I conducted a phone interview Wednesday with former WWE diva Torrie Wilson, who talked about her runner-up finish last week on the NBC reality show I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here, as well as her negative experience doing the divas battle royal at WrestleMania XXV last April.
So, what’s the first you did when you got back home after three weeks or so in the jungle in Costa Rica?
When I arrived at my house I had a very small party with my closest friends and family and I ate some vanilla cake.
I’m sure it tasted good to you.
Man it was delicious.
What was the toughest part about being in the jungle and what was the toughest challenge that you had to do?
I think the toughest part about being there was that some of the personalities were clashing, so it was difficult at times to get along with everybody. And, of course, the eating was really difficult. The hardest challenge – there was one where we stuck our head in something [a glass case filled with snakes]. I was really glad I didn’t get the tarantulas.
Spencer and Heidi Pratt and Janice Dickinson came off as incredibly annoying. What was it like being in the jungle with them?
It was difficult to say the least. The energy that was sucked from you when they were going on their rants, it took so much out of all of us that by the time any of them left we just went, “Geez, I feel like I was just hit by a car.”
Did you get the sense that they were playing to the cameras or that they really were just that obnoxious?
At first I thought for sure Spencer was doing his rant for the cameras, but the longer I was around him the more I thought, maybe because he’s been on a reality show for so long that he’s started to let it blend into his real character. I don’t really know him personally so it was hard for me to differentiate, but it seemed like much of what they were doing – all of them – was very close to their true personalities.
The people on reality shows with obnoxious over-the-top personalities always seem to make the biggest impression with viewers. You came off as very normal. Do you think that hurt you at all in the eyes of the viewers who were voting for who they wanted to remain on the show?
The first couple episodes they pretty much devoted completely to Spencer and Heidi and Janice. Just looking around at those larger-than-life characters and seeing how hard they were trying to get camera time, I definitely thought in the beginning that it was going to be hard to compete with that, because I wasn’t willing to devalue myself and be someone I wasn’t just for camera time. So I definitely think in the beginning it hurt me, but I knew that if I was able to stick around long enough that people would appreciate who I was and that I just wanted to be myself.
I can’t imagine letting snakes or cockroaches crawl across my face like you did. What goes through your head? How do you get through it?
Really what I’m doing is thinking fully on the task that I’m trying to do. With the snakes and stuff I just reminded myself over and over again – and it was hard at times – that they weren’t going to hurt me. They weren’t going to put snakes that were going to bite my arm off in there with me, and I’m just so competitive that I was completely thinking about the task and beating the other person.
So which was worse, a snake slithering across your face or making out with Vince McMahon?
Oh, making out with Vince, for sure [laughs]. I’ll take the snake any day.
You talked about knowing that things weren’t going to bite you, but you actually did get bitten by rats during the challenge where you had to stick your hand into a rock, right?
Yeah. The biggest reason I was upset with that was because they kept telling me to put my hand back in after I had been bitten and I had blood everywhere. I had trusted them not to let something bad happen and they kept filming. For quite a few days afterwards they had heard me talking, saying that I don’t know if I can trust them to do another trial. What if they’re not thinking about my safety again? So it took me a few days to realize that they’re going to be extra cautious after that accident. They had to build up our trust again.
Yeah, I thought that one was over the line, especially when Lou Diamond Phillips kept his hand in there with the rats and came out bleeding pretty bad.
It was over the line. I can’t believe he kept his hand in there to get it gnawed off. He ended up getting like eight stitches. I’m like, “Man, this guy really wants to win. I’m not putting my hand back in there.” [laughs]
Did you surprise yourself with some of the things you were able to do?
Oh definitely. I always want to win and I know that I’m athletic and competitive, but anytime I won a challenge, especially against a guy, I surprised myself. There was a challenge where you had to go up on a high wire. I knew I was a little bit scared of heights but once I got up there I got really upset. I was crying and just didn’t know what I was going to do. John Salley really calmed me down. The fact that I got over that and did it was the greatest feeling in the world, to be scared to death to do something and just plunge forward and do it anyway and complete it is just the best feeling.
