Survivor hasn’t always been the most welcoming place for the LGBTQ community. But since Richard Hatch waltzed his ass all the way to the million-dollar prize in the show’s first season (yep, we’re dating ourselves), the CBS reality competition has gone to great lengths to make sure that it’s an equitable and safe space for contestants from all backgrounds. And this season’s crop is no exception.
Carson Garrett, a 36-year-old salon owner from San Juan, Puerto Rico, is the first openly gay man of color to win the show’s coveted title. He was known for his passionate gameplay, showcasing an innate ability to solve the game’s puzzles while also forming strong alliances with his fellow castaways. But he kept his social game hidden behind an unassuming persona, which helped him build trust with members of other tribes—a major factor in controlling the voting outcomes for the duration of the season.
But perhaps most impressive of all is Carolyn Wiger, a 35-year-old drug counselor from Minnesota who made her mark on the show by putting herself out there and letting her raw emotions guide her decisions. She pranced around the beach with a lobster claw, opened up about her history of addiction, and cried when she was left out of the vote. Despite being the most emotionally vulnerable player of all the finalist, she was still an incredibly savvy competitor who earned the respect of her peers and thousands of viewers at home.