The Debut Show

CRS 001 | Survivor Carolyn Rivera


This is the debut of the Carolyn Rivera Show. Carolyn is a difference maker, a mother of three and a true native New Yorker. In this episode, we get to know Carolyn as she tells us about her childhood and family life. She then went on to discuss the world of entrepreneurship, and her experience in the show Survivor. Always been one who dares to be different, Carolyn also tells the story of how she broke the norm in High School and joined the gymnastics team that in that time were only for boys.

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The Debut Show

Today’s Show Will Be The Debut!

Welcome to the first-ever Carolyn Rivera Show. This is the debut of the show and I’m excited to be here. It is going to be a fabulous show with so many things to discuss. Since it is my first show, we’ll be talking about some firsts. Let me start by telling you a little bit about myself. As you can probably tell by now, I was born and raised in New York City. I don’t think I have an accent but most people say I do. The more that I talk to my mother, the stronger the accent gets. As I begin to tell stories, I go right back to Queens.

I’m a true native New Yorker just like the song says, “Running pretty, New York City girl. Twenty-five, thirty-five. Hello, baby, New York City girl.” I did grow up riding the subways. My favorite line from that song is, “You’re no tramp but you’re no lady.” You know what I’m talking about, ladies. I lived or worked in almost every borough in New York. I was born in the Bronx. When I was in seventh grade, we moved to Queens. When I graduated from college, I had two jobs. I worked as a teacher in Manhattan during the day then worked in a call center in Queens at night, and I lived in Brooklyn. Welcome to my world. I grew up in the Big Apple, city living. Shout out to NYC.

I grew up in the disco era. I love the ‘80s. Who doesn’t love the ‘80s, the outfits, the dancing, the music? Disco was fabulous. We used to go out dancing every weekend, doing the hustle at Studio 54, Roseland, Ipanema and Copacabana. We were VIPs at Inferno’s in Chelsea. In college, they used to call me DQ which stood for Disco Queen. The ‘80s were a blast. Wasn’t the 80’s where rap was born? It was 1979 when one of my favorite songs hit the charts. I can recite the entire song Rapper’s Delight by the Sugar Hill Gang. I could go on because that song is seven minutes long. I still have the record. For you Millennials out there, you probably don’t even know what a record is, although now, they are coming back. Those were great times.

I went to Forest Hills High School. I was the first one in my family to go to college. I was always in a rush to get to the next phase of my life. I graduated from college in 3.5 years with an education degree. I started teaching in a private school in Queens. I taught there for a year and then I went to teach at a high school in Manhattan. After one semester, I got a job at my old high school. What a trip that was. It was weird being allowed to go into the teachers’ lounge. The stories that I have from teaching are fabulous. I’ll talk about those another time.

While I was teaching, I worked nights at the bank. After a few years, I got a job in the training department. That is where my corporate career started. I worked in the corporate world for many years. I had a vision and goals. I wanted to move up that corporate ladder. In my career, I had the opportunity to learn so much, working the front line with the customers directly and the back office to see how organizations worked. I worked with all different types of people, from associates to CEOs. I had the opportunity to travel to sixteen different countries, learning different cultures, helping people improve themselves and achieve their goals. I worked in startup companies and huge companies. I ran the second-largest university in the country. I was responsible for designing and developing training for over a hundred thousand associates. I loved every minute of it. It was truly amazing. When you see the light bulbs go on in people’s heads, that’s what it’s all about. My career focused on building and enhancing the skills of others, and developing tomorrow’s leaders. I worked with teams developing strategies, mentoring others, implementing talent management processes, and improving overall performance.

In 2015, I transitioned out of the corporate world and into the world of entrepreneurship. I’m a co-author in a book called The Change Series. I am super excited to have my own book out. I started my own company and I get to work with people from all walks of life, from different companies and watch them succeed. I’m a speaker, author, leadership expert, executive coach, entrepreneur and adventure seeker. I like to live life to its fullest. I got married to a fabulous man that I met long ago. We have three children, Gabi, Dani and JJ, two girls and a boy. Our family is complete. I can’t leave out the dog, Diesel. He’s a boxer. I got an MBA in 2003. In 2004, I got a Master’s in Human Resource Management while raising the kids with my husband and working full-time. It was amazing.

