She is back on the show for the first time since winning Survivor: Kaoh Rong, which was the 32rd season of the series and the second “Brawn vs. Brains vs. Beauty” season. It aired in the spring of 2016.
Here’s what you need to know about Fitzgerald.
1. Michele Is a Montclaire State University Graduate
Born in New Jersey to Ralph and Linda Fitzgerald, Michele is one of three children (she has a sister named Kim and a brother named Joe). She went to Freehold High School and then Montclaire State University where she worked as a Public Relations Specialist, according to her LinkedIn profile. She graduated in 2013 with a Bachelor’s degree in Communication and Media Studies.
Since graduating, Fitzgerald has worked as an education and outreach intern for Rock the Earth; a sales associate for Island Company, a travel consultant for Liberty Travel, a tour consultant for Education First, and a business development manager for Palace Resorts.
Fitzgerald actually got her travel consultant job the same day she found out she was going to be on Survivor, telling the Daily Record, “Right before I got accepted (to Survivor), the same exact day, I started working as a travel agent, and did that for a full year before I left for (Koh Rong, an island in Cambodia). I already have gotten back to my life in most ways. I don’t think this is going to change me and my life path too much. I think it’s pretty clear which way I want to go career-wise. I want to be in the travel industry, along the lines of tours, or adventure travel. That’s probably where I’ll be headed next.”
2. Michele is an Active Philanthropist
Fitzgerald’s Facebook page is littered with charity events that she takes part in, from Hearts of Reality to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Fitzgerald says the JDRF has a special place in her heart because of a family member’s struggle with diabetes as a child.
“I have seen the great things that this organization does for the fight against diabetes,” she writes on Facebook. “I have personally seen the hardships of this disease, watching a family member struggle to balance their blood sugar from a young age. The reality of the possible long term effects of ‘forever’ were suddenly thrust on someone who never even had to think about tomorrow. This is the truth of the disease. It makes kids have to grow up too fast, and it makes adults suffer the consequences of a younger self. I hope we can all work together to bring awareness for this cause and together fight to end type 1 diabetes.”
She has also supported fundraisers for the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation and a GoFundMe for the family of a Freehold, New Jersey man who committed suicide after a battle with depression.
3. She Loves Dogs and Harry Potter
In August 2018, the Fitzgerald family lost a beloved family pet, a sweet mini Labradoodle named Cali. At the time, her mother wrote on Facebook, “This morning the search for our beloved Cali came to a sad end. There are no words to express our sincere gratitude and appreciation for everyone’s support over the last 2 weeks. To our Cali doodle, thank you for 4 years of unconditional love and beautiful memories. We will miss you every day. RIP baby girl.”
Since then, it looks like her parents have adopted a new family pup, and Fitzgerald has one of her own.
She also loves Harry Potter. There are photos all over her Instagram of her doing Harry Potter-related things, including celebrating Thanksgiving with her family all decked out in Harry Potter apparel, and one post from the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child where she reveals she’s a Slytherin (though for a long time she thought she was a Hufflepuff).
4. Michele is Well-Traveled
In addition to jetting off to Cambodia for Survivor, Fitzgerald has also been on trips to Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, South Africa, where she went on a safari, Spain, France, Siberia, Mykonos, Iceland, Jamaica and more. She also celebrated her Survivor win with a trip to Napa Valley in northern California.
“I woke up, did a bunch of interviews, packed up the car and drove to Napa with my friends and family, and we sipped on some wine and de-stressed after a really stressful and chaotic, crazy week,” Fitzgerald told the Daily Record. “We all just took it easy and appreciated being with each other, and getting through the year together, Because it has been a really stressful year, for me as well as my family, who had to listen to my constant turmoil during the waiting process.”
Her frequent travel buddy is Anna Khait, one of her tribemates from Survivor. They went to South Africa together in 2017, among other trips they’ve taken together.
5. Michele Feels Like She Has Something to Prove
In a pre-“Winners at War” interview with Xfinity, Fitzgerald says she thinks she has something to prove because her win was “controversial.”
“I think they think that I played an old-school game in the new-school era. That’s really untraditional these days,” says Fitzgerald. “We see a lot of flashy moves, big gameplay. And for someone to come in and lean toward the social aspect, people were taken aback. I think it’s a testament to my gameplay that I was able to do something a little more untraditional these days and get to the end. … I was against two fierce competitors and the audience loved them, naturally. They’re both amazing. They played a flashier game than me. So, people were in one corner or the other. That made it a big topic of conversation.”
She goes on to say that it doesn’t quite put a chip on her shoulder, but it does feel like “maybe there is a little something [she] has to prove to [herself] and inadvertently to other people.”
“I want to win and I want people to look at my season and say, ‘She deserved it then and she deserves it now as well,’” says Fitzgerald. “I really want that experience. I want to play a superior game to last season for me. I think I only used one tool in my tool box and I have a lot more that I want to show. I want to show multi-faceted Michele.”
Survivor: Winners at War airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.
READ NEXT: Meet the ‘Survivor: Winners at War’ Cast