I Wanted to Work With Danny on ‘The Challenge: USA’

Shantel Smith wasn’t familiar with The Challenge franchise before she signed on for the new CBS iteration but “just wanted another adventure” after her impressive run on SurvivorSeason 41.

35-year-old pastor binged on some of the top-rated versions of the show, but then went into The Challenge: USA filming not knowing “how scary it was going to be.”

“I felt like I was dead in the water before I got there,” she exclusively tells Us WeeklyInterview, which you can see above. “I knew I had that strategic target on my back.”

Laura Barisonzi, courtesy of Paramount ©2022 Paramount, All Rights Reserved.

Because of that, Shan wanted to form as many relationships as she could, knowing she’d be “pulled in so many different directions” as players were likely going to stick to cast mates they knew from their respective shows. “It was so interesting because all the people I felt connected to outside of the game were people that weren’t Survivors, oddly,” the Toronto native explains, referring to Amazing RaceWinner James Wallington Big Brother 23Alum Azah Awasum.

“It just makes the most sense for SurvivorPlayers to stick together Big Brother players to stick together,” Shan says. “I felt very comfortable in that way. I have a home, a very strong home, but I’m not necessarily glued to that. I know that just because we all played on the same show doesn’t mean it’s all gonna shake out the way that we want it to.”

“I was very much willing to build alliances across show lines and further myself in this game,” she adds. “Loyalty killed my game in Survivor. I want to be loyal, but I also want to play my own game here.”

The Challenge USA Cast Revealed Cast 2
Laura Barisonzi Courtesy Paramount

But she hoped her luck would be good. Survivor 41Cast mate Danny McCrayFormer NFL player could be a good ally. “I really wanted to mend fences, and we had, but I really wanted to be sure,” Shan says. “There was a part of me that was thinking, ‘OK, Danny could be my No. 1.’”

But at the end of the day, her plan was simple: “Play your own game, be as savage as you can, but also make the most relationships as possible.”

Shan, who’s been open about living with multiple sclerosis, says she went into the game telling herself, “I want to push myself. I want to try really hard and I never want to give up.”

The Challenge: USA Premieres on CBS Wednesday July 6th at 9:30 PM ET/PT