The Challenge Spies, Lies & Allies Comprehensive Female Rookie Previews & Power Rankings
Normally, I try to do a detailed player preview for every Challenge competitor going into a new season, and I was trying do that with Spies, Lies & Allies, even posting previews of Kyle Christie and Michele Fitzgerald in the days immediately after the cast was announced. Then I took a step back and realized there was no way I was going to be able to get all 34 previews done without being endlessly stressed for an entire month. To be completely frank, between balancing life, work, and all this stuff, I did not have the mental fortitude to tear down some of the healthier life habits I have been working towards to put out 1200 words on why Josh Martinez sucks.
However, I did do all the research for the previews, made some graphics, and will be doing mini previews for each player in a power ranking format. All the vets and rookies will get a player rating and a rank in four detailed previews (two per gender). If you want to know the lengths I went for researching this season, I might have been frantically translating random YouTube comments of a celebrity boxing match from Turkish to English at 2 AM to get insight on one of our competitors. Enough digression, let’s get into this preview of the rookie females, to which I must note, for the most part, MTV did an incredible job casting.
10 Tracy Candela (Love Island Germany)
Overall Rating: 64/100
There is not a ton to go off of with Tracy. She won her season of Love Island Germany, and despite that, when going through the online commentary of fans of the show, they commonly referred to her as being boring. There is nothing wrong with being boring if you can at least find some connections socially and prove to be a strong competitor. Do I think that will happen for Tracy? Honestly, no; in my mind, Tracy, along with the person ranked just above her, are in the Jenn Lee category of “we cast this person because they were easily available and someone needs to go home early to protect the people we pay big appearance checks.”
Before Love Island, Tracy was a law student in Germany, then after the show, moved out to Los Angeles to pursue acting and modeling. The fact she was going to law school makes me assume she would be decent in mental comps. Sadly, I get the vibe that Tracy and her agent were desperate to get her on whatever show they could, and she did not know what she was getting into with the Challenge.
9 Lauren Coogan (Love Island US)
Overall Rating: 64/100
I rank Lauren above Tracy because being British-American should allow her to form social bonds with players more easily. As prospects, though, they project the same to me. Nothing about them as athletes scream out to me that they are great players, and more importantly, they are on this show to boost their Instagram followings. Maybe she will be good for the drama aspect of this show because she had a very short run on Love Island and managed to stay in the news. When talking with Love Island friends, the big takeaway with Lauren is you never know what the truth is. Apparently, she has lied about her age in the past (I’ve done that), maybe has a fake accent (I do when I speak Spanish), and will message tabloids/TMZ info for scoops/paparazzi pics/vids of her (that’s where I can’t relate).
Maybe I am overly harsh towards Lauren, it’s just when I spend hours translating Swedish and Turkish dialogue to understand some of these cast members better, and after being wowed by many, Lauren comes off as unimpressive and bland.
8 Bettina Buchanan (Paradise Hotel Finland, Paradise Hotel Norway, Celeb Ex on the Beach AfterSki)
Overall Rating: 67/100
One of my favorite personalities entering this season is Swedish Rookie Bettina Buchanan. She is a Reality TV veteran at only 25 years old, having appeared on multiple seasons of Paradise Hotel Sweden & Norway and Celebrity Ex on the Beach Norway. Bettina is a fun party girl who will liven up the show so much.
When going down a rabbit hole of her clips, one of my favorites was a night where she got drunk and decided that she wasn’t going to sleep without having sex, then proceeds to walk into a room of guys while half-naked and eating a slice of bread, and asks for a sacrifice. A man follows her to a bed, and she gets what she wants. I don’t speak Finnish/Norwegian, but that sex and partying is a universal language.
Bettina has one of the worst/best laughs in TV history as well. People should work their hardest to keep Bettina in the game because she brings a good time. I don’t think she will do well as a physical competitor — her social game is where she will thrive. Another fun tidbit about Bettina is that she won Paradise Hotel Norway, and in that game, they have a situation where you can share or steal the money from your romantic partner in the end, and Bettina pulled a Millionaire Mitchell move on her unsuspecting mate to take the money for herself. Bettina was born for reality television. Maybe she will surprise us this season competitively as well.
7 Tacha Akide, aka Symply Tacha (Big Brother Nigeria)
Overall Rating: 75/100
Tacha is easily one of the most impressive people that the Challenge has ever brought. She is one of the biggest reality stars in Africa and has over a million followers on Twitter, which is essential to note because Bananas, CT, and Wes don’t even have a million followers combined. I have no idea how they were able to get her on this show. Based on the #’s, she is more suited for a Champs vs. Stars spot or just her own show. Tacha gained fame on Big Brother Nigeria. On this show, she got nominated for eviction eight times (basically every week), and each week, the fans voted to save her. It was an entire house against Tacha, and in turn, became a house against her fanbase known as the Tacha Titans. They propelled her into stardom, and she has run with it; she is a serial entrepreneur, is an activist in both Nigeria and Ghana (dual-citizenship), models, and graduated from University at a young age.
