Survivor’s Sonja Christopher, the First Contestant Ever Voted Off, Dead at 87

Survivor Season 1 contestant Sonja Christopher, who holds the distinction of being the first person ever voted off on the CBS reality hit, has died at the age of 87.

“Sonya was one of the kindest people to ever play Survivor,” host Jeff Probst wrote in a statement posted to Instagram on Saturday, confirming Christopher’s death. “Every interaction I had with her over the years was lovely. She would always greet you with a smile on her face and joy in her heart. I’m honored that our paths got to cross.”

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The news of Christopher’s death was first revealed by current Survivor contestant Liz Wilcox, who announced on social media Friday night: “Today, the legend herself Sonja Christopher of Season [1] passed away. I had the pleasure of meeting her on Christmas. She had so much spunk [and] love for Survivor and what the show brought to her life. I hope you’re singing [and] playing your heart out somewhere beautiful, Sonja.”

Christopher was one of the original 16 castaways sent to live off the land on a remote beach on the island of Borneo in Survivor’s freshman season, which aired on CBS in the summer of 2000. Christopher was a charming addition to the cast with her memorable ukulele playing, but she was one of her tribe’s oldest members and she hurt herself during the immunity challenge, allowing the other team to win. With her tribemates viewing her as the weak link, Christopher saw her torch snuffed at the end of the series premiere, making her the first to hear those fateful words from Probst: “The tribe has spoken.”

Christopher’s tribemate Richard Hatch went on to win the $1,000,000 grand prize at the end of Season 1, and Survivor became a cultural phenomenon and ratings juggernaut, ushering in a new era of reality TV. Survivor is still going strong, with the current Season 46 (!) airing Wednesdays at 8/7 on CBS.

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