Parvati on Alliances, Housewives, Headbands


“I was like, Well, I’m Blair Waldorf, so I have to have headbands.”
Photo: Peacock

When The Traitors, Peacock’s social-strategy competition filled with reality TV stars, announced a second season, a few of us on staff came up with our dream casting, and I stumped for former Survivor winner Parvati Shallow. Not only is she a legendary shit-stirrer (complimentary), but anyone with even a cursory knowledge of Survivor knows Shallow is one of its fiercest players in the show’s history. She’s been ranked the No. 1 all-time Survivor player by Rob Has a Podcast listeners (twice, in 2011 and 2014) and the best winner by Entertainment Weekly readers. When Shallow was revealed to be in the season-two cast, it felt like a reality TV dream was being fulfilled, and when Dan Gheelsing and Phaedra Parks chose her to be the third Traitor in episode two, fans lost their collective minds.

Shallow, Gheesling, and Parks initially dominated the game, confusing the Faithfuls into banishing each other, roundtable after roundtable. Tragically, their hold on the game wouldn’t last as The Bachelor’s Peter Weber’s shield trap and Gheesling’s various misplays led to his banishment in episode six, taking Shallow and Parks’ games down with him. Shallow scrambled as best she could, making a last-minute alliance with Weber to vote for Parks, but the Bravo alliance proved too tight, and Shallow was finally banished. Shallow spoke to Vulture about her return to reality TV after spending more than a decade away, her alliances with Gheeling and Parks, and her desire to host her own queer dating show. And yes, we discussed the headbands.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Can you talk about the level of competition in this season of The Traitors?
Knowing that there were only a few of us from strategic game shows where there’s voting out and such, it was surprising to see how hard and fast the Bachelor came for the Traitors. And Trishelle from The Challenge, these other kinds of game-show people, and the Housewives — Phaedra, I mean, she’s brilliant. It was fun to see that people were really there to play. They got the cast right.

Survivor fans know that you’re no stranger to getting heat on day one, and it happened here with Larsa. How did you navigate suspicion during the first couple of days in the castle?
At the very beginning of the game, everyone’s on edge. They don’t want to say the wrong thing, even if they are Faithful, because we saw what happened with Peppermint. You say one thing backwards and then you’re banished. So everyone’s already freaking out, and then I’m extra freaking out. I already knew people would be suspicious of me because of my reputation from Survivor. Even though it was 15 years ago, that reputation clings to me. How can I earn people’s trust? But I don’t know who to trust. It was really tricky from the first moment of the game.

I would say it was tricky even before that, because Sandra and I had to have a confrontation before that roundtable.

Even though Sanda was suspicious of you, it seemed like there were moments where you weren’t necessarily working together, but operating in the same circles. 
We were working together in the way that a Traitor and a Faithful can work together. I knew I wasn’t going to murder her and she wasn’t coming after me. So we were working together in that sense. Sometimes in little moments in the castle, she would toss me some information: “Oh, you better watch your back,” “This person’s coming for you,” or, “All they have on you is the Dan thing.” So I felt like she was helping me out as much as she could as a Faithful knowing that her job was to get a Traitor.

Peter and his crew were really onto you and Dan. I asked Dan why he didn’t throw you under the bus, so it’s only fair that I ask you: Why didn’t you throw Dan under the bus?
Dan was so loyal to me. He was the only person who would talk strategy with me. Other people were like, “We don’t know about you.” Phaedra wouldn’t talk any game with me. So I really liked having Dan there. It’s a lonely place to be in that castle when you’re the Traitor and you’re hiding this secret. It’s already very hard for me to connect with people because I’m hiding something and just trying to stay calm, even though my insides are going nuts. I felt like it was a comfort blanket to have Dan there.

I also felt like, Well, they’re going to banish him before me. Everyone’s like, “Oh, it’s Dan.” I was able to talk to MJ and all these people who were saying, “It’s Dan.” And I was like, I can turn on Dan when the time is right and vote with them. But I didn’t want to turn on him prematurely because I felt like he was keeping me safe.

