The franchise's 21st victor doesn't plan on shunning the spotlight – quite the opposite
After a season that pitted old against young, Survivor: Nicaragua ended with a rather youthful final three. But the 21st champion of the franchise was the youngest of all time.
And Jud Birza, 21, a student and model better known by his nom de show, “Fabio,” revealed his youthful exuberance in talking about his plans after winning the $1 million and title of Sole Survivor on Sunday night.
“Once you’re famous, people want to talk to you,” he told PEOPLE. “I want to get in the mix, dude. I don’t want be like, ‘Oh, [expletive], I’m famous now.’ I want to be like, ‘Oh, dude, I’m famous now! Let’s party!’ ”
After a 5-to-4 vote, Fabio emerged victorious over former NASCAR worker and aspiring musician Chase Rice, 24. Real-estate broker Matthew “Sash” Lenahan, 30, placed third.
“It’s awesome,” Fabio said of the reaction of fellow contestants, his family and the live audience at the finale. “I think I stood on a stool, then kissed people, but everybody was really happy, and it made me feel really good.”
The affable, intentionally daffy Birza revealed his canny side late in the game and won three immunity challenges in a row to break the three-way alliance of Chase, Sash and Holly Hoffman.
“I knew at some point the cat was going to get out of the bag that I’m not that dumb,” he says. “I mean, I am dumb. I get myself in some sticky situations! But you can manipulate situations – there’s a whole bunch of different ways you can play it.”
The runner-up, Chase, missed out on the $1 million but did get a career boost when he got to play one of his country songs, “Buzz Back,” on the air. “That was really cool to play for however many million of people are out there. I’ve never done that before,” he says.
Sash, who finished third, tipped his hat to the winner. “Fabio is a great guy, so he’s very deserving of a million dollars,” he said. “I thought, coming in, I knew every strategy known to man, but Fabio played in a way I’ve never seen before. So, I give him a lot of credit for that.”
Jane Bright, 56, a dog trainer from Jackson Springs, N.C., won the Sprint Fan Favorite award and $100,000.