Facing off against former Olympians is no easy task and Shannon Ryan reveals she never even expected to come so far on Celebrity Treasure Island.
After a long and successful reign as team captain, viewers were wowed when the TV star, 31, shockingly took out three of the game's biggest players in a row – Eric Murray, Moses Mackay and Barbara Kendall.
Watch: Barbara Kendall v Shannon Ryan in the Captain's Test. Article continues below.
"I felt a real sense of strength when I knocked them out in the elimination arena, but I also then had a massive target on my back!" she laughs.
The cool, calm and collected star has won over fans of the TVNZ 2 show with her fair leadership of the fiery Kahu team, despite admitting she never had intentions of being captain.
"It's not in my nature to step up and say I want to be captain because saying you want that is like saying, 'I can do better than everyone' – and it takes a level of ego that I wasn't really comfortable with. But as time went on, I started to see the positives of being captain and what I could bring to the team."
Her chanting and meditation may not have been loved by all her team- mates, but Shannon says the spiritual regime helped keep her sane on the Fiji island.
"I've been meditating since I was 23 and it aided me massively on the show," she explains. "It's in these kind of environments and hectic moments that these practices – whether it be meditation, yoga or running – can play a major role with your mentality."
But it wasn't just meditation that kept Shannon motivated – it was thoughts of her little brother Jack back home. The TV star chose the Blind Foundation as her charity as Jack has been visually impaired since birth.
"When you're doing something like this, it's not just to raise awareness for the Blind Foundation's guide dogs, but it's also to inspire hope, motivation and courage in an individual like my brother and to show anything is possible. Even if it's in this totally weird and wacky way on Celebrity Treasure Island!"
Jack suffers from achromatopsia, a rare inherited degeneration that causes non-colour vision and decreased visual ability.
"He's visually impaired but I see him living this epic life. He's 14 years old and he's got a band and he plays the guitar. I'll watch him jam out on the drums too, and he picks up all of these instruments and goes for it.
"Growing up, it really just opened my eyes to how we perceive difficulties, disabilities, impairments – however you want to word it. When you get to experience an individual living with that and seeing how fulfilled their lives are, that's insight to me."
Shannon looks back on her reality TV experience with pride – including when asked about her armpit hair that had audiences talking.
"Celebrity Treasure Island was me just showing up as me – hair and all," she laughs.
"I've had it like that for a while now; it started out of laziness, honestly. Many years ago when I was on the telly five days a week, I would deliberately put on shirts that would hide the fact I had not shaved under my arms. Then you'd have these nice long summer breaks and I just stopped."
She adds, "I didn't think, 'I want to be like Sophia Loren and not shave my armpits,' or, 'I want to fight against the man!' It just naturally happened. Then it became a challenge for myself feeling comfortable in a gorgeous dress and not waxing or shaving my armpits. I started seeing how comfortable I was in a social environment not grooming myself the way that is socially acceptable.
"I have nothing against waxing or shaving under your arms; what I am against is someone saying, 'Eww, that's gross.' That to me is a small part of a larger problem."
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