It is super exciting to be able to be with you on the Carolyn Rivera Show. The thought of doing this show with people where I get to work with others and help people succeed, that’s what my passion is all about. I am highly competitive. When you think about the type of person that I am, it is intertwined in everything that I do. My career took several turns throughout my life. I was able to live in several different places. I started in New York then I moved to Maryland. I moved to San Antonio, Texas, then we went to Florida. We had the opportunity to live in the Philippines. Back to Florida, back to New Jersey, then to Kansas City, and back to Florida. You see that every good New Yorker moves to Florida. That’s where I’m all about. Grab a pen and jot down this number because I want to hear from you, the audience. The call-in number is (866) 451-1451.

I am an adventure-seeker and highly competitive. Let me give you an example of how competitive the Riveras are. Yes, it’s not just me. When we moved to Tampa, the kids were still young. We used to have these hardcore volleyball games in our pool, guys against the girls. Our neighbors, Susie and Rick, were concerned when we first moved in. They could hear us yelling and screaming about, “Who’s cheating? Who’s in the front of the line? Who touched the net?” We weren’t fighting. We were playing a game, a highly competitive one. After that, they got to know us. They’d be laughing so hard because of the loud, rowdy family that moved in next to them. We still laugh about it. Adventure and trying new things, I love that.

Life is to participate, not to spectate. Click To Tweet

I’m a perpetual learner at heart. When the kids were grown, I decided to finally put into motion what I have been talking about to my family for years. My girls were in college and my son was in high school. I figured since I was schlepping to every soccer and baseball fields around the country for the last many years, it’s time to do something that I wanted to do for me. I started to apply for the hit reality show of all time, Survivor. It was a crazy dream that I had since the show first aired in the year 2000. For those of you who don’t know anything about the show, let me give you some of the details. It is a reality show on TV. In one of the finales, we had a party to support Give Kids the World in Orlando. Give Kids the World is one of my favorite charities. I work with them all the time. If you’re in Orlando and you want a good time and want to support one of the best charities ever, it’s at the Melia Orlando Suite Hotel at Celebration. Come on out and support my favorite charity.

Back to Survivor, here is the premise of the show. You take anywhere from eighteen to twenty people from all walks of life, different backgrounds, different cultures, different personalities. You drop them off on a deserted island with just the clothes on their back and watch the drama begin. On every show, there is drama. The show is a social experiment to see how people can keep it together for 39 days. I’m a native New Yorker, how hard could it be to spend 39 days on an island with strangers? I spent many years in Corporate America in a dog-eat-dog world. That’s what I thought. You have no idea how difficult it is. You have to deal with the weather and rain is the worst thing ever. You have to build your own shelter from scratch. You have to find your own food. Sometimes you’re given one bag of rice to last you for the entire 39 days. You have to compete in hardcore challenges. You’re hungry, filthy, and freezing throughout the game. To some, this sounds horrible. You may be thinking, “What crazy person would want to do something like this?” That’s me. I think it’s the best show ever. To me, it was the best experience of my life.

It’s not easy to get on the show. Over 200,000 people apply to get on that show every single year. I applied for a few years to get on the show before I was cast. I was cast on Season 30 of Survivor which aired in 2015. For those of you who have not seen my season, go ahead and watch it. In my season the premise was Worlds Apart. We were broken up into teams based on how we lived our lives. It was white-collar, blue-collar, and no collar. I was on the white-collar tribe because it was based on my corporate experience. The white-collar tribe is those people that make the rules. The blue-collar tribe was made up of people who worked with their hands. They followed the rules. The no-collar tribe was the free spirits. They broke the rules. All of the people came from different backgrounds with different experiences. The key to success is to make it for a full 39 days without getting voted off the island. In my season, I was the oldest competitor on the show. I was competing against people in their 20s, 30s and 40s. When you compete in a challenge, the tribe that loses goes to what’s called Tribal Council, and one person gets voted off the island. If you are the last man or woman standing, you win the game and get the prize of $1 million. It’s not a bad gig for 39 days.

