Tim Spicer says the biggest thing he’s done in his life is introduce President Obama at his school. But he’s hoping to one-up that accomplishment as he becomes Commander in Chief of season 46. The college coach helps students get into college and manage the day-to-day of academic life. Now he’s enrolled in Survivor school, where the 31-year-old aims to graduate as vote valedictorian. Along the way to that day, he’ll be picking up the outsiders, going with his gut, and finding a record number of advantages.
Read on for my interview with Tim, and check in with Parade.com daily for interviews with this season’s contestants and other tidbits. Survivor 46 premieres on February 28 with a two-hour premiere on CBS.
Related: Meet the Full Cast of Survivor 46
Interview with Tim from Survivor 46
To start, give me your name, age, and occupation.
On paper, my name is Timothy Spicer, Jr. When I’m in schools, higher education institutions, I go by Tim Spicer. And when I’m in the streets, they call me “Spice.”
[Laughs.] What type of spice are you?
Picante, just super hot. However, the mood acquires. I’m 30 years old, and I train high school students how to apply to college, and I train college students how to survive college.
How’d you find your way into that?
Maybe about ten years ago, I went to this workshop, and they said, “Tim, you’re a leader.” I said, “Whatever.” And believe it or not, I was. And they made me really tap into my influence and my whole narrative as a young Black male. And since then, every summer, I’ve been dedicating at least a month to training the next rising class of seniors on how to apply to college.
Is that something you’ve always wanted to do?
I don’t know. I thought I wanted to be an actor. I knew I wasn’t going to do sports. But I knew I could leverage my voice. So, the leadership elements and inspiring others came naturally. So I just stuck with it.
So, what does your work exactly entail? Are you helping kids with their college essays or just preparing them for the college experience?
I’m talking all elements of what the college application entails. So I take them through a gold mining process where I figure out what is valuable in their story and basically determine what we need to tell colleges to get you in, to stand out. Your academic rigor, what do your transcripts look like? Which schools should you apply to? Can you even afford to go to that school? Does this school have your major? How to apply for FASFA, a big thing in the States. Everybody can’t afford college, but what’s the financial aid process so that you and your family can actually make it? And then, on the higher ed side, it’s really about the day-to-day. It’s not that college students suck at college. They suck at life and college at the same time. So, that adjustment period and being able to guide them on what it means to be a success to them and for their family. And then just a lot of the time proving to them that college isn’t gonna make you better than your family. It’s gonna make you better for your family.
The applications are changing. With the birth of the pandemic, sometimes you didn’t need a test score. Sometimes, you didn’t need these qualifiers, if you will. But one thing they haven’t eliminated is this essay. Colleges still want to know who you are as an individual. So it’s kinda the same. But we’re focusing more on the individual and what they need to really distinguish themselves from the other thousands of applicants.
What led you to fill out your own application to be on Survivor?
So, I was just in an interesting place professionally and personally where I wanted this new challenge. Since I started having kids, I started really dreaming even bigger. I have a two-year-old and a five-year-old, Carter and Cooper. And when they came, I was like, “I need a challenge.” So I started running. And then, after I started running, I said, “I need another challenge.” I did a triathlon. And then me and my wife were watching Survivor. I’m like, “Babe, I can do that.” She’s like, “Yeah, whatever.” I said, “You know what, that’s another challenge.”
So I get into the video; I get into looking how to apply for Survivor. And one thing led to another. This is my first time applying, first time on the show. It’s been an exhilarating year, honestly. I submitted a video in May of last year. And it just turned me on. I love a good challenge. I love a good push. And it goes back to the work. You’re teaching students how to survive. That’s one thing to do it in the world. But if I can come out here and survive on my own, then I’m actually putting the talk with the walk.
What’s been your history with watching the show?
It was on in the house a little bit. But, as a child, I wasn’t really too interested. But as I got older, I think the cutthroatness, the challenges, the swimming. I’ve been a swimmer all my life. I’m like, “Bro, these people can’t swim. I can swim for real.” And so that’s really been exciting to me. And then, of course, as I got older with the family now, a million dollars is definitely appealing to any dad.
Give me one Survivor winner and one non-winner you identify with the most.
Let’s go with the non-winner first. I’m gonna go with Drea. Drea was really straightforward. She was stoic; you couldn’t read her. She’s a personal trainer. But I loved her whole aura on the game. It was serious. But she was still able to open up. The winners I identify with are Jeremy and Wendell. Wendell and I went to the same alma mater, Morehouse College. So that was definitely inspiring to get out here and kind of follow his path because he’s a winner. And then Jeremy being the family man and being strategic. He was taking big risks. He was the first person I’ve seen swap his Reward Challenge for somebody else. I’m like, “Wow, I never thought of that.” That definitely could make a difference in your gameplay. So those are the players I really enjoyed watching.
What’s your favorite moment in Survivor history?
