When Janu Tornell decided to lay down her torch, it was a decision that added yet another twist to Survivor: Palau. But the emaciated Las Vegas showgirl – who spent the night alone on another part of the island after being the first to give up during an immunity challenge – was just too physically exhausted to keep up the pace of the game. Janu, 39, recently talked to PEOPLE about staying true to her principles, her friendship with Coby and why Survivor convinced her to leave her dancing days behind her.
Why’d you decide to turn in your torch?
I remember seeing Coby look at Stephenie and they were all just kind of like, “What?” I don’t think that they thought I had enough balls to do it. There are so many Survivor fans and so many competitive people in the world that (think) quitting is like saying, “You’re a piece of crap.”
You were shown suffering from a lack of food through the series and then when you won a feast, you threw up. How hard was it to see food but not be able to eat it?
Gregg makes this stupid comment of, “Here is this person who gets all this food and throws it up. Meanwhile, there are other people who would love to eat it.” Do you really think I’m choosing to be this sick? I mean is that my strategic move? Is that my game plan? It’s insane!
How were you able to get healthy again?
It took me a long time actually. I was 12 lbs. lighter when I left (the island). I was walking around like this skeleton with a big stomach, up until three weeks ago when I got my weight back to 133, which is the weight I went into the show with.
You said you weren’t in this to make friends but you had a special bond with Coby.
Coby was a huge part of my life from the very, very beginning on that other island, bless his heart. Throughout the whole time we were on our island, he was always there making sure I would get food or water or taking care of me when I got hurt underneath the water.
What did your family and friends think when they watch you on the show?
When my dad saw me on the island, he started crying and he was just screaming out loud and putting his hand into a fist and he goes, “That’s my girl!” And when I had that fight with Katie. He said, “You tell her, Janu! You didn’t compromise your integrity!”
What’s next for you?
I’m still in Vegas and I’ve been asked to come back to the show (the Tropicana Follies) but I have refused that option. I think after Survivor and what it did for me as far as confirming my potential, I’ll just finish this show out and maybe go on vacation and then maybe do something with my languages. I’ve got my degree in language and I speak four – Italian, Spanish, French and English. Maybe I can do something with it.