I was runner-up for my season, so close to that $1 million prize. I didn’t realize that all the traveling that I did would help me with the show. Working with all different types of people would help me relate to those different people on the show. Every experience we have helps us throughout our lives. It was a fabulous experience and one that I cherish. I’ve made some lifelong friends. For my survivor fans out there, you know it’s the best show ever. I love adventure and the experience of new challenging things. When I look back on some of the things that I did over the years, I never realized the impact that I had until I was much older. Back in the day when I was growing up, the world was a different place especially for women. Most women were stay-at-home moms. They focused on raising kids. My mom was a stay-at-home mom. I didn’t understand how male-dominant things were at the time because we didn’t know anything else.

I was one of those kids that loved to play outside. Those of you who have kids realize the most important thing to a kid is, “When can I go out and play? When can I see my friends?” I hope that the same thing is still happening. I hope kids still go outside to play in this crazy world of technology. Growing up, there were not a lot of options for girls that loved sports. My brother got to join a baseball team and I got to go watch him, wishing all along that I could play. I loved sports, too. Back in the day, girls did ballet. I did ballet for a few years but it was not my passion. I don’t have a graceful bone in my body. Every time I bent down, my knees cracked. You can imagine as I’m standing on stage in my Chiquita Banana costume for my dance recital, I bent down to do my plie. A plie is when your feet are together, your toes are out, and you bend down ever so slowly and back up. All you hear is the sound of my knees cracking. It’s pretty funny now but at the time it was not that funny. I finally quit ballet.

When I got to high school, I was super excited because there were sports for girls. I looked on the list and there was gymnastics. The only problem was that it was only for boys. There were no girls’ gymnastics teams. I was pissed, to say the least. I had always wanted to do gymnastics but never had the opportunity. I decided to take things into my own hands. I looked at the schedule and found out when tryouts were. I told one of my girlfriends and talked her into coming with me. We put on our gym clothes, walked clear across the school to the boys’ gym, and walked in. As you can imagine, everyone’s heads turned as if they had whiplash. They looked at us like we were lost. I told them, “I’m not lost.” I knew exactly where I was. I was going to be trying out for the boys’ gymnastics team. At the time, the coach probably didn’t know what to do with me. No girl had ever tried out for a boys’ team at Forest Hills High School. I was the first. The coach let me stay. I worked out with the boys for two weeks. Every day, I went there with my girlfriend. She didn’t care. She was my moral support. For me, it was everything.

On the day that the list was going to be posted to see who made the team, I got summoned to the principal’s office. When I got to his office, he did not seem pleased. He looked at me with a perplexed look as if I was trying to do something sneaky like I had some hidden motive. He asked me why I was trying out for the gymnastics team. I said, “I love gymnastics and you don’t offer a girls’ team.” He said, “Why should I let you on the team?” I thought to myself, “Is this a trick question?” I said, “I’m better than some of the boys trying out.” Pretty ballsy, I must say. I even had spunk back in the day. He asked the coach the same question. I was surprised when he answered. He said that I was better than some of the boys trying out. I didn’t think that he was going to support me, to have my back but he did. He was my first mentor. Quite frankly, I didn’t even know what a mentor was at the time.

I joined the team in the tenth and eleventh grades. I did compete as a boy doing the floor exercise and the boy’s horse. I knew I didn’t have the strength to do the parallel bars and the rings so I didn’t even try. I wasn’t too bad on the floor ex because I don’t have a graceful bone in my body. Boys don’t have to be graceful so it was a match made in heaven. The best part of the story was that the captain of the team was the one and only Joel Rivera, my husband. Things happen for a reason. I was the first girl in Forest Hills High School who had a dream of competing in gymnastics. I was able to do it because I took that step. I took that challenge and I made things happen. I didn’t realize that I made history in that school. It’s crazy to think that not so long ago there were limited things that women could do. My gymnastics story is an example of how one person can change the course. At the time, I didn’t even realize that I had done that. It was not my intention. I didn’t set out to make that difference. I didn’t think it was fair that I was limited solely because I was a girl. Others have done the same and have done far more significant things. The stories of how you take that first step to me are critical.

