After graduating cum laude from University of Mass Lowell in 2019 with a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice, Noelle was determined to continue using her athletic abilities and tried out for the U.S. Paralympic team to compete in the 100-meter in Track and Field, a sport in which she had never competed. In the fall of 2019, Noelle made the team and broke the U.S. women’s record at the World Para Athletics Championship in Dubai. She is currently training for the 16th Summer Paralympic Games in Tokyo next summer.
Noelle says her accident is the best thing that ever happened to her as she is able to help others by sharing her experience. She is determined to spread the message of hope, determination and perseverance through The Born to Run Foundation and through speaking opportunities.
Noelle is a recipient of the Myra Kraft Community MVP Award, the Wilma Rudolph Student Athlete Achievement Award, the New England Women’s Leadership Award by the Boys and Girls Club of Dorchester, Mass., and was honored by the Boston Celtics as a “Hero Among Us” for her commitment to helping others. Noelle resides in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Interview with Noelle from Survivor 43
Why are you here on Survivor?
One of the obvious reasons is I’m a huge fan of the show. I basically grew up watching it because my mom is a diehard fan as well. But another big reason is I’m here on behalf of the whole amputee community and the disability community. And I want to prove to people that people who have disabilities are not incapable of doing things. And I am the first above knee amputee to ever play the game of Survivor. So having that title is incredibly special to me. Because I’m not only playing for myself, but I’m also playing for them to prove to them that they can do anything that they put their minds to.
What’s your history with watching Survivor?
When it started, I think I was about maybe 10 or 11, and my mom’s watched every single season. She’s been a diehard fan from the first season ever aired, and she always knows the do’s and dont’s of Survivor. And I remember, I was just a young kid, saying, “I don’t want to watch Survivor. I want to watch cartoons or something else.” And then she literally sat me down, and I started watching with her. And I just fell in love with it. It was our thing. We just had Survivor Wednesday nights and saw the game evolve and change. And every single season, you have no idea what Jeff and the producers are gonna throw at you. It just makes it that much more exciting to finally be a part of it. It’s pretty insane to say.
Give me one Survivor winner and one non-winner you identify with the most.
My favorite player that has ever won the game has to be Boston Rob. I’m from the Boston area; I’m from New Hampshire. And having the name “Boston Rob” and always wearing the baseball cap, that was so cool. And how he played the game is always something I always admired and always loved.
Someone who hasn’t won that I continue to love, and I always watch her previous seasons on how she played, is Kelley Wentworth. I mean, she basically has checked every single box other than winning the game. And I feel like she was a big part of how it’s evolved with females finding idols and how she was able to use it and backstab people along the way. That was just amazing to see. And it really made me fall in love with Survivor even more.
What’s your favorite moment in Survivor history?
I had to rewatch all the seasons when I found out I was coming on; I had to prepare myself. I was back watching Winners at War. And my favorite moment was everyone on Edge of Extinction during the family visit. They probably thought in their heads, “I’m not getting a family visit. I got voted off.” And then I remember the boat coming around. And you see Natalie scream, “Oh my God, it’s our families!” And everyone rushing toward the boat.
I mean, that literally brought me to tears. One of my favorite parts to watch is the family visit. I love being able to cry and watch people you have no idea who they actually are. And you’re just watching it on a TV screen! I mean to kind of connect like that is incredible. But definitely that moment of all of them rushing towards the boat. And it wasn’t even just one family member; it was their entire family! So that was just something that was really special to me.
What’s one life experience you feel has prepared you most for the game?
One life experience that I feel has prepared me for the game is losing my left leg. Just the physical and mental toughness that I’ve had to go through these last six years and learn how to do everything all over again. I mean, it did prepare me a little bit for this moment, just because I know that this game is going to be probably the toughest mental and physical challenge that I’ve ever done in my entire life.
I mean, I can tell you that I am fully anticipating the game of Survivor to be a lot harder than losing my leg. (Laughs.) Because I’m out here and I’m by myself. I don’t have the support system that I have back home; I don’t have the people back home that got me through my amputation and got me through my accident. And so definitely, that’s going to be the biggest and toughest challenge for me: Can I do this on my own? Can I actually get through things by myself? Because I’ve never actually had to experience it before my entire life.
What excites you the most about the new era of Survivor?
I think what excites me the most about this new era of Survivor is just based on the fact that you really have no idea what Jeff’s gonna throw at you. It’s a scared and excited feeling because everybody else you’re playing with is probably feeling the exact same way. There’s no way that you can physically and mentally prepare yourself for the game of Survivor because you really just don’t know what the season is going to entail and what changes they’re gonna make. So the game plan that you have coming in might not be the game plan that you have moving forward.
So what excites me the most is definitely just getting there and just realizing I’m not the only one that has no idea what’s going to happen. Everybody else is doing it, so I’m not alone in this. But it makes the game that much more exciting to watch. Everybody has their unique story. And so I’m just excited to get to actually meet everybody and connect with them and hear everything that everyone’s gone through.
What type of player are you looking for in an alliance?
I think the type of player that I’m looking for in an alliance, in the beginning, is definitely somebody who’s a really big physical threat. Because I feel like usually the physical threats that are really good in challenges typically stick around until the merge or until right before the merge. Because they know that they have to be a part of the tribe so that you can actually win and don’t have to vote somebody off. So befriending and connecting with someone who’s really a big physical threat and really good at challenges, I think, is really smart and strategic because they can help me get further in my game. I’m just looking to lay low as much as possible until it is time when I have to make the big moves and I have to make the cutthroat decisions.
How eager will you be to look for advantages in the game?
I want to say the second I get to the beach, I want to be on the lookout, but that makes you a threat in the beginning. So I just have to contain myself. I have to continue to tell myself, “You don’t want to get voted off first because you’re looking for an idol.” But at the same time, that’s part of the game. And being a woman and finding an idol or an advantage makes it even more special. So I’m gonna do everything I can possible to try to find an idol or find an advantage. But I’m going to do it, I hope, in the sneakiest way possible. Not in the camera’s eyes, but in my tribemate’s eyes, so they don’t actually know that I’m looking for something. (Laughs.)
What is the one thing you told yourself you wouldn’t do in this game?
One thing I told myself that I would never do in this game is use my disability as an excuse or a reason not to do something. I’ve never done that in the past. I’ve always used my amputation as a reason why I should do something. So just breaking through that barrier of saying, “I can do this challenge just like everybody else can,” and having that confidence. But the biggest thing I never want to do is say, “I don’t think I can do this challenge.” Because of the fact that I am an amputee, I want to have confidence in myself. And I want to prove to myself and my tribemates that I’m just as capable as they are to do the challenges.