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1st Ever ‘Survivor’ Castoff Sonja Christopher Dead at 87

1st Person Cast Off Survivor Sonja Christopher Dead at 87
Sonja Christopher Acey Harper/Getty Images

Sonja Christopher, the first-ever Survivor castoff, died at age 87 on Friday, April 26.

“Sonya [sic] was one of the kindest people to ever play Survivor. Every interaction I had with her over the years was lovely,” host Jeff Probst said in a statement posted via the show’s official Instagram account on Saturday, April 27. “She would always greet you with a smile on her face and joy in her heart. I’m honored that our paths got to cross.”

The account also shared a photo of Christopher, who smiled as she adjusted her hat. No cause of death has been revealed.

News of her death broke when Liz Wilcox, who is competing on season 46 of the reality series, shared a heartfelt message alongside a photo of Christopher, who competed on the inaugural season in 2000, holding up her signed ukulele via FaceTime. (Christopher was known for playing the ukulele.)

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“Today, the legend herself Sonja Christopher of Season One passed away,” Wilcox wrote via X on Friday. “I had the pleasure of meeting her on Christmas. She had so much spunk + love for Survivor and what the show brought to her life. I hope you’re singing + playing your heart out somewhere beautiful, Sonja.”

In a subsequent post via X on Friday, Wilcox added, “No flowers, but donations may be sent to Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church (Walnut Creek, CA), the Cancer Support Community of the San Francisco Bay Area, or the Sjogren’s Foundation.”

1st Person Cast Off Survivor Sonja Christopher Dead at 87
Sonja Christopher Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Many Survivor cast members have since paid tribute to Christopher via social media. Rob Cesternino wrote via X on Friday, “She paved the way for every person to ever play Survivor. We will always smile when we think of Sonja Christopher. RIP to a legend.”

Christopher voted out of season 1 of Survivor, filmed in Borneo, after struggling with the first challenge.

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“I had mixed feelings, that’s for sure. I was pretty beaten up,” Christopher recalled to Entertainment Weekly in 2020 about her exit from the show. “To this day, I still have bruises that don’t go away… Someone once asked me if I thought my being voted off early was due to ageism. And I said, ‘Oh, no.’ And you know why is because I had no concept of ageism. I was always good at sports and very active physically. I just didn’t realize I was, to some of these people, an old lady.”

Christopher’s Survivor appearance came three years after she battled breast cancer. “I was newly recovering from breast cancer treatment. And I had been in a 11-year relationship and my partner got consolation elsewhere during that time of the cancer,” she told the outlet. “So I had moved to a senior retirement community, and I was by myself, no ties, my son was grown and taking care of himself. I was reading the morning paper, and it said something in an article about CBS looking for 16 Americans to cast away on a deserted island and see who could survive for 39 days.”

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