It’s probably my favorite learning moment. It’s when Jesse tells Gabler too much, and Gabler uses it as insight. He’s like, “No, we got to take out this whole Jesse/Cody thing.” That was probably my favorite. And then Tony. The way Tony just moved around the camp like a psycho maniac. I want to be that relentless. I want to find more idols than Tony. You got to push yourself. And I want to be invited back for season 50. I got a feeling that it’ll be big.
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What’s one life experience you feel has prepared you most for the game?
At Morehouse, I pledged. Kappa Alpha Psi, Pi chapter. Pledging, as we will call it, is a microcosm of life. Everything that you experienced in this process, you will experience in life, and that’s exactly what happened. You were on nobody’s time, but you were accountable for those around you, your brothers. And so when I heard a lot of things that I’d be up against out here, I’m like, “That sounds like pledging. It is what it is.” So that excited me. I’m not gonna have my phone. I’m gonna have to be locked in. And you have to give 100% dedication when it comes to any pledging process. And so that was the big prep that got me comfortable with coming out here.
You wrote in your bio about how you were working at a nonprofit and would drive home, passing George Washington University every day before you mustered up the courage to apply for the graduate program. How did that end up happening?
So, at the nonprofit, I’m still there now; it’ll be eight years in July. I’m leaving DC, the rush out of DC to get to Virginia, [where] I lived at the time. And I’m passing GW, and I’m like, “Bro, it’s no way that God is putting this institution in front of me.” I’m telling everybody to go to school, and I didn’t even want to get my Masters. And I said, “You know what? I’m gonna look up GW and see what they have to offer.” And I applied, and it went really well. And I took the whole process seriously. But once I put my mind to something, I know I’ll be successful with it. But graduate school was, once again, a microcosm of life and kind of as diverse as this Survivor cast. There weren’t a lot of African-American males in the curriculum and instruction master’s program at GW. Maybe about 10 to 15 out of 100. But that was exciting. And that was just a prime example of, if you put your mind to it, you’ll get it done.
You talk your students through how they’ll be perceived through their college application. But how do you think you’ll be perceived out here by your competition?
That’s a tough one, man. Because I think Jeff brought it up. Prepping us, he was like, “My whole team had no doubt about anyone here. We 100% believe you should be here.” So, I could be perceived as a threat, but everybody could be the same as me in a different way. So I don’t know. I’m gonna be perceived as funny. I’m definitely gonna tell some jokes. A good swimmer, social threat. I get along with everybody, even those that don’t get along with me. So people could find that threatening a bit.
What do you value in an alliance member?
I’m looking for somebody different than me. Of course, there’s going to be people that play like me, and we can vibe. But it’s like when people get to the merge, and they’re like, “This is our core six.” And I’m waiting for that to happen. Because I want to know who’s that seventh person that’s left out? Because that’s my ride-or-die. That’s the one that can shake things up a bit, and we can keep going to the end.
To that point, how difficult would it be for you to cut a number one ally if it meant helping your game?
One of the best things my wife gave me coming out here was, “Don’t be a wagon.” You can’t take everybody with you. Jesse did play a good game, but his timing might not have been the best. People get closer to the end, they start sharing too much. So just don’t be a wagon. Yes, there’s gonna be people that follow you. Yes, there are people that you might grow this bond with. But, when the timing is right, you will have to sever those ties. But maybe not. You will have to take somebody to the end. And if they were a complement to your game, then it shouldn’t be a problem debating who or who did not have the better game. So, I don’t mind cutting ties. It’s a million dollars on the line. I gotta feed my kids.
Are you picking up any particular good vibes from anyone in the preseason?
Anybody who smiled at me more than three times, good vibes. Some people have left their glasses or something that’s theirs, and I’ve given it back to them. I’ve gotten a good vibe just from reminding them of what that is. I think it’s two other Black guys out here. I’m getting a good vibe from them. I want to be able to represent something bigger than me if we’re going to be on national TV.
People are reading. Honestly, Mike, I think that [expletive] is fluff. Like you’re showing your hand. I know they say, “Occupy your time”. But I know now the five people who are going to be a beast at puzzles. So either you’re gonna be on my side, or I’m gonna make sure I know who to watch out for. Because you’ve been reading puzzles since we left LA. And the reading thing is like, bro, if you don’t know it by now, you’re not going to get it in the next couple of days. I don’t read in front of people out here. I read in my in my silo. I read about emotional intelligence. I read How to Win Friends and Influence People. I keep that information to myself, and I can execute when I get out there.
Talk to me about your preparation process. You say in your bio that you work out physically and emotionally every day. What does that involve?
Emotionally, it’s inherent, because I got two kids. You’ve got to practice patience with little ones. You’ve got to really come down to their level, figuratively and physically, and just speak eye to eye. They don’t know anything. You gotta teach them how to human in so many ways. I did my second triathlon April 28. The triathlon was fun. But that was a good practice of just pushing your body to the ultimate way to see that you could swim, bike, and run in less than an hour. And I actually ranked top 10 in my age group 30 to 35. It was a good deal.
Related: Everything to Know About Survivor 46
Let’s say a boat shows up at your camp on Day 2, asking one person to go on a journey. How would you approach the situation?
