Lisa Whelchel, the former “Facts of Life” star who made a 180-degree career turn by competing on the latest season of “Survivor: Philippines,” hasn’t had an easy year.
The 49-year-old mother of three divorced her husband of 24 years, Pastor Steven Cauble, earlier this year, and just recently disclosed that she has been diagnosed with West Nile Virus.
According to Whelchel’s younger brother, Justice Coleman, who visits her on the latest episode of “Survivor,” Whelchel’s stint on the show was the lowest point he’d ever seen at her at.
Coleman had some harsh words about his sister in an interview with People, telling the magazine that he had been anticipating a joyous reunion with his sister, but was completely caught off guard by her demeanor.
“I came running out to give her the biggest hug of her life,” Coleman said. "I wasn't prepared to see her at that level of desperation. It was immediately obvious she had hit rock bottom. I wasn't expecting her to be at the end of her rope. I almost didn't recognize her.”
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“She looked absolutely ragged: physically and emotionally torn up,” he continued. “I was imagining a big smile on her face, since she was so deep into the game and doing so well, but she started crying so hard. I was legitimately concerned for her."
Coleman may have had genuine cause to fear for his sister. The self-admitted "Survivor" superfan initially approached the show with a staggering confidence, claiming in pre-production interviews that she was “born to play” the reality show. By Coleman’s visit, however, that confidence seemed to have all but entirely vanished.
“I never wanted to do reality TV, but this doesn't feel like reality TV," Whelchel told Yahoo TV before the start of filming. “This feels like having an adventure that I've always wanted to have. Even if this weren't filmed, I would want to do it. It just happened that it's filmed and put on television and I use to be on television."
Whelchel’s emotional state on the show has been rocky; just two episodes into the show she was seen on camera having what appeared to be a spell of self-doubt.
"I don't feel like I'm fitting in,” Whelchel admitted. “I'm already on the outside and don't really have anyone that I can trust or talk to.”
Whelchel’s doubts about her own abilities were echoed by her tribemates, who considered voting Whelchel off first, before ultimately being spared from having to make an elimination.