CRS 001 | Survivor Carolyn Rivera
Survivor Carolyn Rivera: Every experience we have helps us throughout our lives.


As I was researching information, I couldn’t stop thinking about this story. This woman had courage. She had a dream and had something to prove. More importantly, she challenged the status quo to reshape the rules and ultimately change them for good. Her name is Kathrine Switzer. In 1967, she became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon as a numbered entry. Women were not allowed to run in any marathons. When she first talked about running to her partner in a marathon, he insisted a marathon was too far to run for a fragile woman. As I was reading about how women were portrayed, it made me crazy. Women can do anything that men can do.

Kathrine grew up with her father as her biggest supporter. He talked her out of being a cheerleader. He said to her, “Cheerleaders cheer for other people. You want people to cheer for you. The game is on the field. Life is to participate, not to spectate.” Those words were so powerful and true. I can relate to all of that. You have to participate in things to make things happen. You have to take a stance and take that first step. She participated. When her coach told her that women were weak and fragile, she told him that he wouldn’t have a training partner if he didn’t believe that a woman could run that far. He told her that she would have to prove it to him. If she did, he would take her to Boston to have her run with him in the marathon. What do you think she did? She showed him.

She registered under the name KV Switzer. She said she did not intentionally mislead the officials. She had often used her initials when she was writing for her papers at the university. Articles that she was writing, she’d sign them KV Switzer. To tell you the truth, I would have done the same thing. She probably knew that there was going to be a problem. She did what she had to do to participate. She was not going to be a spectator. She was given number 261 but it was only through an oversight that she got that number. They did not realize that she was a woman. When they figured it out, people were not happy. Jock Semple was the race official. He did not want to have any women running in his race. He was pissed. There are pictures of him attempting to rip the number off her shirt while she was running in the race. Can you imagine that? She was running with her boyfriend, a big football player. When he saw the race official try to pull that number off his girlfriend, he shoved him to the ground and they kept on running. Kathrine finished the race in four hours and twenty minutes. Not bad for a woman and pretty badass if you ask me.

Things didn’t go so well after that. The AAU decided that they’d ban women from running in any race that men ran in. If any woman attempted to do so, they would be banned from all races going forward. In 1972, women were officially allowed to run the Boston Marathon. It took five years to make the change but it did happen. Switzer understood the gravity of her participation and accomplishment. She said, “I know if I quit, nobody would ever believe that a woman had the capability to run 26-plus miles. If I quit, everyone would say it was a publicity stunt. If I quit, it would set women’s sports way back instead of forward. If I quit, I would never run the Boston Marathon. If I quit, Jock Semple and all those like him would win.” She was inducted into the USA National Women’s Hall of Fame for creating positive social change. That’s what I’m talking about. Maybe she wanted to prove it to herself that she could do it. Maybe she wanted to prove it to a running partner that she wasn’t fragile. Regardless of what the motive was, she’s a legend for doing that. My last teaching role was in my old high school in Forest Hills. When I went back to teach years after my high school experience, I coached the girls’ gymnastics team. I don’t know exactly what year they got the girls’ team. I can tell you that seven years after I graduated, they got a team. It’s all about taking that step.

One of my favorite segments is called Mama C Says. This is a dose of life served weekly. I want to know about your experiences. What’s happening to you that’s weird, strange, or crazy? I have my first guest. What’s your name and where are you from?

This is John Harris from New York.

John Harris from New York, tell me something weird, strange or crazy.

You should start making changes in your life and step out to make things happen. Click To Tweet

This is weird, strange and crazy. Does the name John Harris mean anything to you?

Should I know a John Harris?

I was on the gymnastics team at Forest Hills High School with you many years ago.

I do know John Harris. How are you?

This is weird and this is crazy. Do you remember me?

I do remember you, the Backhand Spring King. There is a funny story about that.

