What Sandra Diaz-Twine From Survivor Is Doing Now

Since 2000, more than 600 "castaways" have vied to "outwit, outplay, [and] outlast" each other, competing to take home the $1 million prize on "Survivor."

From the start, more than 40 seasons ago, CBS's reality TV juggernaut has been filled with surprising twists and dramatic eliminations. The series pushes its contestants hard, stranding them in the wilderness and forcing them to figure out how to make fire, find food, and construct shelter, all while competing in challenges and forming (not to mention betraying) alliances.

For "Survivor" competitors, it's a grueling 39 days — or, more recently, 26 days, thanks to changes caused by COVID-19 rules and restrictions — in which they risk bug bites, parasites, infections, and extreme weight loss (per Men's Health). The experience can also be damaging to their mental health (per The Wrap).

For most participants, a single time competing on the show is enough. A few players return for a second shot at the grand prize, and a very small number of people seem to be hooked on the game, including Sandra Diaz-Twine.

Sandra Diaz-Twine won her first time competing on Survivor

When Sandra Diaz-Twine competed on "Survivor: Pearl Islands" (Season 7) in 2003, she was a 28-year-old office associate with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, living in Fort Lewis, Washington, with her husband and two children (per CBS).

At first, the former chemical repair specialist didn't seem like a strong competitor, lacking physical strength and being unable to swim. But her perseverance, intuition, and voting strategy of "anyone but me" (per People) helped her make it to the final two, where she triumphed in a 6–1 vote (per Entertainment Weekly).

Controversy erupted the day after Sandra's win. The Associated Press reported (via People) that someone might have leaked the winner's name early, as evidenced by a pattern of unusual online bets placed in Vancouver, Canada, before the season had even started airing.

"It's either one of two things," Simon Noble, CEO of bookmaker BetWWTS.com, told the Associated Press. "It's either an insider from CBS or a friend or neighbor of Sandra's. I would lean toward the former because it seems to be a regular pattern with 'Survivor.'"

Sandra defended herself against the accusation, saying that, heading into the finale, she only knew that she was one of the season's final two contestants — meaning she'd be taking home either $100,000 as the runner-up or $1 million as the winner. 

"I wanted the money, whatever little bit I was getting," she said. "I didn't want to screw that up. I suffered too much out there. I lost 22 pounds."

She earned the nickname Queen of Survivor

After winning the $1 million prize on "Survivor: Pearl Islands," Sandra Diaz-Twine's life didn't change much. "Everything else is the same. I still stop in stores like Walmart and stuff like that, Kmart. I clip coupons and I go to the matinees," she said on the show "TV Guide Special: Survivor Millionaires."

Sandra also debunked the myth that physical prowess is the key to winning on the reality series. "You can be physically fit, and that don't mean jack, because look at me. I won the show, and I don't do nothing," she said.

Whatever her strategy was, it clearly worked. She returned for "Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains" (Season 20) in 2010 and triumphed over the other returning players (per Entertainment Weekly). She was already the first Puerto Rican to win the title of Sole Survivor on the show, and then she became the first person ever to win twice.

"I've been watching Survivor since the first season, you know? I take a bit of every season, of every winner, all the dos and don'ts, and I have a winning combination," she told People. "Yeah, I'm weak, but being weak actually freaking works! I am the Queen of Survivor! Although I'm a Villain, I'm the nicest winner and to me, my social game is what always gets them at the end."

No one was able to match Sandra's impressive record until Tony Vlachos also won for a second time — a full decade later, in 2020 (per Entertainment Weekly).

The Queen of Survivor had her torch snuffed out for the first time

Sandra Diaz-Twine next competed on "Survivor: Game Changers" (Season 34) in 2017. It featured 19 other returning "castaways," who quickly identified the repeat winner as a threat.

"There was no way to hide the fact that I had already won two times," she told ET Canada, after lasting just 15 days and becoming the sixth person voted out. "I knew that they were gonna come after me, or, you know, that I would get voted off. But I'm really happy about my game. I really played a good game, so I'm not upset at all."

