Five years ago, professional dancer Natalie Tenerelli competed on Survivor: Redemption Island at just 19 years old. Despite ultimately losing to “Boston” Rob Mariano, she managed to survive all 39 days (with Phillip Sheppard nonetheless!) and made it to the Final Tribal Council where she was able to plead her case to the jury. Now at 24 years old, Tenerelli is about to embark on a new television adventure, as part of “L.A. Clippers Dance Squad”, a new docu-series premiering on the E! Network on March 15.
Inside Survivor had a chance to talk to the former Survivor finalist ahead of the “L.A. Clippers Dance Squad” premiere.
Can you tell us a little about your new show “L.A. Clippers Dance Squad”?
It’s an eight episode docu-series featuring seven of us girls on and off the court. It starts with the grueling audition process moving into maintaining positions on the team. We have a brand new creative director and coach who are both cutthroat. I’m mostly excited to share with the audience what really goes into dancing for an elite pro sports team. I believe people will be stunned!
You have spent three years on the Clippers Spirit squad. How did you first get involved?
I have danced for many different dance teams having the goal in mind to dance for the NBA. I danced on teams for the AVP, MLS, and the World Series of Boxing. I tried out for the LA Laker Girls 3 times as well as Clippers Spirit. My third time was a charm for the Clippers! So to answer your question… it was persistence that got me involved.
This isn’t your first experience on TV, having previously competed on Survivor. How do the two shows compare in the sense of competition, filming, etc?
We are one giant alliance dancing together! Filming lasted much longer than Survivor. Most importantly I was able to eat whatever I wanted on this LACDS!
Did your time on Survivor help you in any way for the “L.A. Clippers Dance Squad”?
Oh, for sure! It’s helped me in everything in life. Survivor showed me how resilient I can be if I believe it enough. We have a new dance with basketballs. We do all kinds of tricks and before I start the dance I tell myself “this is a Survivor challenge, don’t drop the ball!” It helps!
You were one of the 32 former contestants on the ballot for Survivor: Second Chance last year. How was that whole experience? There was lots of talk of “pre-gaming” – were other people on the ballot reaching out to you to strategize?
The whole campaigning thing was interesting and kind of exhausting, to be honest. I don’t enjoy going around and tooting my own horn and that’s what it felt like. I obviously love the game so I did what I felt was necessary. I fell short and that was heartbreaking, but I’ve since realized why everything worked out the way it did! Go Clippers! I had some short conversations with others on the ballot but my strategy was to go in without a definite plan because we all know things change at the drop of a hat.
Did you watch Second Chance? Who were you rooting for?
Everybody loves a little man bun action! I was hoping that Joe would go all the way to the end. I think Kelley Wentworth did a great job of coming out of the woodwork and redeeming herself as a really fierce competitor. As far as Jeremy… just love that guy! Well deserved winner in my book!
Do you still keep in touch with anyone from your season of Survivor?
I still keep in close touch with Boston Rob, Ashley, and Andrea! One of my best friends is Julie Berry from Vanuatu. Survivor is a family and I have so much respect for anyone who put themselves out on “the Island.”
Until recently you were the youngest female contestant to ever play Survivor. On this current season, Survivor: Kaoh Rong, there is a girl, Julia Sokolowski, who was just 18 when the game started. As a former finalist, do you think being young on Survivor is a positive or negative?
I would say it came with mostly positive but a few setbacks. Let’s just say if I have children I wouldn’t be thrilled if they wanted to play Survivor at 19. The experience was absolutely life changing and I wouldn’t change it for the world. It was such a high in my life but after it was over I felt the need to top it. How does a 19-year-old top being on Survivor? It didn’t feel like a lot could. After a while of feeling this way I decided to go back to dancing which I discovered gives me the rush I’d been searching for!
Are you still interested in playing Survivor again?
I would love to play Survivor a second time if given the chance. In the past 5 years, I have gained so much more wisdom in order be successful in the game! The redemption would be so satisfying!
“L.A. Clippers Dance Squad” premieres Tuesday March 15 at 10|9c on E!