How will she do on the Challenge? Zero clue. She got nominated 8 times on Big Brother, and each time, the fans came through for her. On the Challenge, you have to go into elimination. While I have no doubt Tacha can do well physically and mentally on the Challenge; eliminations can be a crapshoot. Will Tacha’s magnitude put a target on her, or will it bring innate alliances right into her pocket? It can go either way; I put Tacha on the same tier as those ranked from 7–4, but because I can envision her getting targeted due to how grand a character/figure she is, we will put her at 7.
6 Emy Alupei (Survivor Romania)
Overall Rating: 77/100
One of the most volatile and emotional prospects entering this season is Emy Alupei from Survivor Romania. She is a musician who has appeared on the Romanian version of X-Factor and currently has over 236k YouTube Subscribers. Emy has multiple music videos on YouTube that currently have over a million streams, including one that has 13 million views. The Challenge has gotten loads of wannabe musicians and rappers over the years; Emy is legit and has the numbers to back it up.
In terms of past show experience, Survivor Romania works much differently from the show we get in America. Their seasons go for longer periods, and people can enter in the middle of a season (Emy joined her season on Day 57, whereas the American Survivor goes for 39 days in total). She proceeded to stay on the island for an additional 70 days before getting voted out and coming in 6th Place overall.
When watching clips of her physically competing on the show, Emy performed well, but she did not stand out. She won an individual immunity during her time on the show. When looking at her physically, her build somewhat reminds me of Dirty 30 Tori Deal. They both have the naturally built shoulders and hips to put their weight into people during a headbanger elimination. Jessica Mccain was one of the worst competitors in Challenge history, yet, because of that similar build, she gave Cara Maria a run for her money in Balls In on Free Agents. Sylvia Elsrode has that same body type and has thrived in the elimination arena as well. Emy is a bit psychotic, which can go a long way on the Challenge if channeled in the right way. I rate her below some people I think are worse athletes because she is a confrontational and paranoid player. It was difficult finding clips of her competing on Survivor Romania because most of her highlights are her getting into fights and crying. Emy is a mess in both good and bad ways.
5 Esther Agunbiade (Big Brother Nigeria)
Overall Rating: 77/100
We got another rookie with an impressive resume of accomplishments outside of the Challenge. Esther Agunbiade appeared on Big Brother Nigeria alongside Tacha, and while she did not achieve the level of fame Tacha, that does not mean she is a damn impressive woman. She went to University at the age of 14 and got accepted into the Nigeria Bar Association at only 21. Currently 24 years old, Esther is a lawyer who has transitioned into becoming an actress, model, and influencer. Based on all of the interviews I read with her, what I love is her confidence. Esther self-describes as sexy and smart, knows her worth, and has the chance to be a force in this game. She won HOH twice on BB Nigeria and should be formidable in any mental challenges based on her education level.
Part of the reason I have her ranked so highly is the preseason promos and trailers feature her prominently. Other players are raving about how gorgeous she is and how her body is breathtaking; meanwhile, the trailers show her hustling in the daily challenges. Esther could be a dangerous social & mental dynamo; if she proves to be a solid physical competitor, she is a dark horse threat to go far in the game. I saw many Challenge fans wondering who Tacha and Esther even were when they got cast, and after doing my research, we are lucky casting was able to extend their net far enough to include humans as impressive as them.
4 Michele Fitzgerald (Survivor Kaoh Rong & Survivor Winners at War)
Overall Rating: 77/100
Similar to Ashley Millionaire Mitchell, Michele Fitzgerald has already won over 1.1 million dollars on reality television. Michele is known as one of the best modern players in Survivor history; she has appeared on two seasons and has gone a total of 78 days without ever getting voted. She is the only player in the show’s history to do so while also becoming Sole Survivor (won her original season Kaoh Rong). Fans have been begging MTV to cast her on the Challenge for a while, especially after she was almost a prospect on War of the Worlds, only to get dropped a couple of weeks before filming. Finally, we are getting Michele on the Challenge, and it will be fascinating to see whether she will be able to thrive.
As I just mentioned, Michele has never gotten voted out of Survivor, mainly due to her stellar social game. This is very impressive when you consider that the Survivor casting pool skews older and nerdier. She was able to communicate and relate with people outside of her social realm, and now you throw her onto the Challenge, where she gets to be in a natural environment where she gets to party and let her hair down. If any rookie can camouflage themselves and not get seen as a threat to either the rookies or vets, it will be Michele. When it comes to competition, Michele is not a great athlete. She lacks the muscle for headbangers and the speed/explosiveness for the more primal challenges/elimination. Michele has to double down on her strengths and make sure to hustle in the challenges to not look weak either. Michele is good with puzzles, is a solid swimmer, and, as I keep repeating, is lethal socially/politically. The blueprint for her to do well is to be the Amanda Garcia of the rookies without creating any enemies. They have similar skill-sets, just vastly different personalities. As a Survivor fan, I am thrilled to have Michele on the Challenge; I wish it happened sooner!