Despite her loss, Sandra defended her Queen of Survivor nickname. "I'll always be the queen," she told Us Weekly

"Find somebody else that wins two times, not only win two times but win their original season and then the second season they appear on. Just because you won down the road after two tries, three tries, that doesn't mean anything. You have to win like I won, and then we can think about if you're really better than me."

She also explained that she's been careful with her $2 million winnings: "I'm always couponing, and I'm always at the clearance racks. I live a very simple life. I'm not a wasteful person. I bought my house. Everyone has a car. I work every day, Monday through Friday. I didn't let this money go to my head, and I'm not broke just yet!"

Sandra Diaz-Twine became a mentor

Sandra Diaz-Twine's next appearance in the franchise was on "Survivor: Island of the Idols" (Season 39) in 2019 — but not as a competitor. She and fellow "Survivor" winner "Boston Rob" Mariano both filled a newly created role: mentor.

"It's something we've never done. Rob and Sandra were awesome today, straight out of the gate," host Jeff Probst (whose net worth is more than you think) told The Hollywood Reporter after the season's first episode aired. "They are basically producing and hosting that moment out there on their own."

For 39 days, Sandra and Rob doled out advice (sometimes conflicting advice) to the players. And they roughed it just like the players, building their own shelter and catching their own food. Probst explained to Entertainment Weekly that the pair turned down the offer of a prebuilt shelter, quoting them as saying, "Oh, no, no, no. If we're gonna talk the talk, then we have to walk the walk. The players have to see us living the way they're living."

But that "Survivor" experience was exhausting for Sandra, even without the competition aspect.

"You always come off the show saying, 'I need a break — I'll never play again,' and then a month later, you'll be like, 'Hell yeah, I would play again,'" Sandra told the Los Angeles Times. "So would I play again? I'm going to say — for right now — no."

The Queen of Survivor's torch was snuffed out again

Sandra Diaz-Twine stayed away from "Survivor" for all of two weeks. That's how long her break was between mentoring on "Survivor: Island of the Idols" and competing on "Survivor: Winners at War" (Season 40) in 2020 — against, among others, fellow mentor "Boston Rob" Mariano.

She lasted 16 days before becoming the seventh person voted out. Then she rejected the opportunity to compete in physical challenges on the Edge of Extinction for the chance to return. 

"It would have just been torture for me. I just would have sat there for 23 days being miserable. And I was done with Fiji," she told Entertainment Weekly. "I'm happy to go into retirement and know that I did the best I could with what I had. At the end of the day, I'm still the queen, and I'll always stay the queen."

Despite appearing on the popular show five times and scooping up more than $2 million, Sandra's life is still much like it always was. She told Xfinity TV, "I went back to work, my regular life. I've been at the same law firm for the last seven years. That hasn't changed."

She and her daughter competed on the Australian version of Survivor

Even before "Survivor: Winners at War" aired, Sandra Diaz-Twine vowed it would be her final season. "After this, I'm going to definitely retire," she told Entertainment Weekly. "I spent two weeks at home after [Season] 39, and I was talking to my husband, and I could tell that now that my kids are grown and gone, it wasn't easy for him to have an empty house. Empty! No dogs, no me, no kids."

Despite this vow, Sandra and her daughter competed on "Australian Survivor: Blood V Water" in 2022. The Australian version of the show is longer than the American one, lasting 48 to 55 days, with more players and more physical challenges (per News.com.au).

"I'm the queen of 'Survivor' because I'm the first two-time winner ever," Sandra said in a promo video for the series. "I have a secret weapon: my baby girl, Nina. Y'all better look out, because I taught her well."

But Alanna "Nina" Twine was one of the players who helped eliminate the Queen of Survivor. In what has been dubbed a "curse," Sandra was voted out on day 16 — for the third game in a row.

"It was a brutal game — the hardest game I ever played, both mentally and physically," she told News.com.au. "I had my crack at 'Australian Survivor' but that's it, I'm over it, I'm done. Lose my number! But then ... I always say I'm going to retire and then two years later, there I am on another season."