In this week’s episode, Phaedra started putting Peter’s name out there, and it seemed like Kate had her suspicions of Peter, too. Did you try to get a Peter vote going? 
I think it wasn’t going to happen that night. It could have happened the previous night with the sacrifice. That was when it could have happened. I wouldn’t have had the votes to turn it on Peter. Especially because Peter and Trishelle were trying to get Phaedra. I just thought that was my best bet. I knew my days were very numbered.

We’ve got to talk about Phaedra, who’s having an incredible season. There were moments where you two seemed really tight, and then moments where things seemed icy. How was your partnership during the game?
In the castle, non-existent. She and I didn’t talk to each other. We barely spoke a word to each other in the castle. At the banishment table, I knew she wasn’t going to come after me, and I also wasn’t going to come after her. We weren’t trying to target each other.

In the turret, it was kind of fun. That was the only opportunity for me to let my guard down and say what I wanted to say without the fear of saying the wrong thing and having someone be like, “A-ha! It’s you!” It was the one time I could let myself be excited and enthusiastic where it wasn’t going to backfire. I felt like Phaedra and I had a lot of fun together in the turret. I thought she was just excellent with her theatrics and her expressions and her one-liners. She’s fabulous. We just bounced things back and forth in a very over-the-top, camp way. We kind of got that about each other.

Dan was really complimentary toward the Housewives and Bravo folks when I spoke to him. I know you had pretty limited knowledge of the Bravo-verse going in, but what is your read on how their skills translate to The Traitors now that you’ve played with them?
This game is made for them. I’m giving a word of warning to the next cast of The Traitors: Look out for the Housewives. Their skills translate perfectly: How well can you do when you’re being personally attacked? How well can you make up lies and stories about other people to discredit them and get them banished? How well can you make it a fun show? There’s all these different elements to The Traitors. It’s not just about who wins the money at the end. Who’s the most fun to watch, too? The Housewives, they are so skilled at that.

A big talking point on social media has been how the reality competition people could do Big Brother and The Bachelor, but they could not survive Housewives. I think you could do Housewives or a Bravo show. So in case Andy Cohen is reading, let’s try to get you cast in one of them. 
I don’t think so. No. [Laughs]

You don’t think so?
Bravo, sure. If there’s a fun, queer, silly show, like a campy, draggy show, I would do it and that would be so fun. But I do not want to hang out in rooms with people who are just over the top, high drama, making personal attacks, coming up with lies. I would lose my mind.

Maybe as a guest judge on Drag Race, then. 
Please! Yes, I would do that in a heartbeat. I would host my own drag competition. I would love that. Like a queer reality show, like a dating show. I would host that. Anything like that I would be thrilled to do, but I’m not a Housewife.

In your Paper interview, you mentioned when you played Survivor in your twenties and you got all this negative feedback. Now there’s this new generation of viewers who’ve watched older seasons and fallen in love with your personality and game. Can you talk about coming back to reality TV and being embraced in a way you weren’t before?
It’s so touching. It melts my icy, ice-queen heart to be loved by fans like this. Playing Survivor is hard, and then doing that in my twenties when you don’t really have your identity established and receiving the backlash was extra hard. I took it personally and it hurt. Now having this kind of renaissance after having processed a lot of the pain and the emotion of my twenties, and even my thirties, coming out and playing The Traitors and being received with such fanfare, being able to play kind of a larger-than-life version of myself with clothes and makeup and headbands. It’s been really fun that the fans get it. I’ve reposted all the stories that the fans are putting up. It’s so fun to have this relationship with this fanbase that I didn’t have before.

How calculated were those headbands? 
Oh, my God. Well, the first headband, the pearly white headband is so off brand for me. I don’t wear headbands. I wear yoga clothes. So me coming in with a pearl tiara on day one, Sandra was so upset. Sandra was like, Oh, nice headband. I wish I would’ve worn one. I was overjoyed. The other cast members were like, “What’s the deal with the headband?” And I was like, “Well, I’m Blair Waldorf, so I have to have headbands.” And then I realized, Oh, no, I didn’t pack enough headbands. The last one I had was my predatory headband, and that was the last-minute throw in my suitcase. I didn’t really commit hard enough to the headband trend. I didn’t realize it was going to be such a big thing. But now that it has, I’m fully committed. I’m just collecting them.

Hey, for when you get invited back.
Oh, boy. You said it.


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