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Pitt student competes in 'Survivor'

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

HOLLYWOOD -- Move over Amber, there's a new "Survivor" star from the 'Burgh.

Jenna Morasca, a swimsuit model and 21-year-old junior at the University of Pittsburgh, is among the cast of "Survivor: The Amazon," CBS announced yesterday.

After hinting at a battle of the sexes in fall's lackluster Thailand edition, executive producer Mark Burnett decided to go through with it this time, playing off the theme of strong Amazonian women and splitting the teams along gender lines from the start.

Morasca, who turns 22 on Feb. 15, is single, lives in Bridgeville and studies zoology at Pitt. She's a member of "Survivor's" Jabaru tribe (named for a local bird) and is now poised to steal away Amber Brkich's crown of Pittsburgh's Hometown Hottie. Brkich, of Brighton, Beaver County, starred in the second edition, "Survivor: The Australian Outback."

The new season of the reality show begins Feb. 13 with a 90-minute premiere and is set along the Rio Negro, a remote river in the Amazon. The cast of the new sixth edition will confront challenging weather conditions (it was filmed at the start of the region's wet season) and dangerous native wildlife (alligators, anacondas and piranhas, oh my!).

But it's the battle of the sexes that's bound to get the most attention. In clips shown to critics, members of the men's team strut, proclaiming their superiority.

"It was so annoying," Morasca says in the show. "I just want to beat them to just kind of, like, shut them up."

In the first immunity challenge, the women's team falls behind, but when one member of the men's team shows no aptitude for walking across a fairly wide balance beam, the women have an opportunity to come from behind.

Host Jeff Probst said two members of the women's team traveled to the Amazon expecting to use their bodies to their advantage but quickly discovered that "this is not the place you want to put on your bikini to show off your big boobs." Morasca quickly changed her strategy.

"She immediately said, 'I'm not going to wear a bikini around women. Women will judge me; they won't like it. But if I ever get around guys, I know how to use my body,' " Probst said.

CBS's Web site says Morasca has won the Venus Swimwear competition in 2001 and 2002 and was second runner-up in the Miss Pennsylvania USA beauty pageant in 2001.

"Her pageant background made it very fascinating," said Burnett. "She thinks that the way the pageant girls deal with each other behind the scenes is far more ruthless than you ever get on 'Survivor.' "

Probst said Morasca was at home with the competitive spirit of "Survivor."

"She made a lot of analogies throughout the interview process that this is no different than what I do for a living, going to pageants and trying to figure out how to get a leg up," Probst said. "She's really smart, especially when it comes to men."

Although past "Survivor" seasons have never seen much in the way of romance, Burnett hinted at what to expect in the new season.

"There's sexier stuff in the Amazon than we've ever had," he teased.

If Morasca wins $1 million playing "Survivor," CBS's Web site reports, she "wants to buy a car and put a huge sound system in it, chrome wheels and detailing." She lists the Steelers as one of her favorite sports teams, although the Denver Broncos are listed first on the CBS site. Her favorite color is purple, she likes to camp and hike and prefers hip-hop, R&B and pop music.

Rob Owen can be reached at rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Post questions or comments to http://www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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