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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Gay Survivors Amy and Chet Square Off in 16th Season
by Ross Forman
2008-02-13

This article shared 11466 times since Wed Feb 13, 2008
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Ami Cusack and Chet Welch. Photos courtesy of CBS

_________________

Ami Cusack is back on Survivor, and she couldn't be happier.

The next round of the hit CBS-TV show, which is set in Micronesia and began Feb. 7, pits Cusack and nine other former Survivor castaways against 10 Survivor superfans.

'I'm so glad, so happy to do it a second time. The first time was a gift. I'm really, really excited for this time, though,' Cusack said. 'I would do it 10 more times, if I could.'

Why?

'Because it feels natural for me: being outside, eating coconuts, hanging out with really cool people and not thinking about a cell phone or other things. It's a real simple life on Survivor, and I really enjoy that.

Cusack, 34, of Golden, Colo., who is lesbian, said she is 'a little more excited' for this round of Survivor because of the Fans vs. Favorites mix.

'Survivor has really changed my life,' she said. 'The biggest thing is, I realize how much the people around me really mean to me and how much we rely on those people, especially for emotional support. Second, I've gotten rid of a lot of stuff. I don't have a lot of stuff in my house that I used to. The material things have [ reduced. ] '

Stuff?

'Ya, clothing, shoes, extra furniture, knick-knacks, etc.,' she said.

Cusack graduated from Golden High School, then attended Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design ( RMCAD ) in Denver. In 1992, while attending RMCAD, Cusack became one of the original six employees of a Golden-based nutritional company called Experiment and Applied Sciences. She started out by answering phones and, by 1996, became the company's charitable director. In 1998, ( with over 350 employees ) , the company was sold and Cusack decided to travel for the next four years. Her travels led her to Australia, Thailand, Tahiti, Iceland, Japan and Africa.

Upon returning to the U.S., she took a job at a coffee shop—and still works there today. Cusack also is a nanny.

She is proud of her association with the LGBT community. In fact, on her first Survivor run, Cusack had her lesbian lover visit the show during one episode.

'I think the best thing that I've gotten from the LGBT community is that I'm not afraid to talk about who I am as a person. I don't hide who I am, what my choices are in life,' Cusack said. 'And I've had people tell me they are comfortable talking about [ their sexual orientation ] because I'm comfortable talking about it.'

Cusack was not the only lesbian on the Vanuatu round of Survivor. Scout Cloud Lee, then 59, also is a lesbian.

'I love being in the [ LGBT ] community. I love being around people who are really free-spirits. I really feel welcome by the LGBT community. I enjoy representing the LGBT community,' Cusack said. 'It was not a tough decision to have [ my lesbian lover ] come [ on the show ] because she's the most athletic, kick-ass girl I know. I think it probably was tougher on my mom and dad that I came out on the show than it was for me.'

Sure, she was out before the show aired, but not everyone knew she had a girlfriend at that time.

The two have since split and now are 'best friends,' said Cusack, who is single.

Cusack started dating women about seven years ago, and has only dated two women in her life.

'I always am into supporting the gay and lesbian community, and love being part of the LGBT community,' said Cusack, who participates in Pride events in Denver and Los Angles.

Cusack said she definitely would consider participating in a future Gay Games, in track and field events.

Chet's a fan

Chet Welch works in customer service for a pharmacy that supplies nursing homes and hospitals with resident-specific medications. He has been in the pharmacy business for 20 years.

He also has spent 25 years coaching contestants for beauty pageants, and has coached 11 Miss Pennsylvania pageant contenders to the title.

But Survivor is his No. 1 love—and the 48-year-old Ford City, Pa., resident is on Survivor: Micronesia, Fans vs. Favorites.

'It was an absolutely thrilled when I got called to go. It was something I long had hoped for,' Welch said. 'I watched Survivor from the first series on. It was something that I always wanted to do, and I actually knew I was going to do. I knew I was going to be on the show; I just didn't know when.

'It's a dream come true to compete on Survivor.'

Welch, 48, who is the oldest openly gay Survivor contestant, said that he watched past rounds of Survivor, 'and I would envision myself on the show, in challenges, at tribal council, what I would say, what I would do, how I would react.

'It was a very surreal phone call when I was told I was going to be one of those people on Survivor, and others now would be watching me.'

Welch has lived in the same house his entire life, but has traveled throughout the United States. He enjoys swimming, hiking, kayaking, dancing and yoga.

Welch has three dogs, 15 sheep, 75 ducks and three cats.

And Bob Cherry is his significant other. The two have been together for about one year.

'I really wanted to use Survivor as a soapbox to express the importance of adopting [ animals ] from shelters,' said Welch, who hails from a rural area outside of Pittsburgh, and lives on a farm. 'The greatest thing about getting on Survivor is that I want to tell people to just keep hanging on to your dreams because they do come true.'

Welch is open about his sexuality on Survivor.

'I went on the show to not be closeted. I was out from the first episode,' he said. 'I'm out in my every day life, and I was not going to play the game any different.'

And he didn't expect his sexuality would impact the game. 'No more than it would affect me in my every day life,' he said.

'In fact, I've never had an issue [ being gay ] , even growing up in a rural community.'

Welch said he has been out most of his life.

'I don't have issues being gay. If someone else does, that's their problem, not mine,' he said. 'I'd like to let the LGBT community know that nothing should bother you, that age shouldn't have an impact, nor [ sexual orientation ] .

'You're not going to enjoy your life unless you are yourself.

'I did not go on Survivor because I was gay; I went on Survivor as a contestant who happens to be gay. It wasn't my purpose to go on Survivor and prove something for the gay community.'

Welch annually attends Pittsburgh's Pride events every June, 'and now I'm looking forward to attending those events as someone who has competed on Survivor.'

And if that meant a grand marshal role was pending, Welch definitely would accept.


This article shared 11466 times since Wed Feb 13, 2008
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