Zeke Smith talks life after 'Survivor'

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zeke smith survivor transgender outed vstop dlewis orig_00000000

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Story highlights

  • Zeke Smith was outed as transgender on 'Survivor' by a fellow contestant and later voted off the show
  • Smith told CNN that he's 'humbled' by the 'outpouring of love' from the public

(CNN)Zeke Smith first felt "numb" when he was outed as transgender while competing on the CBS reality competition "Survivor," but said the public response has been heartwarming.

"There was just such an outpouring of love, and you don't often see that with a trans story," Smith told CNN at the GLAAD Media Awards. "I really felt it signaled a change in which trans people are received by the public and the media."
Smith was outed by fellow contestant Jeff Varner, but he isn't angry about it.
"I forgave him that night when I hugged him," Smith said. "I believe people who express sincere remorse -- as he has -- should be embraced because that's how we encourage people to change."
Was Smith surprised he was eliminated not long after?
"I had a compelling story, which makes anyone a threat to win," Smith said with a smile. "I always think it's the right move to get rid of me because I always think I have the best shot to win."
Zeke said his experience on the show wasn't easy, but it made him stronger.
"I got through the past nine months by bringing my friends and family really close and relying on their love," he said. "What I've taken from 'Survivor' is that the muscles of resilience and adaptability have been strengthened, so that I can confront whatever challenges life brings me."