'Survivor' has moved on from its #MeToo scandal. Former contestant Kellee Kim has not

Christi Carras, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

Wednesday night, less than two months after December's "Survivor" finale saw host Jeff Probst deliver an unprecedented on-air apology for the show's mishandling of a #MeToo incident, a new season was set to premiere.

But while CBS has turned its focus to the stacked all-winner lineup in store for Season 40, former contestant Kellee Kim can't help but linger on the fallout from Season 39.

"There's a sense of moving on and almost forgetting, but it is really important for me to make sure that the story continues getting heard, because I think that, only by remembering history can we continue to make sure that change happens and that change stays," she said. "We can't allow this to happen again, whether it's because ... people really think it's the right thing or because we are holding their feet to the fire."

Kim, an MBA graduate from Costa Mesa, broke the "Survivor" mold last season when she spoke up about a male contestant, Dan Spilo, who had touched her inappropriately. Her concerns, corroborated on the show by footage from camp, prompted CBS to release a statement explaining that producers issued a "formal warning" to Spilo in response to Kim's report.

He was not removed from the game, however, until a subsequent incident -- not involving a player -- occurred after Kim had been voted out. Also adding fuel to the firestorm was a controversial strategic move from castaways Missy Byrd and Elizabeth Beisel, both of whom later apologized for invalidating Kim's experiences and coddling Spilo in order to further themselves in the competition.

Amid mounting public scrutiny, the reality show unveiled new policies and procedures drafted in an effort to create a safer environment.


Now, Kim has taken it upon herself to ensure that those guidelines are followed and that women -- both on and off "Survivor" -- continue to be seen and heard. Since Season 39's bombshell #MeToo episode aired, Kim has partnered with Time's Up, which connected her with prominent attorney Debra Katz through its Legal Defense Fund when she "didn't know who to turn to."

Through public speaking engagements and fundraising, Kim plans to continue her activism with Time's Up by providing resources and support to others. Ahead of the Season 40 premiere, Kim spoke with the Los Angeles Times about her time on "Survivor," the impact the show has had on her life and her hopes for the future in a conversation edited for length and clarity.

Q: How did you get involved with the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund?

A: I knew about Time's Up as a movement, but not this organization that actually helps women who have gone through anything related to sexual harassment or sexual assault, helping their voices get heard and helping them navigate a very complicated process. I was introduced to them through a friend in the middle of the season when I really desperately needed help, and as a result of their support, I was able to have my voice heard and help enact this change at CBS and "Survivor."


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