‘This is my dream’: ETHS alum, Evanston native on “Survivor”


CBS/Robert Voets

“A New Era” – Liana Wallace competes on SURVIVOR, when the Emmy Award-winning series returns for its 41st season, with a special 2-hour premiere, Wednesday, Sept. 22 (8:00-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network and available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+. Photo: Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment 2021 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Twenty-year-old Liana Wallace, an Evanston native, ETHS alum and current student at Georgetown University, is on the 41st season of CBS’s “Survivor” as a cast member.

The show, which is filmed in the Mamanuca Islands of Fiji, follows 18 individuals who compete to survive on the islands with minimal resources. Each week, one individual is voted off by the other participants. When there is only one individual left on the island, they are rewarded one million dollars, as well as the title of “Sole Survivor.” 

Prior to joining the cast of “Survivor,” Wallace said she grew up watching the show with her family and family friends. 

“One day, my mom sat me and my brothers down to watch the show, and we just loved it,” Wallace explains. “We got really into it, and, ever since I can remember, I’ve been watching it. Throughout high school [and] college, Wednesday night is ‘Survivor.’ That’s something I always had to look forward to.”

While Wallace had dreamed of being on the show since she was young, her mother convinced her to send in a recorded audition after a year of uncertainty due to the pandemic. 

“I had always talked about wanting to be on the show and applying,” Wallace says. “My mom [said I] should do it. It was a crazy time [with] so much transition, so why not take a shot at it?”

Wallace recalls feeling surprised when she received a response to her initial audition, furthering her in the process of ultimately being casted in the show. 

“I didn’t expect to hear anything, but then, two months later, I got an email that they are interested in me, and then the process kind of starts.”

 Additionally, Wallace credits much of her interest in “Survivor” to two ETHS Spanish teachers Patricia Hurley and Nicole Roubekas-Lane, who frequently discussed the show with their students and related it back to academic content.

“My mom grew up with [Roubekas-Lane] and taught Spanish at ETHS, too, so every Thursday we’d come to class and [they would ask], ‘Did y’all watch Survivor too?’ I would get so excited to talk about it with them. That has cultivated in me this community and love of watching the show,” Wallace explains. 

Now, Hurley and Roubekas-Lane feel particularly proud to see one of their former students on the show. 

“I’m the biggest fan of ‘Survivor.’ Seeing [Liana] on TV—I just freaked out. I’m so proud of her because everything Liana has ever set out to do, she’s done,” Hurley says.

“It’s meaningful because as hard as she worked in the classroom, she’s [now] working to carry her team,” Roubekas-Lane says. “She, herself, is extremely strong.”

While Wallace prioritizes her education above all else, she does want to send a message about listening to your heart and taking risks. 

“I think dreams are important and [that] it’s important to pursue your passion,” Wallace said. “I am a student first and foremost, but this is my dream. Something that I really want people to take away from this is, especially as students, [that] we should take the time to go after our dreams and the things that we’re really passionate about.” 

Another aspect of “Survivor” that appealed to Wallace was the opportunity to center joy and happiness, especially as a Black woman. She hopes to serve as a role model to young Black children, and girls specifically, about prioritizing oneself. 

“As a Black woman, if I can inspire even one little Black girl who’s watching, that’s crazy and exciting,” Wallace said. “As women of color, we spend a lot of time caring for other people, but, after a year like 2020, I think it’s important to center what makes us happy.”

To watch Evanston native Liana Wallace, be sure to tune in to new episodes of “Survivor” every Wednesday night at 7 pm CDT on CBS.