My whole family knows that story because like you, you married your high school sweetheart, I married my high school sweetheart. She was there at that meet. She has told this story 2,000 times.

Who’s telling the story, you or me?

CRS 001 | Survivor Carolyn Rivera
Plant Your Flag: The Seven Secrets to Winning

First of all, you married Joel Rivera?

I did.

I know you guys were going out and all that stuff, but I lost contact. I can’t believe that. That’s amazing. Do you talk to anybody in Forest Hills? Do you talk to the coach? I lost contact with a couple of people but I still keep in contact with some. I don’t know if you remember Bernie and Terry, we still talk every once in a while.

Terry Foster, yes. Bernie, I don’t remember his last name but yes.

They still tell that story.

We should tell that story. Back in the day, John Harris was the best tumbler on the team. He could do backhand spring after backhand spring, four, five in a row. We were at this meet. When you’re competing on the floor ex, everyone’s quiet. John is doing this one pass and he does a round-off, backhand spring, backhand spring, back summit and he sticks the landing. It was great landing except it had a little bit of an undertone. There was a sound that came out at the exact same time. That was a toot or a fart. He farted in the meet. I always wondered if you got extra points for that.

What I remember was complete silence in the gym and the judges fighting not to crack up.

It was hilarious. I am so glad that you called in.

I usually listen to one of the chef shows and I stumbled on you. You mentioned Forest Hills High School gymnastics so I went, “What? This is crazy.” I looked you up on Facebook and I’m like. “That’s Carolyn.” I didn’t know your story about Survivor. It’s good to reconnect, Carolyn.

Thank you for calling in. I’ll have to call that as plain crazy.

The fart was crazy. The fact that I’m talking to you is pretty strange.

Women can do anything that men can do. Click To Tweet

That’s weird and strange. Maybe it’s all three.

Okay, all three.

Thank you.

Thanks, Carolyn. Good luck with your show.

Thanks, bye.

That is pretty insane. I can’t even tell you. I haven’t talked to him in forever. When you hear the stories, I want to reiterate that you should start making changes in your life and step out to make things happen. When you hear about the Kathrine Switzer story, when you hear about the story that I had that I didn’t even realize that they would make adjustments and change the school teams forever, I want you to think about what you can do to make things happen. Take that step. Let me tell you what the Carolyn Rivera Show is all about. I’ll be talking about the topics that are important to all of you, my audience. We live in an ever-changing world, one that challenges us every day to think differently and to push ourselves to do more. All of us want more out of life. We want to live life to its fullest. We want things faster and easier. We want to experience different things and some of us want adventure. That’s what life is all about.

Let’s talk about the things that we love, the things that are important to us. We love to talk about food, family and furry things. Everyone wants to hear about relationships. We can’t stop talking about money, career and healthy living. That is exactly what we will be talking about, all the good stuff, the juicy details, the gossip. Each time, I’ll have a fun segment on things that are weird, strange or plain crazy. Speaking to a guy that I haven’t spoken to in many years is plain crazy. Ladies, I know what you want. We all love a great segment on men bashing. That’s why we go to lunch with our girlfriends, so we have time for that each week. We make time in our schedules specifically for that topic. Maybe not always bashing, but we do love to talk about the crazy habits that men have that we live with every day. I cannot deny you at that time. Plus, I love to hear about how others deal with their crazy men. Men, if you dare, you may call in and give us some of your insight on those women’s habits that drive you crazy, too.

I will have special guests on to share these insights and stories on those topics. This show will be enlightening. You will take away things that will help you in your everyday life because that’s what this is all about. Sometimes we need some additional support or insight to help us through the day. This show is all about you, the audience. My passion is to help others succeed. Through it all, we will always have fun. If you can’t have fun with what you do every day, why do it? How do you challenge the status quo? What do you do when you see things that shouldn’t be? Do you allow things to happen or do you make things happen? I gave you two examples of things that changed the course of time forever but it didn’t just happen. We made it happen. It was hard. It takes dedication and perseverance. Take the challenge. Make things happen. Go to my website at and send me a message. I’d love to hear from you.T

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