By Carley Dangona
NEEDHAM – For some, spending 39 days on a deserted island without the comforts of home is a nightmare, but for Trish Hegarty, it was a dream come true.
Needham resident and Westfield State University alumna Trish Hegarty, 48, is a participant in “Survivor Cagayan,” a province of the Philippines. For the 28th season of the show, the 18 contestants were split into three tribes, Brawn, Brains and Beauty, with Hegarty assigned to the first.
Each episode, the tribes compete against each other for immunity in various physical and mental challenges and the losing tribe will have to go to tribal council and vote off a contestant.
“It was surreal to arrive on the island,” Hegarty told Reminder Publications
. “Once you get there, there’s no way out unless your voted off, you quit or are injured.”
She said the reality of the situation set in as soon as host Jeff Probst said “Welcome to Survivor.”
Hegarty owns and operates Dish Studios, an exercise and Pilates studio. A single mom of two teenage daughters, Marykate and Claire, she wanted them to learn to never give up on something in which they truly believe. “If you never let your dreams die and you believe in yourself, spectacular things can happen,” she stated.
Hegarty auditioned four times before being chosen for the show. Her motivation was to better her life and provide for her family.
She first tried out for the show approximately 10 years ago, almost making it to the finals. This time around, she auditioned in the fall of 2012 and received the final notification of her casting in April of 2013. She departed for seven weeks in July to participate in the show.
“I live a pretty large life and had to be really creative to explain my absence. Whether you’re first or last [in the competition], you leave for seven weeks,” Hegarty said. She told her friends, family and clients that she was going away to become versed in a new exercise program that she would introduce in February.
“People would get worried,” she said, when she would turn down invites to summer parties and events that she would normally attend. Some people even began “drilling” her children asking when Hegarty would return.
Hegarty said that she went on the show to win the money, but learned an important lesson from the experience. “I recognized that I am already a very wealthy woman. I have two healthy kids, a family and a support system that would do anything for me and I have a job I love. I’m very lucky; a pretty fortunate woman,” she stated.
For Hegarty, the hardest thing to acclimate to while on the island was the loss of a daily routine. “You give up everything, you literally have absolutely no comfort zone. No toothpaste. None of your favorite sheets. Nothing,” she said. “The flies really got to me. They went for your eyes and your nose, anywhere there was liquid.”
According to Hegarty, just having a cup of water was an involved process because dry firewood would have to be found and collected before the water could be boiled to purify for drinking. She can’t even look at coconuts or eat white rice at this point – staples for her on the island.
She graduated from Westfield State in 1988 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. While at the university, she played on the soccer team and served as its team captain.
Hegarty credited her sports background for preparing her to deal with the tribal interactions on the show. She explained that athletes can have “quirky personalities” and on a team, there’s “a lot of egos involved,” so she learned how to “keep her mouth shut” and how to “get along” with people of all kinds.
“I loved being on the Brawn team. It’s so much more than a physical [challenge]. It’s a great human experiment; human behavior has always fascinated me,” she commented.
Would Hegarty go back if the series conducted another alumnae competition? “Hell yeah. It’s like being pregnant.” she said, explaining that going through the experience is “kind of miserable,” but when looking back the difficulties are forgotten.
To watch episodes and clips from this season’s “Survivor,” visit www.cbs.com/shows/survivor
. To learn more about Hegarty, go to www.dishstudios.com
or follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/trishthedishhegarty
. The show airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on CBS.