Observe first. It’s six people on the island. Somebody’s gonna jump at it or not. Of course, I want to go. But if I go, it’s really going to depend on the relationships I’ve built right now. Can I come back and feel like I have to lie? Can I come back and tell a convincing story that everybody will believe? And if I don’t go, I’m fine with not going. When that person’s gone, what seeds am I planting in the tribe so we can either grill this person up or make a decision about them before they even get back?
Let’s talk advantages and that record-setting run you’re hoping to make. Talk to me about how you plan to incorporate them into your game.
You gotta play like you’re going to lose. Everybody’s gonna go home. It’s  of us. So, I can’t really pass up opportunities. And watching it, and it says, “You can put this back,” I’m like, “Oh, no, I would give this back, or I would give it to somebody else.” But being out here, I don’t know if I want to give up this opportunity. But there does come some pros and cons. But I just think God gave me the opportunity to be out here. If you come across anything, it could be an advantage for you. Except when they say, “You lose a vote for the next five Tribals.” [Laughs.]
But you can work your way out of it. You’ve got that Spice!
There you go! That spice, that charm. And one of the things about the advantages. In my prep, I was writing, “My idol, my business. My advantage is my business.” You can’t tell everybody. You tell that one person, and hopefully, it goes well.
Talk me through your decision-making. Is there a process you typically go through when making a big choice in your life?
I’m more gut-oriented. I want to be more gut-oriented out here. In my decision-making process as a family man, you’ve got to think about how it will affect everyone else. What will my wife think of this? How will she react? Does this affect picking up the boys? What might Carter and Cooper take away from this? Will I get a phone call from my mother? Is this going to affect me being on time to the next meeting? So you’ve got to think about how decisions affect your whole picture. Out here, I don’t have that much time to think, though. I gotta think about it for maybe a minute or two and make a decision.
But even to that point, out here, you do have to think about how your decisions affect the community. And that applies to both the tribal phase of the game and your alliances as well.
Sure, you have to know what your enemy’s even doing. Thinking two steps ahead of, “Well, what will my opposition even say? How would they react if I pull this? How would my alliance react if I say, ‘You know what, I’m not going to vote with these guys. I don’t agree. I’m gonna get Danny out,’ something like that.” But you have to be able to think about how it’s going to affect your tribe and how it’s mostly going to affect your game and Tribal Council that night.
What’s your hottest Survivor take?
Man, Survivor‘s not a game. And I mean, it is a game, except it’s nothing I’ve seen on TV. But the past five days being out here, it’s mind-blowing. It’s nothing like watching it. And then for all the people that [have tried to be] like, “Oh, you got to do this. You got to do that.” You don’t know until you’re out here. And if I do the numbers right, Mike, only 1000 People have been on Survivor. And so the ratio of the people that are doing it and the people actually talking about it is slim to none.
What celebrity or fictional character would you want to come out for a Loved Ones visit?
Somebody like Stokely Carmichael or Malcolm X. Somebody to motivate me and make me think about the bigger picture, what I’m doing all of this for, and just ground me in who I am as a Black man out there in the jungle. Oh, I have to go President Obama.
Yeah, you wrote in your bio that you got to introduce him. Do you mean at an event, or to Michelle? [Laughs.]
[Laughs.] That’s a good one. In high school year senior year, I was class president. In 2010, President Obama is going into his first term. The White House was looking for a school to host this speech. We had a White House connection at Wakefield in Arlington. And they say, “Come do it at Wakefield.” And so then they go into this process of, “Well, which student leader is the best to introduce President Obama?” Now, by no means was I the top academic student. However, I did have the most influence out of the five students that they selected.
The White House Calls me, and they say, “Tim, why should you introduce the president?” I gave him my pitch, what I ran on as a campaign and whatnot. And they called me back and said,” We want you to introduce President Obama.” So, in that senior year, I met President Obama twice. I visited the White House once, and he gave me a challenge coin that I brought out here as my emotional item. And honestly, bro, and my students get on me for this; I have not written a letter to President Obama since then. We haven’t had any communication. Because, honestly, I just never felt like I did anything else bigger than that. You know, I was kind of ashamed. I didn’t write that letter because I’ve been waiting to win Survivor. And then I want to say, “This is what I’ve been doing the last decade.”
You feel like you haven’t done anything big with your life since then. You’re about to play Survivor!
[Laughs.] Yeah, I think this is a good follow-up.
Finally, what’s your emotional cocktail right now? How are you feeling as the big day gets closer and closer?
Yeah, Media Day was tough, bro. I mean, this day has gotten a little easier. But yesterday, I was not really in the spirit. But I’m glad I experienced that little downfall. Because you’re going to experience these downfalls in the game. And how do you pick yourself back up? But I’m blessed. I’m definitely excited. I’m eager to play, and I’m eager to observe, engage with everyone else. And I miss my family too. So I just want to make sure I’m out here representing for them.
Next, check out our interview with Survivor 46 contestant Moriah Gaynor.