What kind of feedback have you gotten from your friends about your appearance on the show. Do you think you surprised any of them?
[Laughs]. Yeah, definitely. Pretty much everybody that I talk to says they don’t think they could do that. I like to say, “You can’t?” or “You won’t?” John Salley taught me that. It was such an amazing experience and it really changed me.
I really feel at this moment in time that if I can do that I can really get through any obstacle put before me. I’ve had plenty of obstacles in the past and things that frighten me, and I’m definitely not going to be as afraid. And I’ve changed my entire way of eating after the show. I became a vegetarian, almost vegan. I feel wonderful after having the cleansing I had there and getting off sugar. Of course my patience has been way better, and I’m just appreciating all the luxuries that I have.
There was one point on the show where they weighed everyone and they had all lost between 10 and 20 pounds, but you gained seven pounds. Were you just working out like crazy or what was going on?
[Laughs]. I was working out like crazy, but my body’s really weird. I gained seven pounds but I went down a pants size. I wasn’t working out that much because it was so hot; maybe like 30 minutes a day. My whole thing with that was that America is going to see that I gained seven pounds and not believe how starved I am the entire time.
They said on the show that the final vote between you and Lou Diamond Phillips was very close. How close was it?
Oh my gosh. They told me that the night before and the morning of that they thought I had it won, but then he ended up beating me by less than one-tenth of one percentage point. They even did a recount. It’s all good. I’m happy with second and I’m happy for Lou. Just knowing that I was that close to someone like him – he’s a big movie star with a huge following and to be that close with him in itself is an accomplishment for me.
A lot of these types of reality shows have a lot of back-stabbing and conflict, but when it got down to you, Lou and John Salley, you all came off as very likable and friendly toward one another.
I’m really glad that I did this reality show versus something where they try to set up lots of instances where you’re backstabbing each other. Of course we had a little bit of that, which we saw later when we got home, but for the most part I think everyone really was themselves. It’s kind of a relief not to see crazy larger-than-life characters all trying to backstab each other.
Do you think you will remain friends with some of the people that you met on the show?
Definitely. I’ve got all their information. I really miss them a lot already. It’s really weird spending 30 days with people in such close quarters with no interruptions. We got so close that we’re definitely going to be friends for life.
All of them? Are there any you won’t remain friends with?
You know, by the end I really learned to appreciate and love everybody. As many times as I wanted to strangle Janice, there are many aspects to her that I do appreciate. She’s definitely a complex person, but she’s been through a lot. I’ve just learned to understand that.
What’s next for you at this point?
I am working on a workout video, which I think we’re going to start taping in August. It’s a lot of the workout that I did in the jungle, really back to basics. We’re going to do a series of them. I’ve got lots of meetings out in L.A. now. Hopefully [the show] will open up quite a few doors for me. There’s definitely been a lot of interest.
What are your thoughts on the divas battle royal that you participated in at WrestleMania XXV? It seemed like a bit of a cluster.
I’m very mad at myself and embarrassed that I agreed to be a part of something like that. A lot of people in the audience didn’t even know that I was in that match because they didn’t even announce it. For me, that whole experience at WrestleMania was kind of like closure. I feel like maybe I’m not appreciated like I would have hoped. They just wanted all these girls there. Now I can understand why Trish [Stratus] decided not to do it; she was smart. Going into it I trusted them that they would use me in the right way and I should have known better. All in all, I learned a valuable lesson.
When you say it was closure, do you think that’s it for you as far as doing anything in wrestling?
I do. I just didn’t appreciate that experience and I felt very unappreciated after all of the years that I put in for them. You combine that with the fact that I asked them to do a little thing on wwe.com to “vote for Torrie” and they just ignored me. So, my feelings are hurt.
Torrie Wilson’s office Web site is www.torriewilsonusa.com.
The Web site for her clothing store is www.officiallyjaded.com.
Her MySpace is www.myspace.com/torries_space .
Photo: Getty Images