3 Berna Canbeldeck (Survivor Turkey)
Overall Rating: 81/100
There is a distinct tier jump between the players ranked 4th-7th and those in the top 3, starting with Ms. Berna Canbeldeck. Berna appeared on multiple seasons of Survivor Turkey, including the All-Stars season alongside Turbo. Like Survivor Romania, Survivor Turkey goes for much longer than the American version. It is much more focused on the challenges themselves, and there is a fan-vote element similar to how Big Brother works in other countries.
When watching clips of her compete, I was impressed by Berna’s mobility and drive. She runs like an athlete and gives me some Theresa Gonzalez vibes. Not just physically, but in terms of attitude and the way she interacts with people. Berna is not someone who makes quiet footsteps. Ironically, finesse, balance, and precision are her most important skills. Berna studied Ballet and Acrobatics in college. She is highly skilled, has excellent hand-eye coordination, and her strength to body ratio is through the roof. In heights challenges, I fully expect Berna to be a favorite to win because she has spent much of her life working on balance and lifting herself up.
Berna is a cultured individual; she grew up and lives in Germany, speaks multiple languages, and gained fame in Turkey. She also clearly loves and wants to be a celebrity (not a bad thing). Berna appeared on Turkey’s version of America’s Got Talent and has done celebrity boxing events. I cannot judge because she is talented in many fields, and the Challenge might be her true calling.
2 Priscilla Anyabu (Love Island UK)
Overall Rating: 81/100
The first season I ever did player previews back during Invasion of the Champions, I made some wild projections and assumptions based on very little and looked like an idiot. Luckily for you all, I still might be an idiot because Priscilla Anyabu became my dark horse favorite to win the Challenge Season 37 after seeing one picture of her (her Love Island cast photo).
In one of my favorite books, The Only Rule Is It Has To Work, two baseball writers turned baseball scouts/general managers see a particular player running among a group of others and instantly know that this person has “it.” When looking at Priscilla, I saw a person who looked like a glamor model mixed with a track athlete. So many people come on the Challenge in great shape, and we think they are athletes, when in reality, they are just physically fit. Then you have someone like Priscilla, where when researching about her, I could not find any indication she was into sports growing up — yet, I can’t help feeling that once you throw her into elimination, we might see a beast unveiled. Priscilla is 5'7 with long legs and some impressive-looking arms. She is a model, and from scoping out her social media, she stays in shape to look good professionally.
When researching her, I became more and more convinced that she has the skill-set to do well on the Challenge. Priscilla got an International Business Degree at the age of 22 and works as the Director of Business Operations for a company called emPawa Africa. She is educated and driven professionally. Something really off the board that impressed me is she spent her teens and college years killing it on the pageant circuit. I know people will scoff at it — however, the pageant world is so highly competitive, where contestants train themselves to be essentially perfect in a way that it is often more difficult than playing a sport in many ways. Tori Hall and Bayleigh Dayton were also pageant queens, where their level of cutthroat competitiveness translated very well to the Challenge.
1 Michaela Bradshaw (Survivor Millennials vs. Gen X & Survivor Gamechangers)
Overall Rating: 85/100
My #1 female rookie prospect going into this season is Michaela Bradshaw from Survivor. Michaela became a fan-favorite on Survivor for her charisma in confessionals and tribal councils and the fact that she was very willing to tell people exactly what she thought of them. In the actual challenges, she proved to be incredibly impressive as a runner, swimmer, and most importantly, was willing to get physical if she needs to be. I ranked Priscilla second overall based on the potential of what she can maybe do, whereas with Michaela, I know she is all that already and then some. Michaela is 5'8, ran Track & Field at TCU University, and graduated from High School with a 4.83 GPA.
On Survivor, she got voted out the first time via a blindside spearheaded by Jay Starrett after Michaela had laid out a detailed game-plan for their alliance. Jay was so intimidated by how intelligent and strategic she was; he decided to strike in what was ultimately a bit of a boneheaded as it put him and his allies on the outside for most of the remaining game. Michaela made it farther into her second season but also had a rocky start due to her honest and blunt demeanor. That could get her into trouble on the Challenge as well, although if she proves to be an intense physical player that everyone can see immediately, they will likely back off of her. Smart, strategic, athletic, and charismatic makes Michaela perfect for the Challenge, and I am thrilled to see what she does in this environment.