By Katie Murphy | Photography Provided by CBS
The hit CBS television series Survivor returned for its 45th season, and it featured a special cast member from right here in Williamson County. Julie Alley, more affectionately known as “Mama J,” was known on Survivor as the upbeat and lively mother of two who was part of the highly successful Reba Team. Mama J gave us some exclusive insight into her life in Williamson County and journey on Survivor!
In Julie’s own words, “I’m a unicorn!” Born and raised in Williamson County, Julie attended and graduated from Brentwood Academy. She moved around very little in her life and ended up settling into what once was her grandparents’ house here in Brentwood. Julie raised her two children here, both of whom graduated from Brentwood High School. Of her thoughts on Williamson County, Julie says, “I love everything about it! Williamson County is a great family-oriented, safe place for people to grow up.”
Julie always knew she would end up on Survivor; it was just about the timing. She says, “It’s funny when I was applying to Survivor, my daughter’s like, ‘Mom, people like us don’t make it on Survivor.’ And I was like, ‘Why not me?’ We got ourselves all pumped up, and then she helped me finish my audition tape!” Julie’s path to Survivor was all about manifesting. And she did just that.
Her preparation for Survivor began long before officially accepting the opportunity. “I do Orange Theory, and I run with my dog. When I didn’t make it the first time, I just kept going. I did a half marathon, and I was like, ‘Let’s get in shape, let’s get strong.’ So, physicality, that was a goal of mine.” She committed to a fitness routine, cutting out sugar and carbs, stating, “I didn’t want to be addicted to anything.”
Julie’s preparation for Survivor was a family affair. She says, “I have a big family. I have my brothers, son and daughter. We’d sit down, and I’d go, ‘What’s the plan?’ We’ve all watched it.” Julie was able to work on her strategy for the game with her family, and she held on to that throughout the entire season.
She attributes her impressive fifth-place finish to the luck that she felt throughout the game. She was a part of the highly successful Reba Team on Survivor. They were known for their dominant alliance throughout the season, and Julie was an original group member. She says, “To put me on that Reba team, I mean, I think I got more rewards than anyone. I still think I did a lot with the luck that I was given.” She also made sure to stick to her pre-designed strategy, no matter what. “I went with strategy in mind. It was hard. I’d get out there, and emotions would want to take over. But then, I’d go back to pre-game Julie, who was well-fed and had slept, and thought, ‘What is she thinking?’ And I’d know she is reminding me to be strategic, smart, and take out your biggest threat.”
Recognized for her exceptional social skills during the game, Julie emphasizes the lasting bonds formed with her fellow contestants. “We are trauma-bonded, and we will be for life. I think the bonding, the betrayal, the experience bonded us. Any of them could call me, and I think we could probably talk for days. Now I have seventeen other people that normally would take a lifetime for me to get that close to, and they’re in my group now…And that opened my life like I couldn’t have imagined,” says Julie.
Reflecting on how Survivor has changed her, Julie shares, “I could get emotional thinking about it; I’m proud of myself. I kept true to how I wanted to play. I’m proud, and that changed me.”