Avi is going to play this game well and I think he is going to do big things.

Barn and Nate from Hermosa are cool too. I feel that Barb is super under estimated! I think she will come up against the same “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” situation, in regards to her age being a factor. It so isn’t, Barb is great and I think she is going to be underestimated by the younger members.

Meagan Kerr wears ASOS CURVE Turtleneck and Harlow Sweetest Taboo Skirt; Hannah Gough from Survivor New Zealand wears Lady Voluptuous Lyra Art Deco Flamingo Dress / Photo: Doug Peters, Ambient Light

Meagan and Hannah / Photo: Doug Peters, Ambient Light

What’s next for Glam, where do you want to go from here?”

World domination *mwahahaha*!!! I have some pretty big goals. I am currently looking for an agency that has the same views around body image as I do. The ultimate for me is Fashion Week, I started my modelling career on the catwalk so I wouldn’t mind going back to my roots, but on a bigger platform to prove to the world that you can be sexy, fit, healthy and strong while being curvy! Also this Glam is newly single so maybe …

If you want to follow Hannah’s journey, you can find her on Facebook and Instagram.

You can catch Survivor New Zealand on TVNZ 2 at 7.30pm on Sundays and 7pm Mondays, or watch it On Demand. This post was brought to you by TVNZ, please support the brands that support this blog.

Hannah Gough from Survivor New Zealand wears Lady Voluptuous Lyra Art Deco Flamingo Dress / Photo: Doug Peters, Ambient Light

Hannah wears Lady Voluptuous Lyra Dress / Photo: Doug Peters, Ambient Light


  1. Michelle
    May 15, 2017 / 7:12 pm

    Awesome interview! Hannah you are an absolute inspiration!! x

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