Swimsuit model Jenna wins `Survivor: The Amazon' and $1 million

Monday, May 12th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Jenna Morasca wasn't expecting to be the newest ``Survivor'' millionaire when the ballots were finally tallied.

``I'm shocked,'' the 21-year-old swimsuit model told the Associated Press moments after she was declared winner Sunday over Matthew Von Ertfelda, a 33-year-old restaurant designer from Washington, D.C., on the live finale of ``Survivor: The Amazon.''

Morasca said that in December she returned home to Pittsburgh from her adventure expecting that the sealed vote had gone Von Ertfelda's way: ``He embodies everything a survivor is. He's an amazing guy.

``But I'm so proud of myself,'' she added, ``and happy that I won.''

On this, the sixth season of CBS' hit adventure game show, it was an upset victory (and a blowout vote) for Morasca, who since ``Amazon'' premiered in February had been generally regarded as good-looking but spoiled and lazy.

During the months she waited to learn her fate, Morasca said she rested, hit the gym ``to get back some of the muscle that I lost,'' and regained 20 pounds dropped during the rugged ordeal. ``I stuffed my face with chocolate,'' she confided.

For beating 15 others in the competition, which was taped during 39 days last fall in a remote rain forest on the Amazon River, Morasca collects the $1 million prize as ``sole survivor.'' Runner-up Von Ertfelda wins $100,000.

Now what will she do with the money? Pay school loans and take her mom on a vacation, she said. ``Then we'll see if there's anything left.''

Sunday's broadcast began with four finalists, but middle school principal Butch Lockley and Rob Cesternino, a computer projects coordinator, were eliminated before the final tribal jury. The 6-1 vote for Morasca, sealed since December, was handed down by a jury of seven ousted ``Amazon'' castaways.

Widely considered the best ``Survivor'' season since the original that aired Summer 2000, ``Survivor: The Amazon'' began with a fresh wrinkle: For the first time, the castaways were divided into male and female tribes.

Then another bit of history was made: Morasca and the equally fetching Heidi Strobel stripped naked on the memorable seventh episode, in exchange for a much-desired snack of peanut butter and chocolate.

The episode that aired Thursday had a dramatic twist: a smoldering fire left unattended consumed the camp site, destroying most of the castaways' clothes and other belongings.

In its first 12 airings, ``Survivor'' tied for seventh place in viewers with ``Everybody Loves Raymond,'' according to Nielsen Media Research.

On Sunday's finale, the setting for the next edition of ``Survivor'' was announced: the Pearl Islands off the coast of Panama. It premieres this fall.