‘Survivor’ alum embraces new reality
Basalt’s Christy Smith is already famous. She’s been on CBS’s “Survivor,” and people recognize her in malls and airports around the country. She’s got a stack of glossy pictures of herself in the Amazon – where the show was filmed – and a felt pen ready. Smith seems to have gone the way of other ex-reality-TV stars who scrape and fight for every last morsel of attention after they fall from the spotlight forever after their shows end. Smith, though, isn’t a typical reality-TV star, and her self-promotion and publicity hunt after “Survivor 6: The Amazon” isn’t typical, either. Smith, a Roaring Fork Valley native, was “the deaf contestant” on “Survivor.”She is still fighting for publicity, to a certain extent, two years after she was eliminated from the show after 33 days. But what Smith has really fought for is deaf awareness. And she has been successful. She’s made appearances, given motivational speeches and now will have a show of her own, “Christy’s Kids: Challenge Yourself!”Eight months ago, Smith went to see Chris Tribble at Versatile Productions near Carbondale in hopes of creating a show, and just about a week from now, the two will premier “Christy’s Kids” on Denver’s PBS station KBDI – Channel 12. Smith’s journey to making the show probably started years ago. She was born and raised in Aspen, a place with many things, but not a large deaf population, save for the folks at Aspen Camp School for the Deaf. She went to Aspen’s public schools, learned to talk, and to read lips and expressions. “It’s a very rural area, so my upbringing was all speaking,” Smith said recently. She wears hearing aids and can hear certain sounds – airplanes and loud drums – but is otherwise completely deaf.In an interview on Tuesday, Smith didn’t miss a beat. “It takes reading lips and expressions to know what is going on,” she said. Even with her high communication ability, though, Smith felt isolated in school and didn’t have good friends, so she transferred to a high school program for the deaf at Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. “It was awesome,” she said. “The world changed. That was where my self-esteem just shot up. That experience got me to ‘Survivor.'”Now Smith is trying to keep other kids without strong deaf communities from feeling the way she did growing up – but not how you might think. “Christy’s Kids” isn’t so much for deaf kids, though most of the show is signed and gives deaf kids a show of their own. It’s more for hearing kids to learn American Sign Language, the third-most-spoken language in the United States.In the show’s first episode, “The Hat and the Honey,” Smith takes four kids – two deaf, two hearing – on an adventure through the woods. Together, the kids and Smith have to work together to cross streams, rescue a hat and gather honey. Along the way they have help from, Luna, a sort of fairy that appears when things get rough to help kids learn a new sign or make sure they stay safe. “The show is about me taking kids on an adventure, and the challenges along the way and how you have to work together to get through the challenge,” Smith said.Not every show will feature Smith and kids romping through the woods. Some will take place in a city or other environments to make sure viewers learn more signs than just, say, “honey” or “tree.” For now, Smith and Tribble are committed to do a 13-part series for PBS, but are hoping to produce 26 segments and syndicate the show nationally. The two may do just that, with a grassroots marketing campaign powered by mall appearances and Smith’s marketability. Smith’s outlook on life, of course won’t hurt. “Make a difference, live large,” she signed a promotional photo.”I became a role model, and I want to continue that,” she said.
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