Exclusive Interview: The Challenge USA Star Desi Williams talks working hard and playing hard

The Challenge: USA star Desi Williams talks wild competitions, the teammate all the ladies wanted, her business, and inspirations. Pic credit: CBS
The Challenge: USA star Desi Williams talks wild competitions, the teammate all the ladies wanted, her business, and inspirations. Pic credit: CBS

The Challenge USA star Dr. Desiree (“Desi”) Williams certainly seems to live by the motto “work hard, play hard” – a sentiment her late grandmother instilled in her.

Not only has Desi “played” on both Survivor and The Challenge: USA, but Desi’s list of accomplishments outside of reality TV are impressive.

She won the title of Miss Virginia USA twice and has also competed in Miss USA. She has a Doctorate degree in physical therapy under her belt and runs her own home healthcare business.

Did we mention she is a published author?

Chatting with Desi was an absolute delight as she shared some interesting details about what we don’t get to see as viewers.

From TJ’s algorithm twist to the cast member who all the ladies wanted as their partner, read on for our exclusive interview highlights and check out the full video interview below!

The Challenge is “pretty hard-core”

Despite her background in reality TV competitions, having competed on Survivor’s 35th Season, Desi revealed that she did have an initial hesitation to joining The Challenge: USA cast.

Aside from being a little scared of the potential drama that could happen in the house, Desi shared that “The Challenge is pretty hardcore. They do a lot of things on The Challenge that one, I was terrified of, and two, I was more terrified of getting injured. Because I am a physical therapist, I need all of my limbs to do my job.” She wondered, “will I go on the show and potentially get injured and end my actual career?”

Desi also shed some light on that “Know-ledge Trivia Challenge” where host TJ Lavin dropped them from an extremely high building at just the press of a button.

“My partner Leo was super stoked,” Desi explained. “Nothing about it seemed fun to me. What you don’t see about it is that it was rainy and windy. In and of itself, just dropping is terrifying, but then you add in these environmental elements, and you think ‘this might be where it ends for me.;”

Describing the extremely small margin for error, Desi revealed, “the platform that we dropped through was very small … all of the girls had to put their hair in a bun, we were told to hold on. If your hands would have flailed, or if your head would have swung one way or the other … that would not have been good.”

Growing since her Survivor and pageant days

Desi also discussed her growth since her Survivor and pageant days.

“I think I’ve grown as a person and a woman so much since [Survivor]. I was fresh out of pageants, and in the world of pageants you do always kind of have this politically correctness in the back of your head. But when I went on The Challenge, I’m 32 versus 27, I’ve got a career, I’ve got a great life, so although I was aware of the cameras, I think I was more comfortable being me because I’m now at a point in my life where I don’t need everyone to like me. It’s nice if they like me. But if they don’t, they’re just not my people,” Desi shared.

On Survivor Legends and her ideal partner

Though she has her own impressive resume, that doesn’t mean Desi didn’t feel like a “fish out of water” on the first day of The Challenge as she sized up her competitors.

“I knew the Survivor people were Survivor legends,” Desi noted. “You’re constantly sizing up your competition.”

And despite feeling like she might latch onto those Survivors in the beginning and initially strategically picking Cinco at the start, TJ’s algorithm “exploded all of the plans that [she] had in the game.”

As far as a partner she would love to have? Desi confirmed Tyson’s belief that everyone wants to be his partner.

“I hate to say it but we all kind of wanted to be Tyson’s partner,” Desi told Monsters & Critics. “I hate that because he’s so cocky, but maybe it’s not cockiness and just confidence because he does seem to prove himself over and over again” she laughed.

“He’s easy to get along with, he’s intelligent, he’s basically good at everything,” she added.

On working hard and playing hard

Though she was terrified up on that building, Desi shared a sweet sentiment about one of her inspirations: her grandmother, whose memory lives on and helps Desi live each day to the fullest.

“I would love to talk about my grandmother,” Desi beamed. “So my grandma had a saying that you have to play as hard as you work. So kind of the mentality behind that is you can’t play all the time – you have to work hard, but if you’re working hard, make sure you play hard too.”

Inspired by her grandmother’s life as well as the opportunities her grandmother didn’t have, Desi noted, “in the back of my head, she was always my biggest cheerleader, and I always kind of hear her. And when I’m afraid – when I was on that building feeling terrified, I thought about her and maybe she would have done it, or maybe she wouldn’t have done it. But the fact that I had the opportunity to do this and she wouldn’t have as a 32-year-old woman in Alabama, it really just kind of motivates me to keep going and whatever kind of comes my way, if it’s a positive experience, just go for it.”

The Challenge: USA airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on CBS.

All episodes of Survivor are now streaming on Paramount+. Try it FREE!

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