Denise Marie McCormick
January 1, 1971
|Television||Survivor: Philippines (winner)|
Stapley is a licensed mental health therapist and the only American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists certified sex therapist in the state of Iowa.
Stapley competed on the 25th season of the reality TV series Survivor, Survivor: Philippines. Originally placed on the ill-fated "Matsing" tribe, she and Malcolm Freberg were the only two castaways remaining when the tribe lost the first four consecutive immunity challenges, voting off Zane Knight, Roxanne "Roxy" Morris, Angie Layton, and Russell Swan by unanimous votes each time. Afterwards, Freberg was sent to the "Tandang" tribe while Stapley was sent to the "Kalabaw" tribe. Kalabaw subsequently lost the next two consecutive challenges, and in the first of these two tribal councils, Stapley received one vote from Sarah Dawson, while everyone else voted out Dawson. When the merge came, Stapley was on the winning team in the first two consecutive team-oriented reward challenges, and otherwise won the first individual immunity challenge right after the merge. She and Freberg managed to ride out the conflict between the members of the two former tribes, since both were perceived as outsiders who had no conflict with anyone else. However, Stapley was almost eliminated at the final seven, when she received the three votes of Jonathan Penner, Abi-Maria Gomes, and Carter Williams. However, Stapley, Freberg, Lisa Whelchel, and Michael Skupin voted for Penner, eliminating him instead. In the final two consecutive tribal councils, Stapley found herself receiving the sole vote of the person who was eliminated, while everyone else voted for said person: Gomes at the final five and Freberg at the final four. Stapley ultimately made it to the final three, alongside Whelchel and Skupin, where all three were mostly grilled by the jury of eight. However, Stapley was occasionally praised for making it to the end as a perceived underdog, surviving the ill-fated Matsing tribe, and the numerous tribal councils she attended. When the time for voting came, Stapley received six votes (all except Williams, who voted for Skupin, and Roberta "RC" Saint-Amour, who voted for Whelchel), thus winning the title of "Sole Survivor" and the $1 million prize.
As a result of her win, Stapley became the oldest female winner in Survivor history at age 41. She also set a Survivor record for becoming the first (and currently only) person in the history of the show to attend every single tribal council in the entire season. In a 2015 interview, host Jeff Probst named Stapley as one of his top 10 favorite Survivor winners ever, and one of his top 4 favorite female winners.
| Winner of Survivor